Groups of Kids with Disablities out in Public?

>> 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


Little Miss E 12:00 PM  

It's tough. Yes, you want her to be included, to be like everyone else, to not have the characteristics that people tend to notice and single her out from others for...but you want her to accept who she is, regardless. You want her to be happy with who she is, celebrate her differences and relish in her similiarities. There are no rules. There are no parameters. There are only opinions and decisions that only you and Maren can make for you and Maren. I know my rambling hasn't helped, but I GET it! Hope that, at least, helps!

Anonymous 11:33 AM  

Just came across your blog from a post you left on Chewing the Fat. I agree with your comment to him! I enjoyed reading some of your posts.

However on this post, I'm torn. I understand where you are coming from in hating the "group outings". I hate that schools here in Ontario, while extolling the values of inclusion and eliminating segregation in the schools still maintain "Lifeskills" classrooms for those "special" kids. I must say though, that your daughters school is unique in that it organizes school trips (albeit segregrated) the school I worked as an EA at for 3 years never once had a school trip and the kids in the "Lifeskills" class were never included in the "regular" class trips. They miss out on so much!
I work for a fantastic agency who support adults with developmental disabilities.
We have 12 homes and while I understand your sentiments on group outings, for the adults who live in these homes they love it. They do not refer to them as "group" homes, we don't like that term, rather they live in a home with their roommates, their friends. They have the option of moving house if they have a personality conflict. They go out as friends, if they wish. That's how we all look at it. However it is what it is, there is no getting around the facts.

The alternative for these adults used to be an institution, thank God that is not an option any longer. We have one gentleman who spent his entire 54 years in an institution and just a year ago came to live with us. The acheivements and successes this man has accomplished since coming to live in a "group" home setting has been astounding. He has grown as a person in leaps and bounds. He is happy, he is productive, he has friends, he has a life. Something that was lacking in the institution.
So you see while I agree with your point, there is always the other side of the coin too.
I will continue to read and enjoy your blog and wish you and your Little Miss Magic much happiness and many Chick Flik nights....I love doing that with my 13 yr old daughter. Nothing better than a chick flik with your favourite chick!

TUC 5:41 PM  

Reading this post I realized that I have never seen a group of young children, or even teenage children with Ds out and about together. However I do see groups of adults with various disabilities from group homes who are out with a state chaperone. I will admit that when I see these groups I do get a little twang of sadness. I am not sure why.

I am trying to jump ahead in time and picture my daughter on a field trip with only children with Ds... I can see a bunch of beautiful faces but there is a certain fragility and other-worldliness to the picture that bothers me. So I see where you are coming from but I can't decide if the cons outweigh the pros.

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