I'm leading this one off with a two-paragraph opening to this project of Mom's. The opening is the final piece of this project to post.
In the process log, Mom talks about including those with disabilities in activities. At the end, she talks about what she wanted to be remembered for.
The photo is of Mom at her retirement party in 2009.
Schools can be made accessible to anyone with any kind of disabilities, with some simple accommodations. These kinds of obstacles can be referred to as interpersonal problems. When these physical obstacles replaced, the disabled student can settle down to the fine art of learning. Without the worry of how to get to the next class, whether it be up the flight of stairs or down a long hall, things can be adjusted so the disabled child or adult can get there with the necessary books and paraphernalia needed for class.
Along also with the outside physical influences, the outside student influence is also a factor. Many times the students can be very gracious. They take it upon themselves to help and suggest. In recent times, with the disabled student at the forefront of everyone's eye, this objectivity can be natural. However, from the times of most of the teachers have grown up and lived in, it is not natural. Many of these adults have grown up when these kids were hidden from society. A few years ago, these kids were considered untrainable and ineducable: Not much was tried.
Consequently, these students are not high on the list to choose for special committees and privileges. The teacher probably does not call on the disabled students for much discussion. If they are able to communicate readily, they probably are not able to speak loudly enough to compete with the rest of the class. They also would not be selected to take part in any non-competitive sports, even if their intelligence shows them really able to do these sports. Many times also the disabled student would not be the first choice to do some peer teaching.
My son has a disability. He cannot walk very well without his braces on. His intelligence, however, is very high. He carries a 3.5 GPA most of the times and has had a 4.0. His strongest classes are math, science and history. Yet, he probably would not be the choice to be used in peer teaching. I can see him in a teaching role. I can also see him in a very influential role.
My topic also fits into the intrapersonal intelligence role. Out of necessity the disabled student is in a self-paced environment. If the school system will not aid the advancement of these students, then they must proceed on their own.
In order for the disabled student to participate in any extracurricular activities, the activity must be individualized for that particular student. Sometimes even the instruction for any subject is individualized, in order to have an idea of where the student stands academically. Solo games and sports are invented to keep the students occupied.
Along this line, however, is the big problem of self-esteem. In an effort to keep the student separate with their own projects, we may have created some of the same problems of segregation as before. In order to make the disabled feel a part of the system, the student has to be brought into the system. A plan needs to be made to bring that student into the activities that he is interested in. If he is interested in reading then create a reading club. If he is interested in sports, but just cannot participate in them actively, then try him or her on as a captain or score keeper. If the student likes to write, get him in as a reporter of the events that he is most interested in.
Maybe chess, checkers, or any board or card games have clubs in your school. Make every effort to establish what this student is interested in. My son is very interested in sports, but he can't play them. He is an avid baseball card collector, and could tell you the stats of any of the players of the major leagues. He could very easily be a scorekeeper.
I cannot emphasize strongly enough the importance of self-esteem. This is important to any student, but is imperative to the disabled students. The student has to believe in himself before he can want to accomplish anything. He has to feel that the other people see something other than his disability when they meet him. He needs to be able to convey his thoughts to others in such a way that everyone is put at ease. First and foremost, the disabled student is a person, then he is a student, then he is a student who happens to be disabled.
I have always wanted to be remembered as an individual with talents, and willing to share my talents with anyone, and I just happened to have a disability. I hope that I was hired for my job not because of my disability, whether to fill a quota or what; but in spite of it. I expect to meet a lot of people in my lifetime, I hope that I can influence some of them, in one way or another.
Connie, April 16, 1994