In Citizenship in School Reconceptualizing Down Syndrome a quote on the first page by Jason Kingsley stuck out to me, “people without disabilities are judging us” unfortunately the reason it stuck out was because I was one of those people. My school was one where the special educations students were not in any regular classrooms with us. They were down a hall that hardly anyone went down. Because I had no interaction with these students and did not know any of them I judged them. I thought they were not smart that they could not handle interactions with “normal” people. I thought they were limited in all areas. Those that did not show an outward different appearance were just really lazy kids who wanted to color all day. The special education students were never part of any regular school activates. They were never at our during school pep rallies, they did not eat in our lunchroom or attend other events. Although I was never in their classroom so I have no idea what they were learning their work that was displayed in their hallway reminded me of an elementary school: colored papers and childish assignments.
It is hard for me to admit (and even harder to out this on a blog) that I used to judges those with disabilities but I feel it is very important to this piece. Separating students with disabilities is bad everyone. Delpit would say these students are not learning the rules and codes of power. Placing them in separate classes not allow them to reach their full potential. Shor would point out that students with disabilities are not leaning to socialize with their peers and maybe even more importantly their peers are not learning to socialize with them. Herbert would use this to point out that separate is definitely not equal between special education classroom and mainstream ones. Separating these students also creates myths as to what they can and cannot do.
When my best friend had a son with autism I began to learn and see how very wrong my judgments of these students was. I have learned so much from watching her son. Unlike my past I don’t see an autistic child. I just see him as adorable tell- it- like- it- is Drew J
The stories in this article are a great reminder for me. They show how much these students can and need to be apart of mainstream classrooms. The story of April and how she was able to help another student who had just lost her hearing was my favorite. This was such a win for everyone. April was able take on a position she may not have had the chance to in a special educations class and Cathy had someone who was able to help here and to understand the position she was in.
Thankfully stores like this are now happing across the country. Programs like Best Buddies are bring students together helping to socialize and make sure those with disabilities get the same experience as their classmates. It is also helping non-disabled students to see beyond the disability and see the whole person as their true self.
Best Buddies Indiana