Monday, May 21, 2012

Paper Research: 'Special' School

This is the sixth 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 about her time in the "special" school, where she was at for a year after a surgery.
The photo is of Mom, standing with her crutches toward the left, from her eighth grade graduation from that school.

In this log I would like to work a little on the center of the paper. The "special" school in South Dakota was opened sometime in the early to middle 50s. I, however, was established in my school setting so my parents were not anxious to send me to this school. They would also have to pay my tuition to attend this school as well as transportation to and from this "special" school, as my father had his name on some land and I didn't have polio, so we were not eligible for any aid. It didn't matter that he had all these kids to support.

The summer that I was to turn 13 and enter the eighth grade, I had surgery on both feet to correct the deformity still there as a child. This could not be corrected earlier as any surgery done on any limbs too early in growth development would stop growth in that area. So the doctor wanted to wait. About this same time, the curvature in my spine had become more apparent, so it was casted. This took most of the summer, so when school started, I was still in a wheelchair and was unable to attend my school because of all the steps.

The school was called The Crippled Children Hospital and School (CCHS) for short. I stayed there during the week, coming home on weekends. This was the first time I was away from home with not one of my family with me. There were some kids there from across the state. Some from so far that they could only go home on holidays or long vacations. I met so many interesting people there. I really had to sort out some feelings of my own. Never had I been put into a situation with kids so much worse than myself. Part of me didn't want to be with them because I felt like them and I didn't want to feel like them. I wanted to feel normal, whatever that was.

We did a number of interesting things at this school. Many of which I hadn't done since. We went bowling, at the local bowling ally, we played ball of all sorts. We learned to score all these games. We had a wheelchair square dance group for which I was a substitute, because by this time I was no longer in a wheelchair. We had visits from famous people. One I remember, was a visit from Bob Feller, a famous pitcher, who gave encouragement to everyone there.

We had our regular classes in the morning. Here I feel that the school let down. I do not feel that I was challenged academically. The pace was very slow. Maybe it was just me as I was used to the fast pace of the regular kids. I was glad that I only went one year so that I didn't fall too far behind my old classmates. Looking back I did benefit with the new exposure. Like I said, it was the first time that I was really exposed to these kind of kids that were far worse off physically than myself. Over the years, I have kept in touch with some of these kids and I still feel fortunate.

I remember many of these kids being very homesick. The rigorous exercise programs each student was involved in took its toll on the desire and the will to learn. Many of them came from households where they were waited on hand and foot by well-meaning family and not encouraged to do these things on their own. The result of this was the child comes back from a vacation at home and all needs to be relearned.

The emphasis then focused in keeping the child at home. Here the child is mainstreamed into the regular classroom. He can then pick up as much as possible from the other kids. Instead of learning down to the rest of the students, he will then learn up as much as possible. When extra help is needed, he gets it from another source, the special teachers, who make regular rounds of the classrooms where his students are. They would also be responsible for getting the students to their classroom. There are regular physical therapy sessions many of which include the parents. With this whole family approach most students do quite well.

Here is where I need to talk to someone from Grantwood Area Education Association. I want to hear the general rules and see just how well these kids with severe disabilities adapt to the classroom setting. How do the kids react to having this child in their classroom. This learning can go both ways. The disabled child is there to learn from the school; but the teachers and the other children are there to learn from the child. There are so many who can benefit from this arrangement.

With the accessibility problem a thing of the past in many new schools, because of the new environmental barriers laws, the children will not be barred from doing anything to expand their horizon. The only problems now is the attitude of the people. Educational and opportunity is the key to anyone's success.

Most of this is personal opinion. I have an interview set up on Monday, which will help me find what the mainstreaming and inclusion does for the children. Does it harm or benefit? I wonder if there are studies yet available on what happens to the children, long range. Are they able to improve physically and mentally? Are they able to pursue a college career and then a work career? Are they able to go as far as they can go intellectually? Are we doing the right thing this time? How can we be sure?

Connie, March 12, 1994

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