This is the seventh of these process logs from Mom's folder. They're sort of logs that document her research for her spring 1994 paper From Dependence to Independence. Instead of a log, though, these are more like mini-papers that are interesting on their own.
In this one, Mom talks students of varying disabilities in classes. She also talks about her own methods of getting around having to carry heavy books to classes.
The photo is of mom at her college graduation in 1972. The man she is shaking hands with is identified on the back as one of her teachers.
I was talking to my sister-in-law this morning. We were talking about this topic. She reminded me about this neighbor of ours years ago. They had this little girl who was birth injured or born retarded, I was never sure of which it was as it was never talked about. I only seen this girl once although I knew she existed. At this point in time, no one talked about these things. From what I observed she was unable to get around on her own. Her bed was put on the floor so she would not roll out, I'm sure. When I saw her briefly she looked as though she was in her early teens, which put her a little older than myself. She never, of course, went to school. That would have been unheard of for that day and age. She eventually was institutionalized.
I got to thinking about the little boy in my classroom. This little boy has so many advantages because he was born now and not a few years ago. That little girl from years ago could have been in a classroom soaking up life by osmosis, as you will. It is truly amazing how the other children adapt to these children in the classroom. They become more tolerant of each other and many of them become more helpful. They become used to seeing this little person like themselves in a wheelchair. They talk to this individual and help him as allowed. What a wonderful world this will be if these kids grow up and keep this feeling of tolerance in their adult life.
When these children are in the classroom, the teacher will need a teacher aid. The teacher needs to acknowledge that the students are there and give them that special attention, but the teacher aid will have to do most of the work involved with the student, under the watchful eye of the special education teacher and therapist, who will make regular rounds of the rooms with her students. There possibly should have some special classes with this special education teacher, also.
I have to do some more reading that this friend of mine gave me. There are some statistics on the future of these kids. How far can they go? I'm sure each case is different. One thing that I have learned through this research is that it is OK for us to feel sorry for someone worse off than we are. This is perfectly OK. Even I tend to feel sorry for these kids that seem to be in another world. All I can imagine is all the life that they must miss, communicating with their family and friends, thinking and reading about something that interests them. How can they tell you what interests them? There are many disabled children who do grow up and learn to communicate with others.
Love and discipline can do wonders for seemingly hopeless situations. The thing to remember is that there is always something that can be tried. We have to keep an open mind. There may be some teachers who may have a little trouble with these students in their classroom. Just remember, treat them as children. After all, that is what they are. In some cases they know much more than you are trying to teach them. Too bad they cannot communicate in the usual ways. Their methods will be a little different. After the year is finished you may wonder who has done the teaching, and who has done the learning. This child may have taught you a lot that you had not planned on.
Of course if the child is not that disabled, say the child's disability is only physical, these children try very hard and learn quickly. Maybe the only help they need is in carrying their books to the classroom. Sometimes this is solved by a classmate. When I went to school my school was small, so we never moved from room to room like they do now. We only moved in high school. Here, too, most were in the same classes, so someone could carry my books to class cause they were going to the same class as I was. Now, however, my children are in such large classes that they aren't in any classes with the same people. I'm not sure how to solve this problem. When I went to college, I made a big bag so I could carry my classwork in it. The only problem was the books were so heavy. Even only one book can weigh a lot. I asked the individual teachers to see if it was OK if I didn't bring my books. Of course it was OK then if we used books in class I looked off someone else's book. That is how I have solved the problem. There are so many other ways like keeping two books, one at home and one in class. Most teachers are more than willing to help.
Connie, March 19, 1994