Posts Tagged ‘Roncker v. Walters’
People First Controversy
There is controversy in the disability community about the use of People First or Person First language.
I’ve written several posts about People First language:
Some self-advocates on the Autism Spectrum disagree They feel parents want to deny “autistics” and “aspies” their unique voices. They say parents only want to destroy autism and cure their children.
I am proud to support Rosa’s Law and advocate for People First Language. Perhaps these personal stories will explain.
I’m going to start and end with “Wheelchair Becky” but also share some stories about the past history of people with disabilities, my son Aaron, myself, and my hope for the future.
Is People First Language important for “Wheelchair Becky”?
In a previous post: Building Community | Wheelchair Becky vs. Flat Stanley, I wrote about the way the Mattel Company thought “Wheelchair Becky” and “Black Barbie” would teach children about diversity and tolerance…and how it backfired.
I think People First language is part of the solution. If you disagree, that’s okay. It’s part of celebrating diversity.
Is People First language important for Aaron?
Aaron is my son’s name.
He has been depersonalized, reified and labeled by doctors, psychologists and other professionals as autistic, cerebral palsied, DD, MR, sensory deficit, movement disorder, severe/profound….
In the precedent setting Roncker case, the school psychologist testified under oath that Neill Roncker and others (like Aaron) had such low IQs “they wouldn’t know the difference between sitting next to a real person or sitting next to a rock.” So segregating them in separate schools with their own kind would make no difference. She considered their education a waste of school resources. Many people still agree with her.
So, I feel strongly People First language is important. Aaron is a person first. Others can give him labels. Some are medical and diagnostic but others are cultural: brother, son, uncle, cousin, friend, neighbor, patient, consumer, ….
This has nothing to do with wishing Aaron was cured. This is not denying the “autistic” culture. This has nothing to do with “disability pride.” It has everything to do with survival.
People First language reinforces the moral argument that people with severe disabilities are people and have a basic right to exist. A right to breathe, to be a member of the human race, to live with our families, go to neighborhood schools and community activities–rather than live in institutions.
Check out Parallels in Time history of people with disabilities It is filled with the abuse of those basic human rights. The more we know about our history, the more we understand the need to protect our rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” This is a daily challenge as we fight for caring staff, decent living conditions, health care, opportunities to be safe and belong to our families and communities. There are many people who see only the disability–and think that means we don’t need the same care and support–we are not really citizens, not really human.
Aaron is a “person” with wants, needs, likes and dislikes like everyone else. He is Aaron, that unique PERSON whom I love. He is Aaron a citizen with rights.
As I look at my life as a parent, advocate, teacher and friend to people with disabilities, I find I have excluded myself from my community. Yea, me–the advocate for inclusion.
Is Mary a Person First?
All mothers understand this conundrum. Especially when your child is so vulnerable. I’ve spent many years hanging around people working for the civil rights of people with disabilities i.e. Mothers of Special Children, Special Education Parent Groups, Arc, Autism National Committee, TASH…. I am a member of Disability World. Maybe not a primary consumer, but certainly a secondary consumer.
At some point, I realized I had to reclaim my own personhood. My personal resolution to rejoin the mainstream of my community included finding writers’ groups.
Fortunately, I found the Ohio Valley Romance Writers of America (OVRWA) in my community. These talented women have become more than mentors, they have become friends. I learned almost every one of them has a PEN Name, some have more than one.
Men with Pens
Men with Pens has also been a terrific community for beginning writers and bloggers. I’ve met James Chartrand who also wrote about using Pen Names and Pseudonyms.
Positive Solution: Writer’s Groups and Pen Names
So, it occurred to me: What if our stigmitized “Wheelchair Becky” started to include herself in these writing communities? After all, she’d graduated from the high school yearbook committee, right?
What if “Wheelchair Becky” chose her own Pen Name, became her own person, and like Flat Stanley started to integrate herself into the community?
Urban legend says one way to pick your Pen Name is to:
1. Write down the name of your first pet.
2. Write down the name of your street address when you
owned that pet.
I consulted with “Wheelchair Becky” and she agreed to make this into a community-building activity at the OVRWA holiday party.
Everyone wrote their pet’s name and put the papers in one red dish.
Everyone wrote their street address and put the papers into another dish.
Then “Wheelchair Becky” with the help of a friend, chose one name from each dish and VOILA—
Smokey Woods was born.
How do we build an Inclusive Community?
In the tradition of Flat Stanley and many writers, Smokey Woods began to make friends and include herself into the community. Here (at the head of the table) she is toasting in the New Year with our family. (BTW: She doesn’t eat much and is a cheap drunk.)
Here my precious granddaughter is playing with Smokey Woods the romance writer.
Smokey Woods is a doll, a toy. Smokey might use a wheelchair to get around, but she has a name.
My granddaughter represents the future. For Aaron, for me, for all people with disabilities. She will see people like Smokey in her classes and community. When she watches Glee on TV, she sees Artie singing and dancing. He also uses a wheelchair, but Artie has a name–and it doesn’t start with “wheelchair.”
Names matter. Aaron is Aaron. Mary is Mary.
I’m not promoting People First language because I am looking for a cure. I’m looking for survival and ways to prevent the abuse and segregation of the past. I’m looking for community inclusion.
For myself and my family.
For all the next generation of little kids who will be learning about diversity by playing with dolls and watching TV.
I also think Mark Twain, Dr. Seuss and all the other writers who use Pen Names would approve.
Keep Climbing: Onward and Upward
All my best,
Mary and Smokey
Did this make sense? Are there important reasons to use People First Language? Can we learn more about community inclusion and what it means to be a real person by looking at our language and the names we call each other? Do we need to study the past so we can move forward? In the comments please share your ideas.
Check out the graduation pictures of my two sons.
What’s the same? What’s different?
BACK to SCHOOL Article 3
To celebrate the new school year here are some of my favorite posts:
Article 1: Why Do We Go to School?
Article 2: Back to School| A New Year of Learning
What is Inclusion?
The concept of INCLUSION is both simple and complex.
It means being able to go to the same school your brothers and sisters go to. The same school that is on the realtor’s fact sheet, you know the one: “If you buy this house, here is the neighborhood school you go to.” That’s simple, right?
In 1980 in Ohio, when my son Aaron turned 5 and was eligible to go to school, because he had the label of autism and developmental disabilities, he and other children with IQs below 50 were legally excluded from public schools. That’s complex.
It all changed because of Federal Legislation, yea those dang Government laws everyone hates.
When you suffer from exclusion and segregation, those Federal rules and regulations save the day.
History Lessons: Past
When new schools were built in the 50s-60s-70s-80s, the old white schools became “negro” schools. When even more new schools were built for the white children (think baby boomers), then the children with disabilities were moved up into the schools vacated by the “negroes.”
Schools: White to Negro to Handicapped to Demolished
The Education for All Handicapped Children Act was passed in 1975 and gave parents the right to a free appropriate public education, zero reject, related services, due process and the “least restrictive environment.”
At the time of the Neill Roncker and Aaron Ulrich due process hearings, the decrepit Dyer School was a handicapped-only school. Cincinnati Public Schools rented the school to the Hamilton County Board of Mental Retardation/Developmental Disabilities for $1.00 a year (Roncker hearing).
Parents and local Board of Mental Retardation officials were happy to be able to move out of church basements into the discarded school. They were also thrilled to be building new segregated facilities, handicapped only, with local levy dollars.
That was our court battle–to be able to ride the bus, go to school, eat lunch with typical kids… in our neighborhood school–not a “handicapped-only” school.
Inclusion is a civil right
“Inclusion is a right, not a special privilege for a select few.” – Federal Court, Oberti vs Board of Education.
For information about the history of children with disabilities check out the Minnesota DD Planning council’s excellent resource, Parallels in Time 2
History Lessons| Inclusion Today
Here is a recent video about a young woman with the label of autism. You will see her general education teacher, her parent, her inclusion facilitator, the general music teacher but most of all you will see the future citizens of our country.
Here is a picture of inclusion. A picture of hope. (Thanks to Donna Owens, OCALI)
Definition of Inclusion
Giangreco (see Resources) has defined the criteria for inclusion:
Students go to the same school as their brothers, sisters, and neighbors;
They participate in the same environments as their peers (lunchroom, bus, playground, classrooms);
According to their IEP, the student has the extra supports they need to be successful (therapy, adapted curriculum materials, an aide, teacher inservice);
There should be a natural proportion of children with/without disabilities, (if 10% of students are on IEPs in a school–no more than 10% of the students in any one class should be on IEPs).
An Inclusive Graduation Ceremony
So did you see any similiarities and differences in the graduation pictures above?
Almost everything about Tommy and Aaron’s Graduation ceremonies were the same. At the time, Lakota High School was one of the largest high schools in the state. Tommy and Aaron both had HUGE graduating classes held at the University of Cincinnati. Both had cheering parents and friends.
The difference between Aaron’s school experience and his typical brother Tommy’s, is evidenced in their graduation pictures above.
Aaron didn’t have to go through a segregated graduation ceremony and earn the right or prove he was ready to go to the inclusive celebration.
We did prepare by considering what would Aaron need to be added or subtracted from the typical graduation experience.
In his case, Aaron needed an extra support person, his wonderful teacher Mr. Mike Valdini. And, what needed to be subtracted–the mortar board hat!
I like to think our early battles for inclusion help the young children today—all of them, with and without disabilities.
Keep Climbing: Onward and Upward
All my best,
It now seems like the concept of inclusion has been around forever. But like any civil rights movement, we often don’t move forward in a straight line. What are some of your experiences?
Special Education Inclusion
Dr. Annie Abram interviewed me about Special Education Inclusion on her weekly blog talk radio program: “Ask Dr. Annie Abram.”
Dr. Abram talks about “Parenting Across Generations” and has been doing several topics on autism.
Check it out. Tell me what you think in the comments section. It really has been a journey for Aaron–a person with a disability, for me–the parent of an adult with a disability, and for our family. And, the choices and decisions we made when Aaron was young definitely influence our choices and decisions now that he is an adult. In my heart I know we took the road less travelled and it demonstrated to the world that inclusion is a civil right–and Aaron is a full citizen.
Expecting Academic Achievement in General Education Curriculum
April 25, 2013
2-3:30 p.m. ET
This interactive training session provides teachers with a structured time to think and plan to enhance their students’ participation in the general education curriculum. Many teams have become outstanding supporters of inclusive education. However, what are the students’ goals in that setting? How much involvement do they have with the general education curriculum? What are the goals for the student’s academic achievement? Have we fully considered all the ways the student can attain access to and demonstrate an understanding of the general education curriculum?
Presented by Stacey Skoning, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, and Denise Clark, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.
TASH Members $50 (Individual) $80 (Group)
Non Members $70 (Individual) $100 (Group)
This is an inexpensive way to get the latest information for an inservice or parent group.
Check out TASH for more information:
• Thriving in Transitions: Self-Directed Living, It’s Never Too Late! (Community Living)
Thursday, May 9 @ 1 p.m. ET
• Building and Sustaining our Communities through Time Bank Exchange (Community Living)
Thursday, May 16 @ 2 p.m. ET
• An Overview of Person Centered Planning: The State of the Art (Community Living)
Thursday, May 30 @ 2 p.m. ET
Free Ideas for Inclusive Classrooms
If you want inclusive ideas for your child or your classroom, Paula Kluth is the best. Sign up for her blog. Paula Kluth
As always, your thoughts matter.
Keep Climbing: Onward and Upward
All my best,
Other Blog Radio Interviews:
Today I will be interviewed on The Inclusive Class on Special Needs Talk Radio on the topic: Successful Inclusion.
This is the third interview in their series on Inclusion. The interview is about 20 minutes long. I hope you will leave comments here, talk to your friends and use your social media to spread the word on Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, DIGG….
My Brief Biography:
Like many people, I began my journey into Disability World when Aaron, my oldest son, received his first label of autism and intellectual disability because he didn’t reach the developmental milestones.
Fortunately, Aaron was born right as PL 94-142 (The Education of All Handicapped Children Act—the precursor of IDEA) was passed. He and Neill Roncker were the first students with severe disabilities to go to Cincinnati Public Schools. Neill’s case (Roncker v. Walter) went all the way to the Federal Supreme Court, ours was resolved locally because the school district didn’t want a class action lawsuit.
I was fortunate to learn about inclusion from the people at TASH (Equity, Opportunity and Inclusion for People with Disabilities–formerly The Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps).
Most of my life was spent as a mom and advocate. When Aaron moved into his own house, I went back to school to get my masters and doctorate degrees in special education at the age of 50. I taught at Miami University and am still fighting the good fight for adult inclusive services for my son who is now 36 years old.
We’ve had some success stories that warm our hearts, and we work every day to make Aaron’s life more inclusive. We are currently working to move Aaron closer to our home.
1. Roncker v. Walters was the first court case under the Education of All Handicapped Children Act to go to the Federal Supreme Court about the Least Restrictive Environment. What effect did it have on what we now call inclusion?
Neill Roncker and my son Aaron both lived in Cincinnati Public School District. Neill was a year older than Aaron.
In the 70s, Ohio had a policy that children with IQs below 50 were automatically excluded from the public schools and sent to the segregated schools for children with severe intellectual disabilities. It took several years, but finally the Federal Supreme Court ruled Neill could go to public schools and services must be PORTABLE.
“In a case where the segregated facility is considered superior, the court should determine whether the services which make that placement superior could be feasibly provided in a non-segregated setting. If they can, the placement in the segregated school would be inappropriate under the Act” (Roncker v. Walters 700F.2d 1058 6th Circuit).
For instance: if the segregated school provided speech therapy, that same speech therapy could be portable and provided in a public school.
Since Roncker there have been many cases on “mainstreaming,” “least restrictive environment” and “inclusion.”
The court sometimes makes conflicting decisions, but the bottom line is the decision must be made on an individual basis (thus the reason for the conflicting decisions) and must ask the question: “Can the services in the segregated school/class be provided in a general education school/class?”
Remember in the 70s-80s, we were just trying to get our children to be considered: “persons”; “capable of learning”; “potential employees” and to be allowed to go in the door of the public schools.
The term “inclusion” had not been invented yet.
The Roncker case was important for many reasons: it showed the congressional intent of education in the least restrictive environment; the rights of parents to go due process; and the courts responsibility to hear the evidence in education cases as well as consider class action lawsuits. The question of costs was also to be a consideration. These were critical milestones which affected future cases like Daniel R. R., Timothy W. and many other cases.
To avoid a “class action” case, Cincinnati Public Schools settled on Aaron’s case after we won our first due process hearing. Aaron was allowed to go to a public school. Long story, but my husband was a teacher in Cincinnati Public and because of harassment for Aaron and our family, we moved to another school district a year after we won the right to go to public school.
2. Can you share a couple of those Aaron success stories?
Our family researched the 5 counties in our area which included 3 states. We found one school district where both our children could go to the same school. After our three year battle with our school district and hundreds of confrontations with angry parents and teachers, our first success story was on Aaron and Tommy’s first day in our new district.
The yellow school bus pulled up in front of our new house and both our boys got on the same bus to go to the same school. No bands playing, no angry protestors, just four neighborhood kids waiting on the corner.
One young man who was about 9 years old, who had known Aaron for all of ten minutes, reached out his hand to help Aaron get up the steps of the bus. No one asked him–no one gave him an inservice or lecture on attitudes toward people with disabilities–he just instinctively gave Aaron his hand to boost him up.
That was when I knew Aaron was going to be fine. A helping hand–isn’t that all we were ever asking for?
If you want to see a picture of this moment, click on the historical slide show from the Minnesota DD Planning Council’s Parallels in Time 2. Aaron getting on bus his first day in an inclusive school.
Aaron and Tommy attended school together for almost their entire educational experience. Tommy is one of the most sensitive caring people I know and is now a radio frequency engineer with Sprint. They shared many activities together.
Aaron participated in inclusive social, emotional, some academic and after-school activities: Boy Scouts, the prom, the junior high dance, track/cross country, chorus, the environmental club, Friendship club, bowling, work study/vocational job club, and many other school activities. On my blog, I wrote about the graduation ceremony (link below).
If you want more information about A Place to Learn, check out the Parallels in Time 2. It is wonderful.
3. When you were teaching the “inclusion” courses at the university, what did the education students think about inclusion?
It was interesting. Most of the university students who went to school with people with severe intellectual and developmental disabilities couldn’t understand what the big deal was. The students who came from private schools where there was no diversity, were confused and uncertain how inclusion could work. I’m hoping my class made a difference, I’m hoping the next generation of students will have the learning opportunity to be voters, friends, neighbors, co-workers and bus riders with others who are different from them. As our world becomes more diverse, this will be a critical life lesson.
4. Some school districts call a school an “inclusion” school and all the students in the school have IEPs. Does that meet the definition of inclusion?
NO! Some school districts just make up their own definitions. Other districts “dump” kids in classes with no support services. Last year I went to supervise student teachers in an “inclusion” school and was shocked that everyone in the school was on an IEP. Check out Michael Giangreco’s article and terrific comics: “Moving Toward Inclusion.”
5. Why do you think inclusion is a civil rights issue?
The reason we have the term inclusion is because we have had exclusion, segregation and inequality. Senator Lowell Weicker said, “As a society we have treated people with disabiliteis as inferiors and made them unwelcome…”
If you have any doubt, check out Parallels in Time I ” a website on the history of people with disabilities.
In Brown v. Board of Education (1954) “separate is inherently unequal” says it all.
Check out “What is Inclusion?” on my blog ClimbingEveryMountain.com and see Aaron and Tommy in their graduation pictures.
Again, here is the link for the interview: The Inclusive Class: Successful Inclusion with Mary E. Ulrich
Keep Climbing: Onward and Upward.
All my best,
Share some of your inclusion stories and let
us know what you are thinking. Will you listen to other interviews on The Inclusive Class? I’ll pass on your ideas to Nicole and Terri.
Here are their websites: