Friday, June 8, 2007
Child's Play - Part 2
My recent post about observing the exclusion, alienation, and what is, in my opinion, abuse of a young child with Downs Syndrome struck a chord with several folks. I heard stories very similar to mine about schools allowing such discriminatory behavior, and what was even more disturbing to me, actually denying such behavior occurred when confronted with the evidence. Here are two of the most compelling stories:
When my son was in kindergarten, in our previous district's supposedly inclusive environment, the kids "included" my son by lining up to sit on his back to ride him down the slide face first in the sand. Apparently this had been going on for most of the year. When I had called to ask why my son had sand in his ears, I was told that he was putting it in there himself. It wasn't until we had an advocate observe for a few days that we found out. The teachers actually thought this behavior was ok.
One of my students at school had Downs Syndrome. CJ didn’t actually qualify for my services due to excellent pre-K education but the teacher thought it would be wise to put him in my group to have lots of repetition. So he was cute and funny and smart, just like the other three boys from his class UNTIL about March, when they started picking on him. Then he became stupid, picked his nose, took too long, couldn’t cut with scissors, etc. I wanted to squash those three boys like the little bugs they were! I finally had the teacher hold CJ back for a few minutes and had a little come-to-Jesus with the other boys. According to them, it just took that long for them to notice the differences, and when they did he was no longer fitting into their social circles. As one of them said later, “You never yelled…before.” The teacher also got into the act and things turned around very quickly and very nicely. I can’t say WHY this stuff happens but as Barney Fife always said…NIP IT IN THE BUD.
And to top it off, I observed another situation yesterday at my high school aged son’s awards ceremony. As is typical with schools, all the special education students had their own little area in the auditorium, an area reserved just for them. It’s usually close to an exit door so that if any undesirable behavior (at least undesirable to a school staff person) is observed, the student can be quickly ushered out of the assembly. (BTW, I hear of this exact situation happening every single day in one school or another – this is NOT an isolated incident.) At this particular ceremony, the special education students were much better behaved than the other students. Not a one of them was hooting and hollering during presentations, playing kissy-grabby games with a member of the opposite sex, or rudely interrupting the speeches. Other than the regular ed students modeling inappropriate behavior for the special education students, I saw no reason the special ed students could not have been seated with their same grade peers. I’m sure though that this isolation seen during the ceremony is typical of the student’s entire school year. I heard not one, not two, but three different regular ed students who were walking past me to their seats say something about the ‘retard section’ of the auditorium. Several teachers were standing by to direct the regular ed students to their seats and not a one said anything about the comments.
So, this attitude of dehumanization and oppression starts very young, grows during a child’s school years, and is finally and firmly refined for adulthood. All this makes me sick to my stomach. So much for the HUMAN race….