Wednesday, September 5, 2007
One of THOSE and Proud of It!
I get so angry when people assume that because someone looks differently, acts differently, communicates differently, walks differently, etc. etc. that they are inferior in every way. As expected, the start of this new school year brings this very issue to light once again.
The teacher in Ashley’s classroom is new. Two of the three instructional assistants are new. These people are told how the classroom of children is labeled – children with severe and profound disabilities – and immediately assume the children have significant limitations. Rather than embrace each child as a unique human being with individual gifts, the label sets a standard on how the children will be taught, how they will be treated, and how they will compare to other less or non-disabled peers.
I must begin the same battles I fight each year to convince the school staff that my daughter is capable of learning, is a unique and special person, and is worthy of being treated just like any other human being. Her abilities must be defended over and over again. She must prove herself over and over again. The assumption is made that she cannot and will not act or be treated like the general education students, and further, that it would do a disservice to those general education students to even interact with Ashley.
Reactions to Ashley run the gamut from pity to unrealistic compliance and behavior expectations to almost no academic expectations. Why can’t people see her the way I saw her this summer – a fun-loving child who plays jokes on her brothers, delights in riding on a jet boat, has to be dragged out of the swimming pool each day, and laughs at my goofy attempts at humor? Why don’t they see her outgoing, strong-willed personality and her willingness to try anything once? If she only spoke Spanish, would they refuse to speak in any language but English? They are doing the same thing when they refuse to communicate with her in Sign Language. Why do they get angry or frustrated with her when she gets angry or frustrated when she is treated as a sub-human? Would these people treat any of their own family members the way they treat Ashley? I really understand now those parents who celebrated when their children with disabilities exited the school system.
I must admit that with each new school year my patience wears thinner and thinner. Collaboration was always my mantra when trying to work through issues relating to Ashley’s educational program, but I am growing weary of that approach also. I may have been one of those parents before, but starting this year, I am one of THOSE parents. Everyone has been warned...