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.

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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?

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