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St. Nick and the Batman socks

St. Nick and the Batman Socks


Old World Santa
Creative Commons License photo credit: frannie60

In Christmas 1981, Cincinnati Public Schools was involved in two class-action lawsuits. Our family was caught up in both of them.

The first concerned the right of Aaron, our then seven year old son, who had an IQ below fifty and the labels of autism and intellectual disability, to be able to attend public school instead of a segregated handicapped-only school, “with his own kind.”

The second lawsuit was about racial segregation and the development of “magnet schools” to bring together children of different races, socio-economic backgrounds, and learning styles. We voluntarily enrolled our youngest son, Tommy, age five, into Sands’ Montessori School in the inner city to promote desegregation.

While the lawyers thought the two cases were different, our family knew they were both about building an inclusive community, valuing diversity, and learning from each other.

One of our first lessons about diversity came on St. Nick’s Feastday, Dec. 6th.

In true German tradition, the evening before St. Nick’s Feastday, Tommy wrote letters to Santa for both himself and Aaron, tucked them inside their shoes and placed them outside their bedroom door.

The next morning, Tommy was thrilled to find St. Nick left a note asking him to help spread the spirit of Christmas, be nice to his mother (ah-hem), a couple of candy bars and a pair of Batman socks.

Tommy was always shy. But he was so excited to show off his Batman socks he strutted in front of the mirror, decided his pants covered too much of the socks, and tucked his pants legs inside his socks. Batman socks ruled!

I of course, thought this was darling, took pictures for his Kindergarten scrapbook and drove him to school thinking I was one terrific mom, er, St. Nick.

Tommy joined his class, and I was hanging out with the school secretaries when Tommy’s teacher called into the office asking me to come to the kindergarten room. Over the PA I could hear Tommy sobbing and the rest of the children clearly agitated.

It took a couple of minutes to sort out the details, but apparently Tommy had proudly shown his Batman socks at Show and Tell.

What he learned was no one else in the class had ever heard of St. Nick. And what was worse, St. Nick did not pick up anyone else’s note to Santa. So using sophisticated kindergarten logic, that meant no one–except Tommy–was going to get anything for Christmas.

Further, Tommy felt terrible he hadn’t told them about St. Nick. He reckoned this mess was all his fault. He was “not spreading Christmas cheer” as he had been told in St. Nick’s message, so Santa would be mad at him and not give him anything either.

Tommy’s tear-streaked face would have been bad enough, but he was curled under a desk in the corner with his bare feet hanging out. His Batman socks were inside-out in the garbage can.

Well, this was clearly a kindergarten disaster of monumental proportions. Tommy’s caring teacher and I exchanged those adult looks that said we were supposed to fix this. We settled the children.

I brought Tommy back into the circle, held him in my lap and reassured two other children who were sitting nearby.

Mr. Leedom read Marcia Brown’s story, Stone Soup.

Stone Soup

Stone SoupThe moral of the story is if we think in terms of “gifts” instead of “scarcity,” and if we see the unique beauty in our differences, customs and traditions, we will all have a richer life.

Community Building

After the teacher finished the story, I fumbled out a few words about our class being a community just like the people in the story.

Sometimes our family or religious traditions are not familiar to everyone. Just like each of the families in the story Stone Soup, our class was full of families that could contribute special stories and traditions to celebrate the holidays.

(Kindergartners are very generous in allowing grown-ups to tell stories to make themselves feel better.)

I told them St. Nick came to our house because we were of German descent. I asked if anyone else had other traditions around the holidays and one student told the story of Kwanzaa, another about Hanukkah. I reassured everyone they needed to talk with their families about their holiday traditions, but that if Santa brought them gifts last year, he would surely bring them gifts this year.

As I looked around the circle at these children I had come to love, it dawned on me this was not the all-white, German Catholic, middle-class community school in which I had grown up.

This was exactly the kind of learning experience we wished for our sons.

Intellectually, I knew this was why we chose this school. This sharing was the gift of diversity and inclusion.

But this was more. This experience was a transformational moment for me, Tommy and perhaps some of the students.

Community Building Mix

The next day I brought in the ingredients for our own version of Stone Soup“Building Community Snack Mix” and gave each of the students a Batman sticker.
For more information click on the community building mix.

Batman Socks Rule!

Tommy did get his Batman socks out of the garbage can. He wore them all kindergarten and into first grade until they were faded and had a hole in the heel. The Batman socks are part of his childhood legacy.

New St. Nick Traditions

Each year, for the last thirty years, we have placed the worn, torn Batman socks on our Christmas tree.

Now Tommy has a little girl of his own.

I want to wait a couple Christmases. But when our grandbaby goes to Kindergarten, the Batman socks are again going back to Tommy for his St. Nick’s Day present.

Hopefully, the story of “St. Nick and the Batman Socks” will become a cherished tradition to share with his daughter…and will continue to teach about diversity, community building and inclusion.

Comments:

Do you have any St. Nick or holiday traditions that are unique to your family? Do you have any school memories about lessons in diversity, community building or inclusion? Do you have other ideas on how to build community during the holidays?

Keep Climbing: Onward and Upward

All the best, Mary

When Schools Say “NO” to Inclusion

When Schools say “NO” to Inclusion

The Inclusive Class Podcast presented a panel with Tom Mihail, Paula Kluth, Torrie Dunlap, Lisa Jo Rudy, Frances Stetson, Kathleen McClaskey and myself.

The Title was: "When Schools say 'NO' to Inclusion"

Topics include Universal Design, Technology, Differentiation, Inclusive after-school and community recreation, and in the last few minutes I talked about Inclusion as a Civil Right and strategies for getting inclusion with your IEP.

Below is the supplemental material for my topic. If you have any questions please contact me.

Here is a recording of the broadcast:

Listen to internet radio with The Inclusive Class Podcast on Blog Talk Radio

So, you are sold, you have heard all the information about inclusion, you know in your soul this is what would be great for your child. You talk to the teacher, the principal, anyone who will listen and they tell you it won't work for your child, it's a passing fad, it is too expensive, it will hurt the other kids in the school...blagh, blagh, blagh.

What do you do?

Here are the 5 Points I outlined in my part of the panel:

1. Learn the History of People with Disabilities.

Legal Segregation

Society and Schools have been saying “No” to Inclusion for hundreds of years for many people, not just for people with disabilities.

1800-1900s. Institutions and Forced Segregation were common for those with the labels of mentally defective, feeble-minded, idiots, uneducable and untrainable. Individuals and Parents had no say. People who were different were removed for the health and safety of the community.

Today we still have prejudice against minorities, young women who are unmarried and pregnant, gang members, young people who are gay or lesbian, immigrants, poor, people who don't speak English, Native Americans, homeless, children of migrant workers...

Our society is more diverse every day, we need inclusion for everyone.

Parallels in Time: A history of people with disabilities

Parallels in Time 1 and

Parallels in Time 2

Check out the section in Parallels 2 A PLACE TO LEARN.

(Page 59-60 has the definition of Inclusion)

(p. 61 has reference to Paula Kluth and a picture of my son Aaron)

Inclusion is a Civil Right

14th Amendment:

“The 14th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified on July 9, 1868, and granted citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States,” which included former slaves recently freed. In addition, it forbids states from denying any person "life, liberty or property, without due process of law" or to "deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” By directly mentioning the role of the states, the 14th Amendment greatly expanded the protection of civil rights to all Americans and is cited in more litigation than any other amendment.”

Reference:

Questions the Courts had to decide:

Citizenship: Is someone who has an intellectual or other disability, a person? (consider the slaves, Native Americans, women, immigrants, prisoners…)

Due Process: If you have a disability, do you have the right to due process? (consider people with physical, intellectual disabilities, people who are deaf, blind… can’t read/write/talk, people who can’t pass IQ tests…)

Equal Protection: If you have a disability, are you entitled to the same rights and benefits other people have? (go to school, live in community, get jobs…)

Consider the implications:

Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) Separate is equal. 50 years of Jim Crow Laws.

Brown v. Board of Education (1954) “Separate is inherently unequal.”

Fascinating Reference:

PARC Class Action Case: A Game-changer

(Interviews with Tom Gilhool and Gunner Dybwad are also in Parallels in Time 2)

Video and transcript Tom Gilhool at Temple University:

Testimony of Tom Gilhool before the Joint Subcommittee Hearings on “the Events, Forces and Issues that Triggered Enactment of the Education of All Handicapped Children Act (EHA) of 1975” in TASH newsletter, 1996 p. 11-15.

Excerpt about PARC decree and 94-142: Teacher Training and Best Practice

The Requirement that Schools Know and “Adopt” “Effective” “Promising” Practices. Requires the delivery of an “effective” education. One, the Act (EHA) requires states and districts to see to it that all teachers, both “regular” and “special” are fully informed of and continuously trained in “promising practices” in the education of children. “Second, the Act requires every district as well as the states to “adopt promising practices’ Third, the Act’s requirement of “a free appropriate public education has been help by the Unites States Supreme Court to mean an education “reasonably calculated to enable the child to achieve education benefits”
Hudson v. Rowley, 458 U.S. 178, 203-04V (1982).

NOTE: Remember to NOT just look at the current regulations, go back into the Congressional Hearings before each law was enacted, the legislative history, court cases…

Other Court Cases:

“Inclusion is a right, not a special privilege for a select few” (Federal Court, Oberti v Board of Education).

You will want to quote the most relevent and recent cases.

2. Become an Expert on IDEA

The best resources I know are Partners in Policymaking’s series of lessons on IDEA.

Free, online, study at your own pace.

National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (ages 3-22).

3. Build Alliances

Focusing on the dignity and goodwill of the people you're working with. Build trust. Create a common vision.

Partners in Policymaking has programs in almost every state. The courses are designed for parents of young children and self-advocates. New groups start every year and are usually funded by your state DD Council. On the Partners website, find your state liaison.

NICHCY has a list of organizations and Parent Training Centers in each state. Find people both on the National, State and Local level who think like you do and can help.

National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (ages 3-22).

National Organizations for Professionals often help parents and teachers. TASH helped me. I know the ARC, United Cerebral Palsy and National Down Syndrome Association have done advocacy work. I’m sure there are others.

Check out your local university. Sometimes you can find a professor or student who can help.

In our particular situation, because no group existed-we started a parent group in our local school district.

Set group goals: start an extended school program in the summer; make the buildings more accessible with universal design; start an after school Job Club and Key Club at the high school. By focusing on specific goals we were able to get local grants, publicity and see tangible results for our children.

NOTE: In hindsight, I would have made this an ad hoc committee of the School PTO or General Education Parent Organization. I would ask parents and teachers of general education students to be on this committe so it is inclusive. 20 years later, duh, it is so obvious.

Univ. of New Hampshire has great programs and resource materials.

Clay Aiken's Inclusion Project. This looks good, but I haven’t tried it.

4. IEP: Educational Evaluations

The first part of the IEP process is getting evaluations of current level of functioning and setting specific individual goals.

Be creative. Don’t let the school psychologist run the show.

Have your IEP team decide what kind of evaluations they need in order to have your child make educational progress in all the school environments.

There are the formal evaluations that are the traditional testing tools of the experts. And, there are the individual informal tools also designed by experts, but cannot be standardized and put into multiple choice answers.

Informal Evaluations

1. Person Centered Planning, Circle of Friends can supplement the formal evaluations and look at social relationships, before-during-after school-weekend-summer activities, this can also be used for team building, communication, transition and long term planning.
http://inclusion.com/ Where inclusion began, great tools.

2. Educational Evaluations

Educational Evaluations are usually conducted by a teacher or other educator with the appropriate teaching license.

Educational Evaluations look at an individual person in their life spaces. Aaron’s evaluation started in his home, followed him on the school bus, in the classroom, in the lunch room, bathrooms, gym, after school activity and back home. The evaluation compared Aaron’s current level of functioning in each environment and then made suggestions for IEP goals.

For instance, the educational evaluation shows the "individual benefit" for Aaron. Not the whole class or school, just Aaron.

The Educational Evaluation determined Aaron, with accommodations and related services, could be in an inclusive class. What supports would he need? What supports would the teacher need? How would the curriculum be differentiated? What technology? Universal design strategies could be used?

See the difference between this sort of evaluation and a traditional IQ or standardized test?

Who Pays?

The tricky part is that if the parent pays for the evaluation, and chooses their own “expert,” then the school district only has to “consider” the recommendations.

If however, (at least this is how it used to be), if the parents or teacher ask for an evaluation, and the school district agrees to pay for the evaluation, then they have to use that evaluation to develop the IEP, or if they disagree, they have to get another evaluation saying the first evaluation was not appropriate, and why.

If you go to court, the educational evaluation can make all the difference. If you are writing IEP goals, the educational evaluation gives you a practical starting point for goals and objectives. (The conversation is NOT about "Should we do this?" but rather, "How do we do this?")

And, if the parent does pay for the evaluation and “prevails” in a due process hearing then the school district has to pay. Of course, it goes both ways and is risky because if the parent loses, then the parent has to pay.

How do you find an expert?

In our due process hearing we used our contacts from TASH (a national organization) and one of Lou Brown’s graduate students from the University of WI-Madison. This process was repeated several years later when Aaron was in Junior High, and again when Aaron graduated.

We also used local university graduate students and county respite providers when appropriate, ie. They did independent studies to help us design an after-school program and going to the prom.

If you are going due process, find out who the expert is in the area you are challenging.

Check out professional organizations, journals, university faculty. Who is going to know how to do the job? Who is willing to testify? Who will impress the hearing officer?

5. Be BadAss Confident

Know what you believe and how far you are willing to go.
Even if you are uncertain, typically shy and withdrawn--you have to act fearless.

This is your child, This is your class, the time is NOW!

When people see you walking in the grocery or in the school you want them to see you and immediately know what you stand for: “All means All”—“Inclusion means Belonging to the Community.” You have to model what you want others to do.

Build trust, convert the doubters. It can be done--and it's up to you. And, you will join the thousands of other parents and advocates who have made a difference for one child or many and have moved history and inclusion forward.

Segregation and Inclusion by Zip Code

In my opinion, this is why we need a national policy, federal laws and oversight.

Vulnerable people with disabilities and other minorities should not have to reinvent the wheel, every year, in every city and county.

Do we want individual states and school districts to make decisions about segregation and inclusion?

Would you want to live in Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana… and I include Ohio?

Different school districts have different definitions of inclusion. I recently visited what was called an “Inclusion School.” To my shock, the principal proudly told me, “Inclusion means EVERYONE in the school is on an IEP.”

After we won our due process hearing, we moved to a neighboring county where the school district shared our values.

The move was the best thing we ever did.

First, after we won our due process hearing, it was like Aaron had a tatoo on his forehead that said, "Don't mess with me."
Our reputations guaranteed they took us seriously.

Second, I got elected to the County Board of Developmental Disabilities. One of the proudest days of my life was when I got to make the resolution to close the segregated county school.

Third, because the school district was good for Aaron, it was also
an excellent school district for my other son who had the label of "normal."

Bottom-up; Top-Down: Baby Steps

You can achieve Inclusion from the IEP process: bottom-up.

But it is easier to work from the top-down.

Try to get on influential committees, or find allies in leadership positions that will work for inclusion. If your school board and/or school administrators embraces the Inclusion paradigm, and understands how this will be better for all students, then you are well on your way.

Try to get inservice for staff, parents—both general and special, about inclusion, differentiated instruction and universal design.

Baby Steps:

I like to think of a yard stick. On the one end is segregation, on the other is inclusion. If I think an action, a decision, anything... is a step in the direction of inclusion--I accept it. There is always tomorrow.

Celebrate each small victory. There were many times when I had to take a deep breath and tell myself, "This is the best we can do today. Be happy."

Moving Toward Inclusion by Michael Giangreco.

Last Thoughts

I wish I had a magic wand to make it easier for each of you.

Twenty years ago, we thought this would all be figured out and our children would just be children, parents could just be parents, teachers could just be teachers.

There is an old "Up With People" song that says, "Freedom isn't free. You've got to pay the price, you've got to sacrifice for your liberty."

Wishing each of you, freedom, libety and inclusion.

I hope you will share your thoughts in the comments.

Keep Climbing: Onward and Upward
All my best,
Mary

Related Blog Posts:

Note: Since this whole website is about inclusion, almost every article tells part of the story. Some are about school issues, many are about adult issues. Here is a sampling:

What is Inclusion?

Dream Plan 1 for Aaron, Normalization

Dream Plan 4: Aaron is an adult

The Race Toward Inclusion: Do you see it?

Better than Church

Building Community| One grocery trip at a time

Test Questions| segregation or inclusion?

The Animal School| Differentated Instruction

What is Inclusion?

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)

Thaysa from Dan Habib on Vimeo.

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,

Mary

Comments:

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?

Related Posts:

The Values of Inclusion from Down Under

Down by the Ole Mainstream

Test Questions| Segregation or Inclusion?

Aaron and Friends

Aaron and Friends

Test Questions | Segregation or Inclusion?

Friends and family members send me newspaper stories about people with disabilities. Some stories make me shout with joy and others make me want to cry and give up. Often my friends can’t figure out which ones are which.

For those of you who have been following my blog, think of this as the end of semester test–one of those little Reader’s Digest sort of quizzes.

Below are three stories followed by three sets of multiple choice questions? What do you think of these stories? Please respond in the comments.

1. It’s always sunny in Life Town: (click here) The mocked-up village square allows children with disabilities to learn the skills they need in daily life. (Sunday, April 3, 2011 By Jason Shough THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH)

a. This story about inclusion makes me shout for joy.
b. This story about segregation makes me want to cry and give up.
c. I’m not sure.

2. A prom: An enchanted evening for students with intellectual disabilities (click here) A Pennsylvania high school held a prom Thursday night for students with intellectual disabilities. The event included many elements of the traditional high-school event, including dinner, dancing, pictures and entertainment. “Many of them will not attend another prom because of some of the limitations they have,” teacher Amanda Murray said. “But they deserve it. They never have an opportunity to be together without tons of rules outside a school situation.” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

a. This story about inclusion makes me shout for joy.
b. This story about segregation makes me want to cry and give up.
c. I’m not sure.

3. Story Three: see the picture, Aaron and Friends, at the top of the page.

Aaron, my son with the label of autism, is at a Spring Gala dinner and dance with his neighbors.

Susan and her husband, Charles, live next door to Aaron. They belong to a church at the edge of the neighborhood.

Susan invited Aaron and Jack (Aaron’s housemate) to join her and her husband for the church spring gala. They picked him up at the house and Susan introduced Aaron to the Minister and her friends, helped him get his dinner, danced with him, took pictures, and brought him home.

Aaron’s staff person was there to help if needed, but Susan and Charles did everything they could to make sure Aaron and Jack had a terrific night.

They told me later, they really enjoyed being with the guys and thought everyone had a great time. Susan was surprised Aaron enjoyed the band and watching all the people. She hopes to take them again next year.

a. This story of inclusion makes me shout for joy.
b. This story of segregation makes me want to cry and give up.
c. I’m not sure.

——————————————————————————-
Okay, now respond in the comments. No peeking at my response:) Remember your response is based on your paradigm and not mine, diversity is allowed. This isn’t a test where you have to please the teacher. This is a discussion of important issues.

Undecided?

Check out my previous article: Teachers| Segregation or Inclusion
Consider the core question: Does each of these activities lead toward the inclusion or segregation of people with disabilities?

For a definition of inclusion check out the article: What is Inclusion? plus, pictures of Aaron and Tommy at graduation.

Still Undecided?

Check out Norm Kunc: What’s your Credo of Support? Does this activity build authentic self-esteem and skills, or does it support the charity model?

Answer to Question 1: Mock Town by Barb McKenzie

Here is a response to the first article about the mock town from Barb McKenzie, a parent leader:

After seeing the title and reading the article below from today’s Columbus Dispatch newspaper I wondered, “Can benevolence get in the way of equality and ordinary opportunities?”

A generous person wants to help. We are taught to help others; it feels good to help others. But what perceptions might that ‘helper’ and ‘helpee’ relationship procreate? Is the ‘helper’ some how better than the ‘helpee’? Does the ‘helpee’ always need to be helped, never given the opportunity to share his or her gifts and enjoy the good feelings we get from our generosity? Do we believe that the ‘helpee’ has anything to share?

Why, especially when it comes to children or adults with disabilities, do we feel we must create special, pretend places to practice in and learn the skills to interact in society in the “real” world? Why can’t we try and figure out how to provide genuine, authentic, ordinary opportunities for all IN the “real” world? If natural supports or additional assistance are needed for any of us to be participating members of our neighborhood community, can’t we work together to figure out how to do that? Don’t we all learn better with and from each other in the real world, in the real school, in our real community?

Do our good intentions sometimes get in the way?

Mary’s Answer: Question 1

I agree with Barb. “Life Town” can never be a mock town. This artifical town reminds me of “safety town” for preschoolers and kindergartners to learn how to drive their bikes. Or the little pretend kitchens in kindergarten rooms. Or, Lou Brown’s famous cardboard bus that some special education teachers made for their classes in the ’70s.

There are some people who think that because a person’s IQ score says they function at a 6 year old level, doing pretend kindergarten type experiences makes sense. What the research shows people with disabilities have trouble generalizing to other environments, and because this was a one-time experience (not really a teaching experience with multiple trials and practice), and because the mock town was just that–mock.

In my mind, this whole experience does not promote inclusion in the community, instead it promotes segregation because it assumes the students need a protective environment and a “get ready” for the real world attitude. The twenty volunteers and the time, money could have been much better spent to practice “community” skills in the real community–they are high school students, they don’t need to be in a pretend environment. I’m embarrassed these teachers didn’t know any better. They should know more about authentic learning and functional curriculum.

Here is a new resource from a member of TASH if anyone is looking for best practice for people with severe disabilities.

Systematic Instruction of Functional Skills for Students and Adults with Disabilities by Dr. Keith Storey .” This is a practical “how to” text for teachers and other service providers. The format, readability, and detailed description of instructional methodology make it a resource for instructors responsible for improving the skills of learners with disabilities.

Answer to Test Question 2: Dr. Cheryl Jorgenson

Here is a response from Dr. Cheryl Jorgenson from the University of New Hampshire:

This kind of segregation of students with disabilities should be part of our long-past history, not featured in a national news brief for educators in special education. The statement quoted by the teacher (Ms. Murray) that the students have limitations that “prevent” them from attending the regular prom is beyond the pale. Can CEC seriously be promoting or even acknowledging this practice? IDEA states that students with disabilities have the right to participate in extracurricular activities alongside their peers without disabilities.

I believe that CEC owes an apology to all students with intellectual disabilities and should make a commitment to publishing stories that promote the full membership and participation of all students with disabilities in school and community life.

Mary’s Answer: Question 2, Special Prom

I agree with Cheryl. In fact, Aaron and his friend Jenni went to his High School prom twice (with another couple who supported them). He thought it was great, though he said the black patent leather shoes hurt, the music was too loud and the tux had funny buttons.

Mary’s Answer to Question 3: Aaron at Spring Fling.

Going to the Spring Fling with the neighbors is exactly the kind of experience that builds inclusion. Let’s look at the definition of normalization and inclusion:

Is it an age-appropriate activity? YES
Will this be an activity the person would enjoy? YES
Does it take place in the real community? YES
Is there “natural proportion”? Are no more than 10% of the participants people with disabilities? YES
Will it be status-enhancing? Good for the person’s self-esteem? YES
Does the person with disabilities have the support they need? YES
Does the person with disabilities have the opportunity to blend into the normal environment and be like everyone else? YES
Is this an opportunity to meet new neighbors and establish new relationships? YES
Is there the chance of this happening again? YES

Many people think that because I do not like the “charity model” I am not Christian, or against churches or religion. In my mind, Susan, Charles and the other members of this church were practicing the Christian spirit and the best of religion.

I hope this make sense. There are many people who just cannot understand the differences between inclusion and segregation. To Aaron and our family, the differences make all the difference.

Keep Climbing: Onward and Upward:
“When we stop to lift one another up on the climb, we all reach a higher place.” Mimi Meredith

All my best,

Mary

Comments: What do you think?

Do these kinds of stories inspire you or drive you to distraction? What would you say to good, caring people who want to create segregated events? Would you participate? Is this better than just sitting in the classroom? What does inclusive or segregated events teach the community about people with disabilities?