2/24/2010

Diversity and Inclusion: How Society Fails Us All, How We Fail Ourselves

Leave aside for the moment your immediate foray into divisions, into the ideas of a neurodiversity movement. Leave aside for a moment the split into camps of curing and not curing, the false dichotomies that permeate the online autism community.

I know I have readers who, quite frankly, read me to get their mad on, to get primed, to keep an eye on what that neurodiverse blogger is up to. So, I'm asking you to let all those divisions, that pissiness go for a second. And for those who read me to see what nugget of nonsense I can pull up at AoA, let's forget them for a moment, too. They're saying the same old thing again, nothing new there, nothing of interest to report. Blah.

Let's focus, all of us, those on my "side" and those against it, on kids, on schools, on disabled kids and their place in the school system. Let's pretend that curebies and NDs don't exist to snipe at each other. Let's pretend that we actually put kids first, because it turns out there are a whole bunch of folks on facebook doing just that. And we actually stretch the gamut from thinking vaccines cause autism and autism ought to be cured to the other extreme of vaccines don't and autism ought to be accomodated. Even more fundamentally profound is that we're all getting along as we advocate for children who have been physically restrained, harmed, and arrested for resisting that restraint. Oh my gods, can you believe that? We're working together to help kids and other parents. We're not worrying about the ideology. We're also crossing political and religious divides. Wow.

Does it mean we agree on all the other things? No, and we could probably argue about those things except we're focused on shit that matters tremendously to ALL of us. The school system is failing all of our children, from the neurotypical to the severely disabled. And it's failing our children because society collectively is failing our children.

How many disabled children are physically restrained by the very people we entrust to care for and educate them? If it happens in the public school system, picture the potential abuses, the actual abuses that unfortunately do happen in institutions. There are good people in all these places and they are working hard to do good jobs, and they should be recognized, but even good people do bad things, make bad decisions, make flat out dumbass decisions. And there are folks working with the disabled who have no business anywhere near the vulnerable.

Let me ask you, readers who stretch across all ideologies, all religions, all politics, what exactly are the big autism organizations doing to make sure that physical restraints are not used on the disabled? What is Autism Speaks doing to advocate for the disabled? For their treatment? For their protection?

What is SafeMinds? TACA? Generation Rescue? The forums many of you read and post at, what level of focus does the safety of our children in the school system play?

It isn't just disabled children who are at risk for adults making poor decisions regarding their care. How many stories have we heard of school systems gone amok and law enforcement departments foolishly handcuffing and arresting students for bringing motrin, for doodling on a desk?

It isn't just the schools that have folks making dumbass decisions, though, A parent decides to teach her child a lesson when he forgets to pack his lunch into his bag and tells the teacher to let him go without lunch; the principal makes the appropriate decision and feeds the child and the parent blows a gasket. Withholding food as a teaching tool is not acceptable.

By falling into woo, by failing to critically examine the potential consequences of our actions with our children, with other people's children, we fail our children, ourselves, and society. And it's so damn easy to fall for all manner of woo.

Raising kids and teaching them is often a serious pain in the ass and a cramp to one's style. Let's not pretend it's not. And we often want to do the least amount of work possible; it's human nature. Well, the least amount isn't enough. And it's time we admitted that as a society.

You want the school system to value your children, treat them with respect, make the schools safe places for them, then it really doesn't serve you well to go out bitching about what hell autism is for you as a parent and think those teachers and aides aren't going to think the same thing. You wanna view your kids as damaged goods to be recovered at all costs, treat them as objects, what the hell do you think is going to happen in the schools?

We don't fund our schools adequately. We don't train our teachers sufficiently. The training for classroom management is almost nonexistent. Most teachers have no training in learning disabilities. They get one developmental psychology course. As I prepare to teach lifespan this summer, I have to tell you, I can get a lot of information out to the future nurses and teachers who will take me, but I can not adequately arm them. They both need classes in behavioral management, as well. A class period in general psychology on classical and operant conditioning and another on social cognitive learning is woefully inadequate for knowing how to manage a classroom of kids, many of whom will have behvarioral issues, some of whom will have disabilities, and others who are frikking kids and being asked to sit for hours in desks doing rote work for which no application, no use, is taught.

We are failing our kids. And it isn't because we lack dedicated, loving professionals. Many of us are blessed to have wonderful instructors for our children, but they've got 20 plus kids, deadlines, curriculum objectives to meet, shitloads of papers to grade, and a woeful lack of assistance to make it all happen. And inclusion comes with a price. It is laudable, it is desirable and it should be. I want it to be. But I want it with the proper supports, so that what students see is not another autistic child being restrained, or acting out and being met with a lack of understanding and an escalation of behaviors.

We are failing ourselves when we do not demand more of ourselves as advocates for our children. And when we do not demand better resources for our school system, lower staff-to-student ratios, mandatory special education classes for all instructors as part of their licensing requirements.

We fail society when we do not move heaven and earth to make this world a better place for all of our children, for ourselves.

And yet, I take hope. I take hope in the fact that my girlies are in a wonderful school that sees them as people first. I don't take it for granted, though. I take hope in the banding together of disparate members of the online autism community who decided to focus on things that matter right now, and their willingness to fight for the underdogs.

I take hope because, while yes, there are people out there with less than admirable intentions, there are so many who are willing to do more, to work harder, to make a difference, and we're finding each other. I take hope because as we do so, we build on the respect for infinite diversity, we work towards inclusion, and we change ourselves and society in the process.

2 comments:

Cube Angel said...

Kim, most people in society will not answer any of my questions? They will just ignore me. Why is that?

Here are some: http://ultimatesuperset.blogspot.com/2010/02/inalienable-rights.html

http://ultimatesuperset.blogspot.com/2010/02/analysis-of-amber-pawliks-analysis-of.html

http://ultimatesuperset.blogspot.com/2010/02/definition-of-retarded.html

KWombles said...

Cube,

I don't know; I suspect they don't understand your questions or are uninterested in them. You have to find likeminded individuals interested in the sorts of questions you are interested in to get meaningful dialogue. I promise that I will come read these three you've linked to over this weekend and talk with you about your questions and ideas. Don't know that I'll have the answers, though. :-)