News at 10: Hell Freezes Over!

In Siobhan, the Soundbeam, and Disablism I wrote of our continually failed quest (since 2003) to include our daughter, Siobhan, in the same wonderful music program as all the other kids in the Santa Monica/Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD). Siobhan has some severe disabilities, but she’s fully capable of pushing a big red switch. The switch in this case is attached to a Soundbeam 2 system, which can be preloaded with music cues. Siobhan’s paraprofessional can assist in the process by using error-free teaching techniques to assure success.

Each year at Individual Education Plan (IEP) time we invite the music teachers. As a group they have given me the impression that hell would have to freeze over before Siobhan would be allowed to muck up their massively impressive Hollywood-quality concerts. Plus the music teachers have failed to even show up most years. This year they showed up.

There were the usual multiple reasons why the Soundbeam can’t be used – end of year, big concert, lack of training, etc. To their credit the teachers did put some effort into learning the Soundbeam… the day before the IEP meeting. Suffice it to say that we had reached yet another impasse.

Then I was inspired to action. Action is the magic word. What action was I inspired to? I blurted out “all we want is for Siobhan to play one music cue, in one music piece, in one concert.” Silence. There was silence in the room for a few seconds. I felt like I had given away the store, that six years of waiting suddenly had the potential to produce only one note.

And then the miracle happened. One of the music teachers was inspired by this interchange. He began thinking of ways to make this new goal happen. He said: “How about if she played the gong at the end of the Pink Panther?” This is exactly what Siobhan did last night, Tuesday, May 26th, 2009, on stage, in Barnum Hall, at Santa Monica High School, in Santa Monica, California. Here’s a picture of the gong she played with the gong in the foreground and the violin players in the background:

Here is part of what I wrote last night to the entire village and a half that produced that one gong strike: “Words cannot describe our absolute delight at hearing that gong tonight. Linda and I sat in our seats terrified that something would go wrong but it didn’t, thanks to practice and to Meghan (Siobhan’s marvelous paraprofessional). Siobhan was so cool she even hung up her mallet before applauding.” And she did, she hung up her mallet just like any other trained musician, before joining in the applause and taking her bow with the rest of the orchestra. I am so immensely proud of her, and very thankful to that one teacher who saw a clear path to make it happen.

By the way, that teacher who made it happen? He has a child with a disability.