As I use my voice to express myself I want people to know that my voice matters.
Kalif’s academic experience began with Infants and Toddlers from 6 months old to the age of 2 years old. I learned how strong his voice is before he could talk. At his 6-month re-evaluation, after having open heart surgery, the physical therapist asked me if Kalif could clap two blocks together when given one in each hand, I immediately said, “No, I don’t think so.” As I was making my statement she had given him the blocks and he clapped them together. She then asked if he could roll over, get on his knees and pull up. I said, “Oh no, he can’t do that.” He did it. Then she asked one more question and before the therapist finished I stated, “I will never say what my son cannot do.” He just showed me that as his mom I could have been the first to handicap him. His voice was loud and clear to me and I am glad I had the heart and mind to listen.
He has attended Baltimore City public schools since the age of 3, beginning in the Together programs (Together at 3 and Together at 4). These early starts in academic life gave him a great start in using his voice. He has been in an inclusion setting since he started school at the age of 3. I have always encouraged him to be independent and continue to teach him to speak up for himself. Even when people don’t always understand his words; they may ask me, “What did he say?” and my usual response is “Ask him to repeat it slower for you.” By having others ask him to repeat, others have to learn to be patient with him and in turn it encourages him to use his voice.
Kalif and I have been working since first grade to have student voice in school. Kalif has participated in his Individualized Education Plan (IEP). We meet twice a school year since I needed to track his progress before a whole school year went by. Kalif participated by preparing his PowerPoint presentation titled "I am Determined." He would actually start the meeting off using his PowerPoint presentation. At the end he’d ask if there were any questions and answer without hesitation. His biggest statement in his PowerPoint is “I can do it.”
About the Author: Imani-Angela Rose is a graduate of Mergenthaler Vocational Technical High School, Practical Nursing Program, where she received her LPN. She received her BS degree from Virginia Union University and later went to University of Maryland, Baltimore City and obtained her BSN. As a nurse for 20+ years she primarily worked in pediatrics most of her career. She is the co-owner and Director of Joshua’s Place Early Learning & Enrichment Center. The center serves typical children as well as those with medical, emotional and physical needs. This inclusion setting provides for optimal growth in all children. She has a son with Down Syndrome who attends a public charter school in Baltimore City. She understands that parents are an essential and integral part of a student’s education process. As a SECAC board member she is committed and excited to be a voice for parents. She is also an advocate and knows that it is essential to help all students, which includes students with special needs get the best education that City Schools can provide.