I'm not so sure we have a "winner" this week as much as we have a rhetorical question...
I have a sweet, treasured friend who lives with disability herself, turning stereotypes and limitations on their head. She has been at this area of ministry far longer than I have, because she has lived with it all of her life, dwarfing my 14+ years of experience. She would smack me upside the head with my opining in this post, because she is a glass-is-half-full thinker when it comes to reaching those with special needs. When I get discouraged, I am so grateful that she shakes me out of my self-pity by reminding me how far we have come. And I laud her for that.
Even so, those of us raising kids in this generation, in this current culture, have to wonder, will we ever get there? Demeaning attitudes still seem to prevail.
For instance, this recent article in Forbes, Are Special Needs Students The New Fall Guys? discusses a study revealing that the trend towards inclusion has been reversing over the past 7 years.
Think I'm off my rocker with that one? Obviously, you haven't heard about the recent uproar in Jurupa Valley, California at Patriot High School. There, the staff had the special needs students picking through the trash to pick out recyclables that the school could turn into cash. I'm sorry, but in my brain, that sort of behavior doesn't frame my child as a valuable member of society. I am all for teaching life-skills, but I agree with the parents in this situation that garbage-picking isn't an important transferable craft. Instead, it is more akin to the graduation gifts given by the teacher in Stevens Point, Wisconsin that I wrote about in May. It seems to embody a wider cultural attitude that people with special needs, chronic illness or disability are less-than.
As I said in my post 2 weeks ago, there seems to be a disconnect with many that occurs between the time when a teacher passionately begins their journey in special education, and the time when kids suddenly become a devalued bother. It's simply heartbreaking. It would be fascinating to hear people in education discuss what turns things sour. Is it the people in administration? Is it frustration with a few apathetic parents? What is it?
Regardless of the answer, stories like these show that we, as parents cannot stop advocating for our children. They are image-bearers of Christ. Every human deserves love and dignity. We families are in a unique position to be that voice building acceptance in the wider culture. We can't be silent now.
~ Barb Dittrich
*For further reading: School Apologizes for Making Special Needs Kids Sort Trash