What makes the Wright School experience so unique to me is that my child was accepted. Now I’m sure that doesn’t sound like much, but it really ended up being the difference maker. The school even took his sensory issues seriously and accommodated all his issues, even though I questioned them myself sometimes.
The philosophy of the Wright School can be read on their web site. https://www.ncdhhs.gov/divisions/state-operated-healthcare-facilities/wright-school/history-and-philosophy The idea that we aren’t curing anything, but instead creating a home and community support system doesn’t sound that innovative. However, I assure you it is. It is the approach to mental health and disability that gets overlooked.
Friday at noon is pickup at Wright School. Generally music played loudly and not a lot was said. Except on day when we were nearly home, Emerson just asked, “Do you believe in the medical or social model?” Out of context, I had zero idea what in the world he was talking about at the moment. However, he went on push and asked if I believed in the medical model of disability.
So, thanks to the Wright School and their deep discussion of Flowers for Algernon, my child was schooling me on disability justice. I admit if Emerson had read that short story in his old school, I probably would have flipped out. However, my kiddo came away from the group discussion and the story with a new found pride in his own disability and some righteous indignation about how we treat disability in America. I had tears in my eyes after the discussion.
The supports for Emerson’s mental health were all there on site. He was monitored, evaluated, and our liaison teacher counselor met with both my husband and I regularly. He even texted us fun stories about Emerson. He became a part of our family unit for the time. He became a friend to Emerson through music class.
This school is a public school, but operates under the Department of Health and Human Services and not DPI. We didn’t have to even worry about EOGs at the school. It is supported with public money and the state has the knowledge and success numbers to recreate this environment if it chooses.
Wright School does things right, and with some resources and well money, we could find ways to replicate so much of what they do right. I’d love to see liaison teacher counselors in every public school. I’d love to see the philosophy really adapted. If feel like right now as long as a child doesn’t act too disabled then they earn the right to be in general education.
When alternative learning environments are mentioned by folks at the North Carolina General Assembly I give pause. There aren’t spaces like Wright School in most places in North Carolina. We risk segregating kids and putting them in a holding cell. The Wright School is a wonderful example of a restart school doing things well and intently keeping the mental health of students a priority. Not every child needs a partially residential restart school. When they do, it should be like the Wright School.