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.