My wife and I are (or at least were) both actors. As well-documented in these pages, we transferred Jack to the Visual and Performing Arts Magnet school this year. Well tonight is the "2nd Grade Show"... the dreaded school play.
From the ages of 5-12, my parents put me into acting. I was good at it, liked it, and it kept me out their hair for a few hours a week.
(Jordan in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" circa 1984)
Julie tried her hand in acting through college. Even tried it out as a career before she decided to go to law school instead.
(Julie's Headshot - circa 1998)
(Julie in the "Shakespeare Reading and Performance Group" after a production of scene nights. Julie is on the far left in the back row... fun side note: The guy below her in the white tank top is none other than Oscar nominated actor James Franco. Kind of cool, eh? UCLA - circa 1996)
Obviously, performing arts means a lot to Julie and I. The performing arts are woven into the curriculum at his new school and Jack loves drama class.
So, tonight is the 2nd grade show, and Julie and I were caught in an enigma. Jack has a very small part. He has one speaking line and three or four group reaction lines. The kids have been rehearsing for a little over a month and he has been doing well.
In all honesty, as with any second grade show, you attend to catch the "fuck ups". Someone will blow their line. Someone will knock over a piece of scenery. Someone will scream a line that is supposed to be whispered. It's kind of the fun of it. A drama teacher might have to run on stage and direct someone away. Those things are fine, funny, even expected.
But what if the little boy with Autism has a full-on meltdown? What if the little girl with Tourette's can't stop her tic? What if the little boy with CP can't wheel himself offstage because of unforseen accessibility issues?
Jack has been doing great in rehearsal. During rehearsals, however, he is medicated and has his behavioral aide by his side (or at least nearby). Neither of those will be the case with the evening performance. Take a moment to think about how difficult "acting" must be on a child with autism. A child that already has a difficult time with perspective-taking. We want you to pretend to be someone else, surrounded by others that are pretending to be someone else, in an environment that is pretending to be something else, expressing emotions that are pretending to be something else... in front of 500 people!
But no! Full inclusion Dammit!
So, we wrestled with the ideas regarding the evening show. His part is small. We could just pull him from the evening performance (there is a daytime performance for the kids as well). We could do nothing and just presume competence and hope for the best.
That's what full inclusion is all about, isn't it?
No, it's not. Full inclusion is awesome. It's the ultimate goal. But we have an advantage... supports. Within his IEP Jack still has several "supports" and this is why they are there.
So I called the drama teacher to get a valuable perspective on what to do. Last night she called me back and I want to share part of that conversation.
I asked her what she thought was best given my (our) concerns and she handed it back to me. I think that if we can have one of us (Julie and I) backstage to remove him if necessary, that would be best. She agreed and granted us access and permission to do so. Well... that was easy.
We exchanged thank yous and then she told me this:
"You know, Mr. Capell, I just want you to know something. I have a gigantic soft spot for Jack. I have a sixteen year-old with Aspergers and four red-heads... how could I not love that kid? I am happy you don't want to pull him from the show and give him the chance to shine."
"I just really love that boy"
So, tonight, Julie gets to return to her acting roots and hang out backstage. My boy gets a chance to stand in the spotlight and get his first experience of thunderous applause.
And I get to wrestle with all the other parents, trying to find the best seat to take video, holding flowers... not for my boy, not for my wife...
But for the drama teacher. The next in what will hopefully be a long line of educators that not only champion my boy, but believe in giving him every opportunity possible... and love him.
I'll let you know how it goes...
Hell, we may discover that we have the next James Franco on our hands.