Wild Spring Ride

Things don’t just happen.

He practiced for the audition. He had to prepare a short monologue and a song. He needed to bring the sheet music, a picture of himself and the audition paperwork.

He already knows the “Shark Head” monologue from Moana that opens with Moana’s “We’re alive! We’re aliii—ugggh!” Maui tries to thank her for her bravery in front of the crab but his shape-shifting magic has changed his face into a shark. She has a hard time not cracking up. Jack’s been acting this one out since we bought the movie. He has the whole tone and all the moves down. I wanted it on paper so he could practice with his caregivers. We found the video clip on YouTube–here’s how it went.

Me: (scribbles words down) Stop!
Jack: (stops the video)
Me: (keeps scribbling) OK go!
Jack: (starts the video, looks over)

Monologue memorized? Check!

He picked the song “You’re Welcome,” another favorite he’s been singing and dancing to. I found the sheet music online and completed the audition paperwork. He practiced. Song? Check! Audition? Ready!

This is the part where, in a movie, the calendar pages back to last August. That’s when I met with his Special Ed teacher and the school principal. I know most folks are off on vacation in August, but I was managing the conversation: “With Jack not brand new in this school this year, I want to increase his opportunities for inclusion. How can we do that?” I had my list:

  • After-school YMCA classes – which one appropriate?
  • Unified Robotics – happening again?
  • School play – I didn’t see Spec Ed kids in it last spring
  • Assemblies – are we represented?

At that meeting, there was lots of agreement which I knew would take some follow-up. The principal agreed to staff school play rehearsals with an aide. I wrote that down. My perspective is: my kid is allowed to attend this school (thank you, Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act) and he deserves to be part of the full social fabric too.

A very wise woman I know here in Seattle who works on the front lines of this says it comes down to: our kids need to find a sense of belonging at school. So here we are in February, and…

Enter Ms. Lloyd.

She’s the aide that will come to audition and rehearsals if he gets in. I wish Jack didn’t need behavior support but he tends to go off script and it’s a long story with all the seizures and the frontal lobe and we just need this.

In the meantime, our teacher had talked to the director telling him some of her kids were auditioning. That conversation happened on a hectic day when the director was taking questions at lunch. See, he’s not a school employee, he’s on contract for the play. So I emailed him asking if he’s aware that some Spec Ed kids are auditioning and that they have different abilities than their Gen Ed peers. I got a friendly response saying yes, he’s aware.

Me to You: I know I risk you calling me a controlling Stage Mom.
You to Me: Yeah, but I know you and you don’t have that in you. But why did you have to email the director?
Me: Because — things don’t just happen. All of it needs follow-up, even when our teacher says she talked to him. Even when the principal promises an aide.
You: I guess…
Me: It’s true. I was going on my gut when I wrote the director. Put it this way. Let’s say he will have…Maddie, a typically developing 7th grader auditioning. She’s been taking dance since 1st grade and voice since 3rd. She’s acted in three plays already. Then he’ll see Jack, who’s had three seizures a month, starting at 7 months of age until we got them under semi-control as he started school. It would be unfair, right, to only cast the Maddies and cut all the Jacks.

I see the school musical as an incredible opportunity for Jack to make friends with the drama kids who are artistic and may be more tolerant of differences.

On audition day, Jack put the big white envelope in his backpack: sheet music, photo, paperwork and typed-out monologue for last-minute practicing with Ms. Lloyd who told me she’d call when Jack’s ready for pick up. She called about 5:00.

I pulled into the back parking lot of school. Lo and behold, here they come out of a side door, bouncing happily toward me, chatting and engaged. I could tell it went well.

So guess what? The musical’s a spin-off of Peter Pan, and Jack’s been cast in the “pirate ensemble.”

Can you say AAAAARRRRR?!?!

So avast and shiver me timbers, mateys. Bring on the kerchiefs and eye patches. Bring on the swagger and spit. There will be fairies and magic and Tinkerbell too. Here we go. It’s gonna be a wild spring ride.