The Program for Inclusive Education is privileged to continue last month’s inclusion story. All Saints Academy (ASA) opened its doors to ALL learners and welcomed Maya Schaab. Six years later, Maya’s parents describe their unique experience. Thank you Brian and Marcie Schaab for your faith in ASA and your willingness to share your journey.
~Christie Bonfiglio, Ph.D.; Director of the Program for Inclusive Education
It all seemed to happen so fast. Our daughter Maya was turning two and we found out something was not right with her development. It came as a shock to us, and we don’t believe we even understood what we were dealing with at that time. Maya began going to preschool after we learned the news and we held out hope that her speech and physical abilities would catch up to those of children her own age. But as each year passed, she continued to be developmentally delayed and behind other children in all areas. Medical tests were negative, but they didn’t offer specific explanations for her delays, either.
As Maya was in her last year of preschool, we faced the decision of where she would go for kindergarten. Her school recommended one place and one place only–a public school on the opposite side of town that served only children with disabilities. When we shared our hope that she would attend All Saints Academy, we were told, “No way. She won’t make it there.”
We decided to visit All Saints Academy anyway. Upon walking through the doors, we had no doubt that this was the place for Maya. We were immediately greeted with open arms. Everyone was very friendly, and we saw so many familiar faces in the office and halls. We spent time with the resource teacher, Becky Grady, who had so many ideas and examples of what they could offer Maya each day for support.
All Saints Academy started with the Wiggle Room at that time. The Wiggle Room is a classroom with trained professionals who use learning strategies that integrate all senses. In addition to working with Mrs. Grady, Maya qualified for therapists from the public school to come to All Saints Academy. It was a great start to what felt like a gamble – a heartfelt decision for Maya to attend All Saints Academy that has delivered in every way.
Maya is now in sixth grade. We still take it one year at a time and pray that she can continue to attend ASA. We continue to be inspired by the changes the school makes each year that make this dream possible. We have seen All Saints Academy continue to be positive about teaching Maya. Each year we think her new teacher will not be able to be as accommodating and patient as the last, and each year, we are proven wrong. The care and support given to our family is so incredibly great that we find ourselves unable to put into words how much we appreciate the staff and support team at All Saints Academy. Each year, we watch the school add support staff and come up with new ideas to give Maya and others the best opportunity to learn and feel included.
We have had many conversations about what we would do if Maya had to transfer to a public school or to a special education program. How could we keep our other two children in a Catholic school and explain to Maya why she cannot go there? We have struggled with what it would be like if Maya could not be surrounded by prayer and Catholic faith. Each year, we have waited for the words, “We are sorry – we can no longer accommodate Maya here.” And each year, we have only heard, “We want Maya here.” Her future continues to look promising, and our prayers continue to be answered.
When we tell people about the inclusion for exceptional learners at All Saints Academy, we still hear a lot of surprise – comments like, “They did not have that when I went there,” or “When I was in Catholic school, there were no children with special needs.” It gives us such pride to tell them about everything All Saints Academy does for Maya and what the diocese is adding to grow inclusive learning. We are so proud of this journey we embarked on six years ago when we put our trust in God. He answered our prayers by leading us to All Saints Academy.
Maya’s classmates accept her, and they treat her with respect and understanding. When Maya is asked whether she feels differently – whether she can’t do things or feels not as smart – her perception is that she is not different than her classmates. Maya wants to see her friends and she wants to be at school. She is a confident young lady learning and growing in her Catholic faith, just like her peers, her brother, and her sister. We are very thankful for the inclusive learning community that is found at All Saints Academy.
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Learn more about All Saints Academy at https://asagr.org