Tuesday, July 20, 2010


The group home in which Jessica lives is dark. The draperies are usually closed – the furnishings are dark and heavy – even the air inside the home seems oppressive.

The day support program she attends is in a one-story cinderblock building. The walls are institutional green – the adornments on the walls are posters about CPR and behavior management – the furniture is old and mismatched and lost its original color years ago.

The school classroom to which Jessica is assigned is in the basement of the school building. It too is dark and joyless. Again, the walls are institutional colors, and many of the lights are burned out. There are no windows and whole feeling is one of gloominess.

The descriptions above are not the exception. Jessica used to attend a different day support program, and it was worse than her current program. And the other two group homes in which she has lived were also dark, gloomy, and drab.


Why don’t people with disabilities deserve lightness, bright rooms, cheery kitchens and the occasional barbecue outside? Why can’t they assist in planting flowers and a vegetable garden at their group homes? Why can’t the draperies be opened more frequently and why can’t pleasant music be playing in the background rather than the constant din of the television?

How can we expect children with disabilities to be excited about going to school when the being there provides nothing visually stimulating? Do school districts think our students with disabilities will learn more if there is nothing but plain green walls to distract them? Why aren't there 'spirit' posters and announcements of school dances in the 'special education' hall? In fact, why is there even a 'special education' hall?

How can we expect our children with disabilities to learn and grow at their day support programs when they dread going there? Why can’t there be celebrations and joy in the places they spend the majority of their day - maybe ice cream sundaes and cupcakes with rainbow sprinkles? Why can't the staff smile more - do they really hate their jobs as much as their faces seem to say? Why must their lives be filled with darkness and gloom? Again, a little paint would go a long way to improving everyone’s moods.

I wish I had the time and money to paint, refurnish, and refurbish these places. I’m convinced that we would see improved moods and improved behaviors if environments were improved first.


Lisa G. said...

There is seriously no excuse for people to expect children to learn in such a joyless environment! I am a special education teacher and I can't imagine teaching or spending any time in that sort of place. I would think that environment would affect the staff as much as the children. Lighten up people! Children with special needs are children first and foremost. Everyone deserves a pretty world.

MMC said...

What a great question - Why indeed?

My guess would be it's partly because people "think" that those who are challenged don't notice their surroundings that much anyway, so it doesn't really matter. Well, not much real thinking involved there, is there?

And I think it's partly because people see it as a way to save resources - why spend time and money on such things when it doesn't matter much anyway (see above)? And, worst of all, why spend time and money when these individuals are seen as "less than" - needing less, deserving less, noticing less?

Who's scresaming on their behalf like parents would if it was a school for typical kids? People would be outraged at such conditions for their children, right?

Oh yeah, apparently that's our job. Wait, I will put it on my to-do-list. There we go, problem solved.

Anonymous said...

Then why do you leave her in such a lifeless place?

Kasia and Amelia said...

Your post almost made me cry! I really feel for those kids, I would love to do the best for them, they deserve best environment to grow, to feel better! They crave joy, light, color, arts.....why not give it to them? My only hope is that there are other institutions, less depressing for kids with the special needs ! And my hope is that I will also find one which will be willing t do yoga for them which I am being trained to offer........ :-)

Ashley's Mom said...

Anonymous, people with disabilities often have very few choices. Their family members often have very few choices.

Our systems that support people with disabilities are very, very flawed, and as advocates and parents, we tirelessly fight to improve those systems.

Our inroads are slow, and we can use all the help we can get. Are you interested in helping...or just commenting?

Anonymous said...

I am the parent of a disabled child too and I am WELL aware of the few choices that are available. That being said, my child would not be left in a place like that. He is lucky to be in a great place after much advocacy.

Ashley's Mom said...

Anonymous, I am glad that your family has choices you find acceptable.