As they filed off the school bus and prepared to enter Dollar Tree number 1676 located at 11935 Reisterstown Road in Reisterstown, Maryland they were stopped and asked, "Why do you have to bring those children into this store?". Unfortunately this is not the first time this employee has made it known she does not want children with special needs there.
Community Based Instruction (or CBI) trips are not new to my children or the community we call home. Since 2009 guidelines have been developed by the Baltimore County Public Schools Department of Special Education outlining the importance of such trips and how they should be implemented on a monthly basis.
"Community-Based Instruction (CBI) is a critical component of the education program for students, primarily because, as adults, the community is where they will need to use the skills they acquire during their school years. The expectation is that our students will live, work, shop, and play in integrated environments in the community, and that they will participate, either independently or with accommodations and supports, in typical activities across a variety of settings."
From a parent's perspective I see these trips as being not just about teaching my children how to interact socially in a place of business but about teaching society as a whole to embrace the unique gifts of those with differing abilities. My sons have classmates that utilize augmentative communication devices during these trips to place an order at the local McDonalds or to say, "Hello and Goodbye" in greeting and farewell. Some of the children have difficulty walking and require assistance. Others, like my sons, need 1:1 support to stay on task and not run out of the store and into a busy parking lot.
During each of these instructional trips our children are making strides to claim their rightful place among society. And yet, when someone judges them by the gait in which they walk, the manner in which they communicate, and how they appear on the outside it sends the message that they and those who assist them are simply wasting their time.
It says they are less than deserving of our respect.
Less than equal to everyone around them.
But to me, the mother of two sons with autism spectrum disorder, it shows I need to fight harder, educate more, and never back down against those who treat anyone like a second-class citizen.
I have contacted Dollar Tree's corporate headquarters and left a message detailing my concerns about this specific visit as well as notifying a local new station. I plan to return to the store on Friday and meet with the store's general manager and insist the employee be terminated effective immediately.
Please share this post via social media and consider leaving a comment below in support of my sons and their teachers and classmates. I plan to print them out and present them to the general manager in hopes this employee's ignorance will not be forgotten with a simple, "I'm sorry".
In closing I wanted to share with you the reason for today's CBI trip to Dollar Tree. The children went to purchase over $100 worth of non perishable food, clothing, toys, and personal grooming items for the children of our local homeless shelter.
To think an employee had the audacity to make them feel so unwelcome...