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Posts Tagged ‘normalization’

A Mother’s Hopes for her Sons

Aaron watching Tommy play Nintendo

Aaron watching Tommy play Nintendo

Summer Activities| A Mother’s Hope for Her Sons with and without disabilities

NOTE: This is when Tommy was 13 and Aaron 14 years old.

Is summer different for kids with and without disabilities?

This summer Tommy, my 13 year old son, …

• Went to 2 weeks of Boy Scout camp, an experience which included a hike on the Appalachian Trail.

• Had to choose between participating in baseball or soccer. In August, however, he began training for the school cross-country team.

• Was active in a neighborhood network of five boys who decided to start a Nintendo Gaming Exchange Club. His friends called him the minute he arrived home from activities, played games until supper.

* Was invited to stay overnight with a friend or cousin.

• Had a season’s pass to a nearby amusement park, and because he can use public transportation independently, spent at least one day there each week with friends.

The days of summer flew by for Tommy. He had individual activities with friends, but also family activities which included a camping vacation and travel to a National Park. His major frustrations were either the lack of time for pursuing all of his interests, or his Mom’s suggesting he do something “dumb” like reading a book or practicing his clarinet.

Our family on a camping trip

Our Family Camping Trip

Tommy’s brother, Aaron, age 14.

Aaron went to two weeks of special camp this summer.

Aaron’s major summer/weekend/vacation activity is watching Tommy play baseball, play Nintendo games…and riding to drop Tommy and his friends off.

Aaron also has a pass to the amusement park, but can only go with an adult (who so far is his mother).

Aaron spends every morning saying, “bus, bus…ready, set, go.” When the school bus doesn’t come, he sometimes licks on the front window, bites his hands and puts on his coat and backpack. He can’t figure out why his routine is different.

Aaron also can’t figure out why we spend all winter telling him to keep the front door shut, and all summer telling him to keep the front door open (but that’s another story.) *smile*

Aaron was on the waiting list for a short Easter Seals sponsored program in August, the only other community recreation opportunity available to him in our county.

What’s the Difference?

As I contrast the lives of my two boys, I can’t help thinking…

• …perhaps I wouldn’t feel Aaron’s isolation and lack of contact with any friends or same-age peers if Tommy had fewer friends.

• …perhaps I wouldn’t worry about Aaron’s behaviors, physical condition, weight and stamina if he were occasionally an active participant, rather than always an observer.

• …perhaps the hours and hours of inaction would not occur if Aaron had better skills or could entertain himself.

• …perhaps our family will adjust eventually to the sadness (and stress) we feel knowing Aaron’s only opportunities come from mom, dad or brother…and realizing it may always be that way.

* …perhaps we would feel so trapped if we could get respite regularly.

* …perhaps we’ll become accustomed to wearing a key around our necks so that the door can be locked with a deadbolt every time someone goes out or comes in (otherwise Aaron will run into the street or enter neighbors’ homes).

* …perhaps we’ll resign ourselves to our community’s “special” camps and “special” recreation programs, which effectively exclude Aaron from almost everything that is typical, regular, easily available and low cost. Perhaps hope will sustain us that someday a “community support” agency professional from somewhere, anywhere, could adapt, modify and begin to open community activities for Aaron and others.

* …perhaps our prayer will be answered that some child around Aaron’s age will care enough to help him join a circle of friends. Just once, even once.

* …perhaps/…oh perhaps…some wonderful person will believe that a community is more that a group of houses, businesses and people. Agency professionals must become bridge builders in the community. Families in which a child has a disability need the same support regular families have.

Summary: Separate is inherently Unequal.

The tragedy of having a child with a disability has nothing to do with a syndrome, impairment or disease. Words such as autism, CP, and intellectual disabilities are just descriptors the same way hair color, height, race, sex and personality are descriptors. Children don’t start out life knowing they are different. The tragedy is the reaction of families, neighbors and society, which emphasize differences.

The conflict for people with disabilities and for their families comes when the community limits opportunities, segregates and restricts individuals’ choices (e.g. Handicap swim is Tuesday; 1:30-2:30 p.m. and General swim is Monday to Friday 8:00–5:00).

It doesn’t matter that the limiting of opportunities appears, to have a good rationale or charitable intentions. Segregation limits freedom, limits choices, and limits development. “Special” means segregated.

Our Olympic Moment of Inclusion

One hot July day last summer, Tommy and his friends stopped by our house to make some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for a picnic.

Unexpectedly, one of the boys asked if Aaron wanted to come along.

Five minutes later, all the kids were laughing, talking and riding their bikes to the park. One red-haired kid named Aaron was riding on a bike in tandem.

In about one-half hour the picnic ended and they brought Aaron back; that was the highlight of Aaron’s whole summer.

That moment for Aaron was sort of like the experience of a serious ice skater. Olympic gymnast, actor, or musician who practices day after day hoping to “bring it all together” for one magic performance or “big break” It was a “victory” –a spontaneous, normalized recreation experience, without his mom! Ahhh (smile-sigh). And now…back to work. But, perhaps, just perhaps…those wonderful, typical neighborhood kids will grow up more fully with the vision for and the experi3nce of community integration and freedom. They are the next generation of soccer coaches, swim instructors, church/synagogue group and scout learners.

The change of inclusion has begun.

Related Stories: (Click on title)

On the last day of Junior High School.

Dream Plan for Aaron–14 yrs old (Part 2).

America the Beautiful: A Family Vacation Plus

Keep Climbing: Onward and Upward

“When we stop to lift one another up on the climb, we all reach a higher place.”
All my best,



What were your summer vacations like? Would they have been different if you had a label of autism or disability? If you were a parent of a child with a disability what would you be thinking? dreaming? Are summers different for kids with and without disabilities? Can you think of anything you could do to help?

Socially Constructed Attitudes| What do you see?

follow the arrow from A-Z

What do you see?

Every day businesses and community groups try to influence us with logos and symbols.

Did you ever look close–really close–at some of these logos? Sometimes there are hidden messages.

How many times have you seen the Amazon logo?

Have you ever noticed the A-Z arrow? I didn’t.

Could this be a visual cue saying, “You can purchase everything from A to Z”? Not just books.

Business logos and commercials dominate the social media and we often take them for granted. But no doubt about it, they influence our attitudes.

Baskin Robbins

See the 31 flavors?

What’s your first impression?

What’s your second impression?

Baskin Robbins’ logo reminds us they have 31 different flavors of ice cream—can’t you just taste the butter pecan and chocolate chip?

Are you surprised the number 31 is right there in front of you?

Did you notice?


See 2 people sharing a tostito?

Mexican flag colors, right.

But there is a whole scene right in the middle of the logo.

Do you see two people?

They are sharing chips and between them is a table with a cup of salsa.

Now that you are aware, will you notice the embedded image on every Tostito bag of chips?

Will you tell your friends?

Your actions are helping to socially construct the meaning of their logo, the meaning of Tostito’s brand–Friend to friend.

Tour de France

See the bike? Guy in yellow Tshirt?

The most famous bike race in the world, The Tour de France logo shows an action shot of a man on a bike.

See it? The R is a man bent over the yellow wheel of a bike.

What emotions do you feel?

Bet the marketing company spent hours researching the color of the t-shirt including study groups on whether the best color was blue, red or yellow.

Perhaps this ad was donated or created by a student…or a giant ad company on Fifth Avenue.

Wolf Wolfensburger spent years teaching us to be thoughtful about the images, logos and symbols we use when we market our agencies and companies that worked with people with disabilities.

He spoke of the social construction of knowledge–we are what others say we are:

“Impairment is a normal part of life. Disability is not. That is caused by our attitudes towards people who have impairments. It’s about time we accepted that wholeheartedly. Doing so is good for people who are disabled, for community and for the planet.”

Final Question: What do you see?

What do you see?

(Martha Perske, artist)

As parents and caregivers of adults with disabilities, every day we send out messages to the world.

Our neighbors, our relatives, our children and our community are watching and learning. They are socially constructing what they see based on their experiences.

Are we spreading the message that people with disabilities over 18 years old are adults—NOT children?

Are we marketing our services in unhuman images of angels, devils, elves, giants in our company names and logos?

Does a group of people with autism walking in a store blend in, or do they draw attention to themselves?

Are adults with disabilities seen as capable employees, volunteers, contributing citizens?

Or do community members see them as needy–asking for charity, or pity?

Are we promoting inclusion and normalization?

Are we teaching others what they see? how to understand?

If this was a business, what would our logo look like and what would be the embedded message?

How are we socially constructing our environment, our world?

Your Turn:

Please share your ideas and thoughts. What message do we send on TV? in the community? What message in our personal life? What do you wish would happen?

Keep Climbing: Onward and Upward

All my best,


Related Posts:

What is normalization?

Perske| Hope for the Families

The Race toward Inclusion| Do you see it?

Dream Plan for Aaron: 2010 (Part 4)

Aaron and 4 generations of family

Aaron and 4 Generations of Family

“If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.” – Jim Rohn

Today is my 64th Birthday. I used to think 64 was old. Now I just think 64 is experienced with a lot of living yet to do.

I wonder what the world will be like when Aaron, Tommy, Ana and even little Isabella turn 64? When I blow out my candles, I’m wishing with all my heart the world will be inclusive. And, we’ll all be part of a caring community who values diversity and individual contributions because together we are stronger.

In Part 1: 1981 Aaron was 6 years old and we outlined a vision of what a happy, successful quality of life would look like for Aaron as an adult. (click here).

In Part 2: 1989, Aaron was 14 years old and we were moving forward. The Plan was updated to take into account the changes in our family, but also the changes in special education, disability services and the world. (click here)

In Part 3: 1998 Aaron is 23 years old and moving out of his parent’s house into his own place with a roommate and 24 hour assistance from caregivers. (Click here)

In Part 4: 2010:

How did we do?

All Dream Plans were built on the concepts of family, community, normalization and inclusion.

Original 1981 Dream Plan for Aaron

Aaron will be educated in a public school with his non-handicapped brother and neighbors. He will have a functional curriculum (see related post) which looks at his needs in his life spaces (vocational, leisure/recreation, domestic, general community functioning). His out-of-school activities will evolve around his family and his own friends, interests and talents. He will be in age-appropriate settings: elementary school ages 5-10; Jr. High ages 11-13, Sr. High ages 14-21, job in the community 21+. He will begin vocational training now, at age 6, so he will be able to perform the job. (If he isn’t able to be a dishwasher, then he can be a dishwasher’s helper, etc… there is some job he will be able to do with success.) At the appropriate time, Aaron will move to a group home to live with others his age. Though dependent in many ways, Aaron will have self-esteem and confidence in the things he does and be a contributor to his family, his extended family, and society.

Current 2010 Dream Plan for Aaron

Aaron was educated in a public school with his brother and the neighbors. After we won our lawsuit with Cincinnati Public Schools, the school district was vindictive and since Tom (Aaron and Tom’s father) was a teacher in the district we decided to move to Lakota School District. Aaron rode the bus to school with the neighborhood kids, he received a functional community based program with some excellent teachers and therapists who used best practice. His out-of-school activities evolved around his family and his own friends, interests and talents. Aaron went to the prom with his friend Jenni, he was on the Jr. High Track and Cross Country team where he earned school letters, he rode horses, swam, went to camp and took summer vacations with his family. He went to family reunions, holiday parties and the high school basketball and football games. He was on an inclusive bowling team and made some friends with the Baseball Team players. He was in the Key Club and had a circle of friends. He received extended school year services. He attended graduation (see related article) and had a celebration for all his family and friends. Aaron went to age-appropriate schools and had a job coach to help him in his job at the police station (vacuuming) and amusement park (watering plants) when he left school. When Aaron was 23 he moved into a house with another person (though he was older) and they have lived together for over 12 years. Aaron is still totally dependent but he has self-esteem and confidence in the things he does. He is loved and is a contributor to his family which now includes a niece and sister-in-law as well as his extended family of grandma and cousins. Aaron votes and is a consumer in our society.

Each one of these sentences is filled with years of work and advocacy. There are a whole lot of buts, buts, and more buts that happened when Aaron turned 21 that we didn’t foresee at age 6….

But considering the mountain we climbed to achieve all of the goals—WE DID IT!

1981 Dream Plan for Tommy

Tommy will be educated in a public school with his handicapped brother and neighbors. He will have a functional curriculum which looks at the needs in his life spaces, (academic, vocational, leisure/recreation, domestic, general community functioning). His out-of-school activities will evolve around his family, his own friends, interests, and talents. He will be in age-appropriate settings. He will make a career choice and pursue training (vocational, university, apprentice…). At a time he decides is appropriate, Tommy will move to his own home, probably marry and begin his own family. He will have self-esteem and confidence in the things he does and be a contributor to his family, his extended family and society.

Current 2010 Dream Plan for Tommy

Tommy went to school with his brother and neighbors. He had a functional curriculum that met his needs. He participated in wrestling, theater, cross-country and track, he went to all the school functions. He was in age-appropriate settings and shadowed adults in careers he was interested in. He began a couple career directions and graduated from Morehead State University with a job in the telecommunications field. He is now a Radio Frequency Engineer working on the new G4 systems. His work experience includes setting up the telecommunications for the Super Bowl and NASCAR events. His bride, Ana, is from Brazil and now they have a baby girl who is 18 months old. Tommy sees Aaron and his extended family every week. He is remodeling his house with his friend. He has self-esteem and confidence in the things he does and is a contributor to his family, his extended family and society.

Tommy is on his own. He has his own responsibilities and we help him every way we can. He is interdependent only because he wants to be. Now he makes his own dream plans for himself and his family. Here is a related article about Tommy and Aaron (Click here)

Aaron… well another post we’ll talk about life after age 22 and adult services.


How are Aaron and Tommy’s dream plans different? At age 6 and age 22 and age 35? How did they turn out? Were they much different than the plans your parents made for you? Much different than you make for yourself? What would you say is the lesson?

Keep Climbing: Onward and Upward
All the best,


The Race Toward Inclusion| Do you see it?

Are Your Eyeballs Running?
Creative Commons License photo credit: Sister72

The Race Toward Inclusion| Do you see it?

I love this picture. It reminds me of many of my favorite quotes:

“The real voyage of discovery is not in seeking new lands, but in seeing with new eyes.” Proust

“No one’s blinder, than s/he who will not see.” Kenny Rodgers’ song

“The race is not only to the swift, but to s/he who keeps on running.” (unknown)

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Eyeballs Running Everywhere

The racing eyeballs also remind me of late at night, lying in bed when my thoughts just keep galloping around in my head.

Our world is filled with a myriad of choices, distractions, good and bad news–all begging for our eyeballs and attention.

Parents of typical kids have trouble sorting out their priorities, and much of their intense parenting ends when their kids are 21. For parents of kids with disabilities, our hardest years are after graduation.

We are supposed to be experts on everything, autism, intellectual disabilities, developmental disabilities, govenment laws and departments on local, state and federal levels, advocacy organizations…. 

We are supposed to visualize our future, our children’s future.

We are supposed to foresee what will happen, so we can be prepared to protect our vulnerable children.

It makes me dizzy.

I want my bloodshot eyeballs to stop racing around trying to keep up. I want to be able to look forward to a future where my son will be okay. I want to be able to trust the professionals to do their jobs…I want to sleep in peace–(well, not the eternal kind of peace, just restful, you know sleeping through one or two nights :)

What about you?

Can you see the good–and ignore the distractions of failed levies, government cutbacks, negative news?

Can you watch the media focus on new segregated programs and ignore inclusive programs?

Can you envision new inclusive services in the community?

Can you discover hopeful ideas and events?

Can you anticipate next week being better? Next month? Next year? 10 years from now?

Can you believe you will have the people and resources you need?

Do you also feel dizzy?

We need to narrow our focus and concentrate on “the essential”: What can we do today to move toward the inclusion of our children in society?

We can’t solve all the issues of the world. But we can exercise the Power of One and do one thing today to make a more inclusive world for the person we care about. One thing. Today.

But how do we decide on that one thing? How do we filter out all the choices?


Just like a gardener or farmer prunes the dead wood from a rose bush or apple tree, we need to teach ourselves to prune the information that bombards us everyday. We can make the choice to throw out some information, ignoring potential goldmines. If it is really a goldmine–it will still be there tomorrow. I do this by limiting the time I spend watching TV, the news, using social media like Twitter and Facebook. I don’t care what Brad Pitt is doing, I don’t want to hear about recent car wrecks, abused children, or floods in Asia. I can’t do anything about it. If it is bad, scary, if it is going to keep my eyeballs busy while I am trying to sleep–I prune it out. The world can move on without me.

Planned Ignoring

Planned ignoring is consciously making a decision to ignore certain things. Planned Ignoring gives me time to digest and analyze the information I already know. We need to allow ourselves to “see” and “not see” as we make our priorities. This will help us reduce the overwhelm. We can stop the racing eyeballs in our minds. We can allow ourselves the luxury of closing our eyes for a moment, and find our FOCUS.

Seeing with New Eyes of Inclusion

Long ago, I decided my “voyage of discovery” was to the land of inclusion. It meant learning new ideas, shifting my paradigm, and it is based on the principle of normalization, I want my son Aaron to have as normal a life as possible (period). I can make a difference for him by seeing with my new eyes of inclusion.

What do I see? What does my loved one see?

Is this moving toward inclusion?

I have to live in the real world, so I compromise a lot. But I try to keep my vision focused on the goal: Inclusion for Aaron and others. For instance, yesterday I again had a discussion about filling out a form when we picked Aaron up at his house. Because of the principles of inclusion and normalization, I will still make up my own form, rather than use the medical model form from the agency. Six month ago I was promised this would be changed, but Herbie still lives. Herbie bits the dust“>Click here.

When I first confronted the agency six months ago, I was using “pruning.” I would chop out the old policy. I made phone calls, was given assurances that it would be changed.

For the last five months, I’ve used “planned ignoring”. I kept hoping they would keep their promise to change the form. I kept signing the form I made myself. (The house staff was also using planned ignoring–and just let me do my thing.)

But now, it’s time to use my “new eyes” and make one change as we journey into our annual ISP (Individualized Service Plan–the adult service version of the IEP only without the due process).

I’m predicting: The EYES will have it!

Sweet Dreams Everyone.

Keep Climbing: Onward and Upward
All my best



What do your eyeballs see? What is your vision for the future? Do you think the concepts of “pruning,” “planned ignoring” and “seeing with new eyes” are useful strategies? Are some people incapable of “seeing”?