Seen and Heard!

I don’t know about where you’re from, but I’m guessing it’s very much like where I’m from.

Here, as a general rule, folks with disabilities are not seen nor heard.

As a general rule, if you have a disability, then you’re sent down the hall to a special room. You’re hidden. You don’t experience life with the others.

As a general rule, if you want to participate in sports or other recreation, then you do it with other people with disabilities.

And as a general rule, if you want to go to church … well, then you’re up a creek since a lot of churches won’t have you.

True? Ummm, unfortunately, yes, it’s true.

Do you realize that the average Young Jo Neighborhood Kid has no clue how to talk to someone with developmental disabilities? Do you realize that the average Young Jo Neighborhood Kid has no interaction whatsoever with anyone with a disability? No wonder our kids get stared at. No wonder our kids have no friends. No wonder life feels so isolating.

Again, I hope some of you will leave a comment saying that’s not how it is where you live. And I think … hopefully … that the tide is slowly turning. I think … I hope that more individuals with disabilities are being seen and heard. I hope that we as a society are moving to a more inclusive society. I sure hope so.

The fact is that if we continue to hide this “special population” from society, then society never learns to relate them. If we continue to send these students down the hall to their special class, then kids never learn how to play with them or support them. If we continue to segregate people with disabilities, then they will continue to stick out like sore thumbs when we take them to the mall or to the movie.

But you know what? The opposite is also true!

The more we “include” our children in classes and sports with nondisabled children, the more those children learn to relate to our kids. The less our children stand out.

Wouldn’t it be something for it to be the norm for a child with disabilities to be welcomed without effort or thought into every recreational circle? Wouldn’t it be something for it just to be totally normal for all kids to support, play with, and be friends with several children who are living life with a disability?

I want Chloe to experience life like that. I want my boys to experience life like that outside the 4 walls of our house. I want my boys to be in class with students who need their support. I want it to be their norm. I want it to help form who they are. I want it to make them tolerant, patient, supportive adults, coworkers, bosses.

It’s not going to happen if we as parents to children who have a disability continue to take them to “special” classes. It’s not going to happen as long as we continue to place our children in group homes with like-disabled people. It’s not going to happen as long as we continue to segregate our kids. It’s not going to happen as long as we continue to keep our children separate from mainstream society under the guise and excuse of protecting them.

Keeping our kids in a cage or under a wing or behind a locked door or under our noses is not an effective way of protecting them from the world that in reality will need to be supporting them some day.

Ok, wow. I am way up tall on a soapbox here, and I need to step down and refocus and calm down. 😉

Yes, I feel strongly about it. I feel strongly about my precious children being a part of life and not missing out on life. I feel very strongly about it.

I want my girl to be seen and heard. I hate it when she sticks out like a sore thumb; I know it’s only because our society hides others “like her,” and I really want that to change. I want to be a part of that change.

I want my boys to be seen and heard. I want them to see and hear and even listen to individuals who live life with a disability. I want it to be their norm.

Yes. Seen and Heard. We all have the right to be seen and heard.

<deep heavy breath>

Ok, I’m done here for now.

{Let me hear what you think. Feel free to tell me I’m wrong. Feel free to kick that box out from under me. Feel free to cheer or jeer. But just remember that I’m probably not done talking about it here … that’s the cool thing about it being my blog! ;)}

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12 responses to this post.

  1. My nine year old (Bipolar, FASD, ASD) can not function in a room with 24 other students, much less the 30 students that are currently the norm. There are other ways for her to interact with the real word, such as swimming classes, gymnastics, and small group outings. Teaching the world to interact with disabilities by forcing her to deal with things she is unable to handle.

    Reply

    • gbsmom, thanks for your comment. And I do agree that there are some (definitely the minority, in my opinion) who cannot be included in a gen ed setting for their education. But I think you are also agreeing with me if I understand your comment correctly — it’s those other outings that you mentioned that are ways for her to interact with the world and for the world to interact with her. And those planned outings can be as controlled as is necessary, especially at first. Those are choices that we can make as parents to be purposeful in having our children in society — in mainstream society — as much as possible. Otherwise, on the rare occasion that they are in the public eye, the public eye will just stare in disbelief and fear. Thanks so much for chiming in!

      Reply

  2. I do have some light at the end of the tunnel. My child who happen’s to have Down syndrome, ADHD, Sensory Integration, and some minor hearing loss, is fully included in the general education classroom. He has an awesome paraprofessional who’s sole job is to help him remain focused to the general education curriculum. She keeps him on task.

    I am an inclusionist, with the belief that all children have the basic fundamental civil right to learn right next to their typical peers. I will not have it any other way.

    My son, does not go to a special room at all, he remains in the gen ed classroom, he receives his services in the classroom. Having push ins in my opinion is much better than pull outs because then, the therapist is accountable and responsible to the gen ed teacher and the para in order to continue helping my child through out the week.

    How does inclusion work? Great!!!! He receives mostly all A’s maybe a B at times, he reaches his IEP goals, and he shows progression on a daily basis.

    How is this working for the school? Great!!!! His principal sets the tone for the school, he is caring, and welcomes my child. He ensures that the teachers are receiving appropriate supports in order for inclusion to work. His teachers love having him, and are amazed in his abilities. In some ways he is their teacher. He teaches the administrators and his teachers to look beyond the diagnosis, in order to see the child. And they do see a child first, and have come to the realization that Down syndrome is only the smallest fraction of who he is.

    My son is the first child in his school district to ever be fully included, he paved a path, and others are following. His friends are getting included more and more. It’s great!!!!

    As for his typical peers, well, they accept him for who he is, they are aware of his differences, they are aware that he learns differently, and they are aware that he can learn everything that they do, it just might take a little longer.

    I have been an advocate most of my adult life, ( and as a child, it’s just who I am ) I have been in many school districts supporting the parent and child, in what ever type of education they choose to have for their child. And it is a personal choice.

    My problem with the special room is that it’s a service, and that service can be performed in the general education classroom. When in the resource room, goals should be set higher and achieved at 100%. If these special rooms provided some kind of magic, in helping our children achieve independence, and an appropriate education, I might be interested. But they don’t. Most of the IEP’s that I look at have low goals, and do not set the bar high enough. So for me, I choose inclusion.

    I believe in inclusion to the depth of my being. I have seen so many wonderful things happen with inclusion. I don’t see the negativity, I have not experienced children being mean to my child, in fact it is just the opposite.

    So the answer to your question is yes, we are evolving. We will overcome, we will achieve an inclusive society, it is just going to take along time. It is about exposure, it is about advocating for inclusion, it is about fundamental basic civil rights.

    Reply

    • Wow, Nikki. THANKS for your story!!! Awesome! Where are you located? And how many years has your son been included? That’s awesome! And it’s such my desire and my dream for that to be Chloe’s experience!! Thanks for sharing! Maybe you should guest-post for me sometime and share some more of y’all’s story! 🙂

      Reply

  3. Posted by Angel on June 10, 2012 at 1:26 PM

    I agree Kelly! The church should be the first place we turn to for inclusion models. I am VERY proud of our church for their work. They place additional teachers in classes for Sunday School to provide extra help so kids can actively be a part of the classes and it’s working. They recently shared the story of this model with the greater church body introducing one the of students–it was awesome. Stay on the soapbox girl.

    Reply

    • Awesome, Angel! Thanks for sharing. High five to your church for stepping up and making a difference! Soon I will tell how our church is doing a good job of this, too. However, as a general rule, lots of families are left out of church circles because of their disabilities.

      Reply

  4. Kelly,

    I live in Canton, Ohio, located in Stark County. My friend and I started a support group here and I am proud to tell you that we have 9 students who happen to have Down syndrome included in general education classrooms. It just warm my heart to see this happening, and more so to see it happening regularly within my sisters in the group.

    If you want a positive experience with your school, always build a good relationship, they don’t have to be your best friends, but a good relationship is the key. Start with the principal, and then the teachers. If the principal sets the tone for the school, then he/she will provide the appropriate supports for the entire school, and that includes professional development.

    Oftentimes, teachers are more afraid of providing an inclusive education because they are unsure if they can deliver. If you reassure them that they can, and be supportive of the teachers, they will be more willing than not to go that extra mile. Provide praise regularly, they need to hear that they are doing a good job, even if it’s small accomplishments. That’s important.

    I am going to tell you the same thing that I tell everyone, Inclusion is a commitment. You have to be committed to this movement. You have to be prepared to hear that things aren’t working, and be open to new plans, you have to be prepared to have meetings on a weekly basis, and most of all, you have to show progression, your child must show progress at all costs. So we do homework, and lots of it.

    The good news is, if at the end of the year, your teachers look just as tired as you are, then they have done their very best. And that is all that we can expect.

    We also must remain focused and keep it about our kids, It is always about the child, it cannot be about us. So make sure that your school is using Universal Designed Learning, Differentiated Instruction, and a modified curriculum. You want it modified to make it more concrete, and more meaningful to your child. For example, if your child likes dominos then do math with the dominos, it’s the same math, but that would be your manipulative.

    Also make sure you have solid accommodations. For example, if your child would do better on an IPAD, then the school will be responsible for furnishing that IPAD for your child. If your child need someone to write the answers to the test, then you would need a SCRIB, the list can go on and on.

    Just keep in mind, that Inclusion Works, Inclusion never fails. Ever! If Inclusive education fails, it is because the appropriate supports were not being provided, and then the school has failed inclusion NOT your child.

    Oh by the way, My child will be going into the third grade so he has been included educationally for three years, before that he went to an integrated preschool in the afternoon and in the morning he went to a private Christian preschool so he could be fully included. But the reality is, that he’s been included since the day he was born.

    I would love to help you post something sometime! Thanks for asking.

    Reply

    • Well said! I agree! I have sure seen it done incorrectly / without the right knowledge and support! And I figured you were going to say you are from the midwest … that’s where it’s happening with most success right now, it seems! Thanks so much for your encouragement. Keep in touch! 🙂 (And we’ll talk about guest-posting! :))

      Reply

  5. Kelly, wonderful post as always. And Nikki, your passion is contagious. Thank you for chiming in and sharing your success story. You’re absolutely right, “Inclusion is a committment.”

    Reply

  6. Posted by Dora Irigoyen on June 13, 2012 at 12:26 PM

    Cheers for you! I feel the same exact way for Jonathan!

    Reply

  7. Posted by Audrey on June 26, 2012 at 10:25 PM

    I love all of your posts Kelly. I am in Central Illinois and typically “inclusion” is done on a case by case basis.

    Besides not being seen or heard, another thing we have noticed is that the students that I work with seem to be expected to hold a better standard of behavior than kids without disabilities. I had one individual ask me if a student of mine should walk quietly in the hallway during passing period. I told her that when all students were expected to be quiet then we would work on our student passing quietly.

    It is my hope someday to see inclusive environments be the norm instead of the exception. And that parents of children with disabilities will not have to fight for the same rights as other children are automatically afforded.

    Reply

    • Audrey, thanks so much for your comment. You hit the nail on the head, for sure! I, too, have found that students with disabilities are expected to hold a higher standard of behavior than other kids a lot of times! Crazy stuff! And I hope with you!!!!!

      Reply

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