Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Chill, Baby

If I hear one more time that the primary purpose of high school education for children with disabilities is to prepare them for work, I am going to scream. I wrote last week about Ashley not getting History or Science in high school because ‘she doesn’t have a history or science disability.” Her IEP draft was full of ‘vocational’ goals and objectives, and if the school district staff asked me yet again if I had ‘connected’ with vocational rehab agencies for Ashley, I might just have told them where they could stick their sheltered workshop job.

I understand that our children with disabilities may need a little more time to prepare for the workforce, but seven freakin’ years??? That seems a tad excessive to me. Heck, I can start listing the names of many non-disabled high school students who were not prepared for adulthood and the workforce when they left high school. And, are our children to have no other focus in their lives once they turn 14 years old? That’s pretty sad if that is what the school district believes.

Why shouldn’t our children with disabilities be entitled to the same work-life balance being promoted for those without disabilities? (Work-life balance can also be applied, imho, to education-life balance).

According to a survey conducted by the National Life Insurance Co., four out of ten employees state that their jobs are "very" or "extremely" stressful. Those in high stress jobs are three times more likely than others to suffer from stress-related medical conditions and are twice as likely to quit. The study states that women, in particular, report stress related to the conflict between work and family. Do you think our children with disabilities can also suffer from stress? Heck, their lives are often nothing but stress.

The number of stress-related disability claims by American employees has doubled according to the Employee Assistance Professionals Association in Arlington, Virginia. Seventy-five to ninety percent of physician visits are related to stress and, according to the American Institute of Stress, the cost to industry has been estimated at $200 billion-$300 billion a year. What do you think the costs will be if a person with a significant disability experiences stress and burnout?

Ashley loves art – and music – and plants – and shopping – and traveling – and reading – and math – and science. Restricting her enjoyment of those things during her remaining school career – approximately seven years – will not a happy future employee make. And don’t even get me started on the preconceived notions about the type of work our children with significant disabilities will be targeted to perform. Trust me, if you ask Ashley to stuff envelopes for eight hours a day, five days a week, envelopes won’t be the only things getting stuffed.

School districts need to lighten up. Let our children with disabilities enjoy their high school years as much as non-disabled students. Don’t start them down a path to stress and then wonder why it costs so much to provide care for them later in life.

Chill, baby….


Dark Angel said...

That sounds very familiar, totally agree with you. Here in Holland if you're deemed too disabled to cope in the main stream work place, you're dumped in a sheltered work place, too. I spent spent three years doing 'work' on the level of stuffing envelopes and by the end of the day I was usually ready to drop dead from pure boredom. I'd give anything to do some kind of vocational training, but the support just isn't available for somebody with my kind of combination of disabilities (I'm deafblind and mildly autistic)

Azaera said...

Wow do they really believe that all the highschool years for disabled students should be spent preparing for work?? What happened to just being a teenager? I think it's especially important for them to enjoy their school years. Who wants to think about working at that age?

charlesdowney said...

Those people are the natural stress managers whom you can learn a lot from.

We humans learn best by example and observation. After you’ve identified these people, observe them. See what they do and also, see what they do DIFFERENTLY. How is your behavior and their behavior different in the same situation both are facing? What is it that makes them keep cool and calm while others around them are losing temper on small things?
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