The inclusion of disabled children in daycare centers and schools is often a problem in Germany. Something went wrong with Max too. It was only when he moved to high school that the boy began to blossom – because the school does a lot of things right.

Anyone who has a physical or mental limitation in Germany is often disabled in the true sense of the word – in being able to participate in life like all other people. Little Linus, for example, was kicked out of his daycare, as FOCUS online reported. The kindergarten was overwhelmed by caring for the boy with a rare disease.

The story moved many readers. Some then described how they themselves had experienced that inclusion in Germany often does not work optimally. The story of little Max and his mother Brigitte (name changed at the request of the family) begins with numerous problems. But it also shows how inclusion can be made more successful.

Five years ago, Brigitte would never have imagined that she could tell a positive story today. Her son was about eight years old when he wished he was dead. “The constant confrontation with what he wasn’t or couldn’t do took a toll on him,” says Brigitte. Max was actually a “ray of sunshine”, but at that time he often came home from primary school sad.

The little boy from the Ruhr area attracted attention in daycare because he stood absent in the corner. When spoken to, he often did not react and sometimes even fell into a deep sleep. Max has a certain form of epilepsy. “The brain then lies down on the couch for a short time,” explains Brigitte. In addition, there is a rare syndrome that causes Max to have perception and processing disorders.

When this became clear after two years of doctor’s visits, Brigitte began looking for an integration helper. This was intended to make it possible for Max to receive the necessary support and to relieve the pressure on the kindergarten. “But you hardly find such helpers. They are not skilled workers. For example, someone previously worked as an electrician, and anyone can qualify with a ten-day course.”

Despite the helper, day-to-day daycare and later school life were difficult. Because the integration helper often failed – there was no replacement. For example, because the daycare center considered trips without an additional helper to be too dangerous, Max had to stay at home again and again. The mother then took over the care there. “I quit my job and became self-employed in order to be more flexible,” says Brigitte. Her other sons would have had to take a step back during this time.

The situation didn’t get any better in elementary school: Max was relegated to the back row and the furthest seat by the teacher. “That’s where he’s least bothered,” the teacher is said to have explained. She then explained that it wasn’t Max that was meant, but rather the integration assistant. He distracts the other children when he sits next to the boy.

What the teacher apparently didn’t take into account: A child with perceptual disorders finds it more difficult to keep focus on the lesson if he or she is sitting far away from the blackboard and has the entire room in front of him. “The world already seems louder to Max than to others,” explains Brigitte. “This is then further reinforced.”

In other situations, the integration assistant apparently did not disturb the teacher – on the contrary. She also enjoyed using it to help children without special needs. Suddenly he had to do all sorts of tasks that needed to be done instead of being able to concentrate on supporting Max. “There are simply not enough staff at the schools,” says Brigitte.

Dealing with his disability was very depressing for Max and there seemed to be little improvement in sight. “When he came home from school feeling down, it would take me an hour to cheer him up. “It’s hard for a mother to bear,” says Brigitte.

In the fourth grade, the teacher finally recommended that the mother send her son to secondary or special school. “But I was sure that if Max was placed in a supportive environment, he would be able to fulfill his potential,” says Brigitte.

Finally, she tried to talk to the high school where her older sons also go. “I spoke very openly with the principal and she had a long conversation with Max. The principal was convinced that it was a good idea to send Max to this school. He is surprisingly interested in world events and history.” The school and his mother agreed on a kind of probationary period for Max. The boy mastered it without any problems.

Brigitte attributes the fact that Max blossomed at high school to several factors. On the one hand, the integration assistants at the school are deployed differently than usual. Usually there is a so-called pool solution. All helpers who are employed by the same provider can then take turns looking after different children.

This is supposed to enable flexibility – but according to Brigitte, it often doesn’t work in practice. “You can’t constantly present children with different integration helpers from one day to the next,” she explains. Max’s high school therefore ensures that an integration assistant is responsible for a child from the beginning until they graduate from high school.

Brigitte also believes that a lot depends on the attitude: “Successful inclusion depends on the desire, is my experience. There is an attitude of appreciation and respect at this school,” she says. The teachers would proactively and promptly talk to her if a problem were to arise. In addition, the school would, for example, take care of making certain requests so that Max could be exempt from the assessment in some areas.

Max is now 13 years old and is in sixth grade. His first report card at high school was very good. But Brigitte doesn’t just see a change in the grades: “My son has developed great. He enjoys going to school and comes home happy – nothing like before.”