Saturday, April 30, 2011

Being Youer than You : BADD 2011

“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”
Dr. Seuss

My nephew and I, who both live with disabilities, have had a year of changes.

Many of the changes were external. I've watched my nephew grow in leaps and bounds as he started high school. I've also seen resources stretched, learned about IEP ins and outs, and realized myself how little I knew last year about what was about to happen this year on his educational journey.

Our educational system makes it inordinately difficult for children with disabilities to get an education. There are information gaps, snafus with communications, and time consuming, unnecessary oversights that sap the energy of the most devoted parent. How sad that many educators still don't get that every child is precious, no matter that he or she doesn't fit a preconceived mold. So much effort, it seems, is put into forcing children to fit that who they are can get lost and, even worse, the gifts a child does bring to the table are ignored.

Dr. Seuss would be appalled.

Don't get me wrong. I was never naive enough to assume the changes this year that both of us encountered would be easy. Nor would I ever teach my nephew not to expect some frustrations and difficulties when facing change. That's part of life. It is the ignorance toward disabilities, the accommodations required and the disrespect toward children with disabilities inherent in the ableist attitudes of some educators that I can never condone.

As an adult living with quadriplegia, I've long ago made peace with the fact that I'll encounter ableism from time to time. It's out there and a fact of life. Whether I'm doing things differently or depending on physical help, some see that as "less than" . Never mind that some accommodations make me more productive and that living with a disability has been an invaluable asset in many ways - there are those who judge so quickly that they lose out on learning about the rich diversity of other humans and assume negative things. This is part of why so many people with disabilities who want to work can not.

But I am much more concerned about our children with disabilities, because keeping them from accessing an education suited to their abilities makes it so difficult for them to be who they are. College prep isn't useful for everyone. Having a job isn't for everyone, but realistically preparing for a child's future should never be seen as a waste of resources or completely overlooked.

Until we value everyone's humanity, our social systems, including our educational system, will fall short of providing our kids with what they need. I know advocates and parents continue to work to improve the educational system's failure to respond to the needs of our children.

In the meantime, we can teach them to Be the Youest of You as we love them through their journey in an ableist world.

[This post was submitted to Blogging Against Disablism Day. You can read more posts here. ]


Selene said...

I'm here from BADD. Your post is too true. "Special" eduation as it's called in Australia can be an eye opener, indeed. I like the idea of "youest of you." :D

Carl Thompson said...

Great post Ruth! You can read mine for BADD2011 here if you like:

Mimi said...

Hello from another wheelie Catholic! I occasionally substitute teach in high school and am continually appalled at the segregation of the disabled kids from the rest of the population, here where I live. Further, our local university has access issues that make me very concerned about post-secondary education for our disabled young people. It is like they are specifically angling to keep them out of the workforce and on social welfare...all the while cutting services...

My BADD entry:

Wheelchair Dancer said...

This was beautiful. It's been a while since I left a comment, but I wanted to say THaNK YOU!! for all your writing.


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Ruth for bringing attention to this critical issue. My son David has found college to be so much more accommodating than k-12. We've been presently surprised by the support, made without questioning and with the simple goal of promoting learning. We often wonder how many students don't make it to college because the tragedy of low expectations in k-12 becomes self-fulfilling.
Janet Gayes

Attila the Mom said...

Love it!

Anonymous said...

Different but not less is my mantra- I truly appreciate this post! Thanks for stopping by!

Liz said...

Thank you! Here from BADD, though actually I keep up with you faithfully on Google Reader and really appreciate your posts. I'm going to email you !

Anonymous said...

I'm always glad when I stop by here, this time by way of BADD.

Love the Dr. Seuss quote!

Never That Easy said...

Quoting the good Dr. Suess is always a plus. I'm sorry that you and your nephew are facing new difficulties, and that your nephew's teachers aren't supporting him as they should. When I was working (as an early childhood educator), I would constantly worry about what would happen to the kids 'like me', the ones with disabilities, once they moved beyond our inclusive classroom/school. In the city where I worked, elementary schools excelled at inclusion, but the high school was completely unprepared for the needs of the kids. It's shocking, honestly. And definitely needs improvement.

Elephant in the Room said...

In so many cases, children should simpy be educated in mainstream shcools - it not ony is better for them, but it is also better for the other children in their peer group, who can grow up without so many of the hang ups that AB people often have. We ( try to get into schools as much as we can - maybe in time, the kids will educate the rest of the wold too!