Saturday, July 11, 2015

"Are You Serious?" Awards - Volume LVII: The Either/Or Edition

This week's edition might just as well be titled the "One Size Does NOT Fit All Edition," because it seems to fit with the perennial frustration parents experience in the disability and special needs community.

A school may use a model favoring either complete inclusion or separate classrooms for those with extra challenges.  A church may have either a special needs Sunday School class or have total inclusion with the use of special needs "buddies."  A camp may offer different weeks of programming for those with physical disabilities and cognitive delays or they may offer full inclusion.  Whatever the case may be, the choice is typically either/or with no choice given to the families participating.

In my ministry role, I continually hear parental exasperation over having their child enrolled in a school where only one model is offered.  I also hear wistful comments from some parents over the fact that their church only offers one style of special needs ministry.

The bottom line is that parents want options because... ONE SIZE DOES NOT FIT ALL!

This is where we find this week's "winner."  Denise Watts of Middleton, Ohio is the proud mother of a beautiful 6 year old boy with Down Syndrome.  Her son is the poster child for the Great Miami Valley YMCA's inclusive programming.  Yet, Ms Watts is now pursuing legal action against the Y because they will not allow her son to be fully integrated into regular summer camp, only the camp for those with developmental disabilities.

Photo image courtesy of Robert Churchill via
While this mother has extremely valid reasons for wanting her son to participate in mainstream camp, the YMCA has equally valid reasons for their position.  Ms. Watts definitely has the right idea, wanting to keep her son with his classmates and friends throughout the summer camp experience.  Any parent raising a child with extra challenges would agree that the development of their child's positive social relationships is critical.  At the same time, the YMCA is completely rational in being concerned for the safety of a child who needs extra care and supervision.  Given the litigious nature of our culture, non-profit organizations like the Y are hyper-vigilant when it comes to child safety.

As I read this article earlier this week, I found myself conflicted.  The situation actually saddens me, especially as I don't think the YMCA has made their decision with any malice intended.  It is too bad that both parties could not find a way to remedy this conflict outside of the court system.  At the same time, I am not sure how you make both sides happy in a situation such as this.

I would be interested to hear your thoughts on this story.  Is Denise Watts right to sue this YMCA for not offering her son the opportunity to be fully mainstreamed into their general summer camp?  Is the YMCA correct in wanting to keep Ms Watts' son safe by only allowing him admission to the summer camp for those with developmental disabilities?  What would you do?  Leave your thoughts in the comment section below!

~ Barb Dittrich

*For further reading:  Ohio Mom Sues YMCA For Excluding Son With Down Syndrome

1 comment:

  1. I think I would have to side with the Y, they are responsible for the childs'safety while at thier facility.It may not be the perfect social interaction that she wants for her son, but there are other programs out there.We all want ouf children to be treated equally, we love them completely.but then if our child has special needs that are not attended to,we would be upset as well.I guess you have to pick your battles carefully.This child has to live with the outcome of this situation.Inclusion is just sometimes a double edged sword.Sadly there will be no winners here.I feel her pain in wanting the experience of camp with peers for her son.Perhaps God is making other plans, I pray peace for all.