>> Friday, January 30, 2009
So, I'm wrestling with an issue and this post is more of me talking through that issue than providing any definitive answers.
I'm certainly not in denial that Maren has Trisomy 21. I know it is never going to go away. I know that she will have friends who are typically developing, but that as she grow older, her closest friends will be, and should be, people who share similar interests, passion, values. Heck, I am a social scientist -- we call it homophily.
Yet, I have a horrible feeling in my gut today. The Resource Room teacher at Maren's school, a woman I adore and who really gets IT, took Maren and four other children to a Special Olympics swim meet to cheer teenager with T21 who attends the middle school at Holy Spirit. Permission slips were sent home and Maren really wanted to go. I've known the girl swimming since she was Maren's age. How could I say no? She deserves all the support she can get and I'm thrilled for her! She rocks!
But, I admit I hate the idea of children or adults with disabilities in public together. It makes me shudder when group homes do it; I get angry when ARC does it, and to be honest, I'm thrilled that Special Olympics is moving towards inclusive sports -- maybe now I'll let Maren participate one day ;->.
I believe deeply in inclusion, while acknowledging that we gravitate to people who are similar to us for our closest relationships. Society needs to get out of our stereotypical ways of thinking about disability and forcing segregation. So, from my experience, these group trips, have, I think, the ability to reify the very stereotypes we want so hard to rid the world of -- that demean and degrade individuals with cognitive and intellectual disabilities. I've watched people point, stare, make horrific comments, and even feel pity (UGH!).
Yes, I want Maren to be able to go out with her friends -- just like I did as kid and teen. And, when she's in high school in oh...9 years (ack!), I want them to be able to cruise the theater together. Yet, somehow the "organized" group trips seem so offensive?.!.?
So, I'm going to talk to awesome resource woman -- I don't have the answers-- but I want to share my reservations. Last semester, the kids who use resource services (all with T21) went to a children's theater together. I said nothing then. The feeling is stronger now. So, I'll share my feeling honestly and ask if we can think of ways to make this situation work for everyone. Perhaps each child could bring a friend from class? Maybe a few of us parents can step up and chaperon since the group will be so large?
Perhaps I am a product of the very judgment I'm railing against, but I am uneasy. And right now, perhaps my friends can help me think through this.
With love, Carol being Carol