Get notice of new posts
Connect with me!
Help Support Our Climb
Damn Fine Words Writing Course

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.


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,


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?

Be Sociable, Share!

23 Responses to “Test Questions| Segregation or Inclusion?”

  • Ian Silver says:

    I found the turkey bit to be interesting. It is a good model of how autism may affect adults and children differently.

  • Alexa Miller says:

    These three instances make my mind spin as I try to distinguish what is inclusion and was is segregation. I hope and I want to believe that in each of these cases, people are just trying to do the right thing. I hope and want to believe that they are not trying to segregate individuals with exceptionalities more but are trying to give them the opportunity they feel is best. Everyone makes mistakes and sometimes we handle things the wrong way. For A,B,and C I thought a lot about what I’ve learned in class and on this website. I came to the conclusion that:

    A- is segregation (B)
    B- I am unsure about (C)
    C- was inclusion (A)

    I believed that the Mock Town was segregation because it is so unrealistic. No movie theater sells a ticket and popcorn for $4, but maybe a water bottle. There is snow in the winter and people do where coats. The sun does NOT always shine. These are just a few examples of how this does not stimulate real life. Prices, the weather, and the attitude of others are things everyone has to overcome. If someone wanted to aid in teaching children with disabilities “real life” they should do it in the real world or in a real environment.

    I was unsure about the prom. This one really confused me because I thought that it was great that everyone was so excited to have the prom, felt comfortable going solo, and were not intimidated to go. I want to believe that the school thought that if all the disabled kids had a prom together they would possibly be more comfortable. I doubted that segregating them was positive though. Maybe it would have been more positive and inclusive if those with disabilities were encouraged to go to the normal prom.

    The Spring Gala invitation is awesome. It is really amazing that Aaron was treated “normal” and allowed to go to a “normal” event. This is how it should be. There is absolutely nothing wrong about that. I think that it was so great of your neighbor to bring the two boys. They probably had a blast.

    Thanks for posting this article. It was really interesting!

    • Mary says:

      Hi Alexa,

      I loved that you outlined your thinking. On the surface, they all sound wonderful until you pull back the covers of segregation and inclusion and really analyze what is happening. This is why “charity” “pity” and “self-determination” are such tricky concepts. Each is ingrained in our culture.
      Glad it made you search and think–that’s my job 🙂

    • Ian Watts says:

      I can appreciate how when you deface segregation ideas like help empathy or even self assurance can be misunderstood with different cultures. This is something that happenes frequently and its clear cutt in some of these stories. I can imagin being from that time and what I could do to be better understood and appreciated.

      Ian W Watts
      13FS_SPED1001008: (13FS) INDIV W/EXCEPTIONAL (008)
      Instructor: Mary Ulrich;

      • Mary E. Ulrich says:

        HI Ian,
        I think you mean the word “deconstruct” or analyze. And you are right. Each culture puts their own twist on words like “segregation.” Tim Cook, one of the great attorneys who helped us, was threatened with Jail if the judge heard him use the word “segregated schools” one more time. The judge did not see any relationship between an “all black” school and an “all handicapped” school. Fortunately, the court did.

        But each word “help” “empathy” “self assurance” has lots of meanings.

        Each of these events happened in the last year or so. So this is current history. People’s understanding is just all over the map.
        Hope this helped.

  • This was a very interesting article to read. At the beginning of the school year, I probably would’ve thought all of these articles would make you leap for joy. However, after reading your inclusion article, I now know this isn’t the case. For the first article, I put c. I was unsure because they were trying to teach them every day skills so the person can live on his/her own. The downside is that they aren’t using these skills in the real world– they are using them in a mock environment. The second article, I chose C again. Once again, I saw a positive and a negative side to this article. First of all, I thought it was great they wanted the kids with disability to attend prom, but the downfall is that the kids with disability had to have their own prom. This article would have been great if the school would have let them attend the regular prom with everyone else. On the third story, I chose A. I thought this was great! Aaron got to go to an event where it was open to everyone with a bunch of other adults. Aaron was treated like one of those adults and was able to interact with other adults and had an awesome time.
    Hannah Holdren recently posted..Test Questions| Segregation or Inclusion?

    • Mary says:

      Hi Hannah,

      It’s neat that you are analyzing the stories with your new information. The differences are subtle, but they are also monumental.

  • Katherine Schmittou says:

    Although I think that it is nice that there was a special prom for the students with disabilities, I do think that there should not be restrictions preventing people with disabilities from attending prom and other events in their life. It frustrates me to no end when restrictions are placed on people with disabilities just because they might need a little help.

    I was faced with this issue this past year when my high school senior prom came along. I had made plans to go with a group of friends and heard that the M.H. class had gotten a group together and were also going to attend prom. My friend, Haley, who has disabilities loves to dance and I was so excited that she was finally going to prom. Then when I found out there were too many issues, not enough M.H. students able to go, and an eventual cancellation of the M.H. class’s plan to attend prom, I was furious! I knew Haley was devastated, so then I decided that I’d take Haley to prom as my date. Everyone in my group and everyone at prom absolutely adored her! She danced the whole night & flirted with every guy she saw. She made my senior prom a special night to remember 🙂

    • Mary says:

      Katie, If you were here, I’d give you a hug. I’m sure the prom will be one of the highlights of Haley’s life. You made a difference, you showed them what inclusion is all about. Thanks–you made my day.

  • Luecreasia Walker says:

    Hello, I feel that the 1st article is an example of segregation only because the center should not only have the program for children with disabilities but for all children.
    I also believe the second article is an example of segregation because the children did not have the chance to decide if they wanted to attend the prom with the other kids. I know the children loved the fact that they were able to go to the prom but are they really getting a chance to socialize with children who are different from them.
    The last article is an example of inclusion because I believe the couple took the time to learn Aaron and actually invited him and his friend along with them. I also believe that they did it out of love and not pity.

  • Judy Bailey says:

    There are some great comments posted here. Thanks for introducing this topic, Mary. My reaction to simulations (Life Town) is that they are a trap that you can lure yourself into and gain a false sense of having taught a real life skill. Been there done that, learned that it’s better to avoid the simulation trap.

    • Mary E. Ulrich says:

      “Simulation trap” that’s the perfect phrase. We are so used to the “developmental” model of teaching–start with little steps, in isolation and then “get ready” for the real world. Working with people with autism and severe disabilities, this doesn’t work. Many people will repeat the skill the way they learn it the first time.

      Thanks Judy, since you are an experienced professional it means a lot to have you join the conversation.

  • Spencer Jump says:

    I really enjoyed reading this post! It’s interesting to see what other communities do to support people with disbailties and to see their idea of inclusion.

    For the first article, I am unsure if this inclusion or segregation. The scenarios that New Albany has created are identical to real life, but then why not just let the students with disabilties go out into the real world, why create a fake world for them? New Albany may think this is inclusion because they’re giving the people wtih disabilties life like situations to deal with, but it can also be considered segregation because the students are not given the opportunity to go in the real world. Before taking EDP 256, I would have believed this was an act of inclusion for 100%. I would have said I want my child in this type of environment and doing all of these things, but after taking the class, I am not so sure. Why not give them practice in an artificial environment and let them go out in the community?

    Article 2 is an act of segregation, hands down, there is no way around it. Having a separate prom is like having a separate restaurant for African Americans. Allowing two proms at the school may seem like a good idea, but it’s just the easy way out. It’s easier for teachers and the staff to separate children with disabiltiies and children without them, but taking the easy way out is not always better! The students at the school should only have one prom.

    Scenario three is an act of inclusion. I haven’t looked at the other points of views on the situations, but this is what I believe. Both Jack and Aaron were invited to the Spring Gala and had a great time. They were treated like the other guests and introduced to everyone.

    In order I would say scenario three is most inclusive, then scenario one, then scenario two

    • Mary E. Ulrich says:

      Thanks for your thoughtful response Spencer. Regarding scenerio one–the pretend town. I think you hit it on the head with “why not go into the real community.”

      The message these kind people are giving is not that the students need to learn and make mistakes and keep trying to be able to use the same banks…everyone else uses. By structuring the day so they “have success” they are really limiting the learning oppportunities. Plus, the way we learn is to practice, practice, practice.

      When Aaron was in school, his class went into the community every week. They cashed their checks in a real bank, bought groceries in a real store, and then cooked the food the next day and ate the real food.

      The practice gave them opportunities to try out communication boards, money exchange, interaction with clerks, using their name stamps to cash checks… A tremendous amount of learning. Plus, the OT and PT used the real life situations to teach the students to go down the steps on the bus, to cross a parking lot, to push a grocery cart and not hit anything. All important skills that really are for life–not just one day’s field trip.

  • Jessica Wolfrum says:

    Mary, this way very interesting. I am unsure how I feel about the first article. While I believe that the intentions of creating such a town are good, I think that if these teachers truly want to make a difference in each of their students lives, they shouldn’t be taking them to a pretend town only dedicated to student’s with disabilities. While I think that yes, they would be learning basic skills that could help to impact their daily lives, I believe that in order to truly empower each of these students, they should be taking their students into the REAL world to teach them REAL skills. Why should they have to go to a pretend place just because they have a disability? As students, they should be offered the same education and acknowledgment of skills that all other students are being taught. As a future educator, I think that ALL of my students should be taught universally. I think that in order for my students to get the most out of a lesson, I would take them into the real world, where they can experience real life situations. That is where I believe, they will truly learn.

    As for the second article, again, I think that they had god intentions, but instead they completely segregated this group of students from the rest of the student body. I completely disagree with this article in that, by reading it, it sounds as though the students with disabilities weren’t even offered the opportunity to attend the prom with any of the other students. I believe it was mentioned that they created a separate prom due to the fact that there were things hindering them from being able to experience the prom with the rest of their class. This baffled me. Make it so there aren’t things that are prohibiting them from being able to attend with the rest of their class! Obviously their disabilities aren’t prohibiting them from attending a prom, because they were able to create a separate one for them, so it is more of a matter of fact that they CHOSE to have a prom that would prohibit them from attending. Perhaps it was the location, or it wasn’t wheel chair accessible, or perhaps it was just ignorance of those who thought that these students were incapable of attending with the rest of the student body. When many people read such an article as this, I feel like they tend to think, “Awww, how nice. These students weren’t able to attend the prom, so some nice teacher created a prom of their own for them.” They get sentimental feelings of how special this “treat” was for them, but they don’t tend to look beyond the text and read further into the meaning of having two proms. While it may seem as some generous gesture made by someone trying to help others, it completely segregated those with disabilities from those without. Instead of trying to create two separate social events, they should have focused on the one already planned and implemented ways to make it accessible to ALL. I think that this is a huge issue with so many things in society today, not just the prom. Our world needs to wake up and realize that segregation is not the answer. We need to think beyond “separate but equal” and start working to create a universal society that is beneficial to all.

    The third and final article was so much better than the first two. It seemed as though Aaron was truly included. His neighbors treated him as an equal, helping him when he needed assistance and including him in everything, and from the picture, it looks as though Aaron had a wonderful time. This is how we as a society need to learn to grow. We need to be inclusive at all times. This third article was so much more inspiring that any of those above. I hope that everyone can learn to incorporate such behaviors into their everyday lives and focus on the inclusion of ALL students. This is how children will truly benefit; by being included with their peers and by having people truly invest their time into them.

    • Mary E. Ulrich says:

      Jessica, when I was writing this, I was hoping someone would be able to analyze the differences and see how the segregation is still “separate is unequal.” This is a terrific response, not just because I agree with what you are saying, but also because it is so thoughtful and shows layers of understanding of the issues involved.

      You are right, a ‘surface” first response from someone in the general public is one thing–but a teacher’s response can unravel the complexities.

      Thanks for your comment–I loved every word.

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge