Thursday, March 31, 2011
I have a friend who is deaf, Sarah, and when another friend was introduced to her and heard her speak (she sounds different because she's deaf and uses a hearing aid) she made a face and almost giggled. I was embarrassed for her and could see the hurt in Sarah's eyes. This isn't about school but I'm sure it happens to deaf kids at school all the time.
There was a student in my high school class who had dyslexia, but he was the only student with a learning disability so our school didn't have any support system available for him. A lot of us used to make fun of him whenever he read aloud or wrote on the board.
At high school, 3 elevators were installed because there were 2 disabled students. They were not encouraged to play sports (physically and mentally disabled.) They all want to be treated like everyone else.
In college I took a small discussion class in which a differently-abled kid would talk a lot. He would ramble and not make sense to me a lot of the time and I would get annoyed. My professor was rude to him and the whole class would role their eyes when he spoke. I still feel haunted by the way we disrespected him.
When I was in elementary school, I used to bully students who were differently-abled. Everyone did it, so I thought I'd just hop on the bandwagon.
In my college writing class the instructor asked me if I had ever been tested for a mental disability because my writing was not up to everyone else's level in class. I felt like an idiot. Although I passed my portfolio those words still haunt me.
I am privileged to be an able-bodied person and it manifests everyday. I do not have to worry about ADA accessibility, being able to play classroom physical disabilities, or how quickly I finish my tests. In my theater class in high school, one of my friends was differently-abled. He made me realize that unlike him, I don't have to worry about whether my acting partner will feel burdened and turned off by working with me due to my physical ability.
I witnessed a disabled person be ignored. The person was on a wheel chair and didn't have any preventions to communicate. However, because he was in a wheel chair, he was ignored.
I havn't been treated differently because so far I don't think I've been labeled as differently abled so that makes me feel privileged.
In terms of the first question, I'm not exactly sure what I think. I do believe that disabilities are a physical or mental thing that actually do exist. This is an obvious fact- some people have physical and mental disabilities. However, I do also think that there is a socially constructed classifying system for disabled people that is not necessarily the best way it could be.
I cannot think of a specific time in my life when anyone was treated unfairly due to a disability. However, I do know that the disabled kids at my high school were in completely separate classes from everyone else. They were not integrated into the school at all- completely isolated into classes only with other students of disability. I don't think that this is how it should be- of course if students with disabilities want to be separated into different classes so that they can be catered to more easily for their certain needs in the classroom, I think that that is completely fine. However, if a disabled student wants to be in classes with everyone else, I don't think that they should be automatically segregated against their will. They should be given the chance to be in classes with everyone else, because they may be perfectly capable of learning in that environment with all the other students depending on their disability.
Here at Cal, it is much different than it was in high school. I have a friend who is almost completely deaf, and uses a hearing aid. She has someone come to her classes with her and type as the professor is speaking so that she can keep up with what is going on in class. There is a specific propgram set up at Cal that does this for deaf students, and I think it is a great resource that is completely necessary. Disabled students are also given very early Tele-Bears appointments, which in some cases I think is great and in some cases not so much. For example, my friend has diabetes, and she is considered disabled. I don't think it's really fair for her to have an early Tele-Bears because her diabetes literally doesn't affect her classes at all. It isn't a situation where she has doctor's appointments all the time and needs certain clases to work around her medical schedule- even she herself has said there really is no point to it. However, that's just sort of a tangent- overall I think it's good that students with mental and physical disabilities are given priority in classes because they do have certain needs that should be catered to.
Born with Crack in my system I always was more hyper than the other children, loud and hated to be told what to do. I was classified as an ADHD student yet was never placed on medication because I was able to keep up with my schoolwork. I believe that disabilities are ways in which society constructs binaries between who is made to survive and who will be the weakest link. I do not believe that students with disabilities should be segregated in all of their classes unless they ask for that specifically. In my high school we did have a separate part of my school totally dedicated to the mentally disabled students and we never got to see them unless they were selling popcorn at lunch time but otherwise they never existed and we were never aware of their circumstances so understanding was lacking.
I believe a lot of teachers classify students who are just a little bit harder to handle as disabled or problem children so there is some sort of reason behind the way they are acting rather than the idea that the teacher may not be doing everything in their ability to assist the student. I remember reading an article called Naughty by nature which talked a lot about African American boys and the perceived notion that black boys are just naturally more naughty than other students and teachers have to be harsher on them to help them out. I believe a lot of teachers classify most of the these African American boys ADD or ADHD positive so that they are exempt from the blame of their unsuccessful outcome.
I have a cousin who was diagnosed with Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) when he was small. It is one of the most common childhood disorders and can continue through adulthood. Symptoms include “difficulty staying focused […], difficulty controlling behavior, and hyperactivity” (NIMH). Only his parents and his mother’s sisters, including my mom, knew he had it. I never knew about it until a year ago. When growing up, my siblings did see that as a child my cousin was a little “trouble-maker.” We didn’t think much of it. After all, he was a little kid and he soon began to mature and act like any other teenager. When he was a boy the doctor recommended my aunt to give him medications, but my aunt felt that the medications just made him more hyperactive. She also didn’t want him to receive any special education because she didn’t want other people and himself to be stigmatized by the label she felt he would receive. People with ADHD are defined “successful” if they are able to do well in school and lead productive lives (NIMH). Although my cousin never did well in school, I argue that my aunt’s treatment to recovery to make ADHD a small and hidden part of his life was the best treatment for him. The stigma’s attached with mental disorders would affect his life and the big blur there is between how much his environment and the disorder play in his life could have led to the wrong treatment or report of progress.
His life would have been affected negatively if people, besides certain family, knew he had ADHD. Since mental disorders come with many stigmas and misconceptions, society does not know how to deal well with such delicate matters. Because of this my aunt was afraid that people would see him as “slow” or “dumb;” both which have negative meanings in our society. For example, to be honest, I think me and my siblings would have seeing him differently. I would have attributed the disorder to many of his behaviors as I do now that I know he has it. I try to avoid it, but I question if any of his actions, his unsuccess in school, and or personality has anything to do with ADHD. I, a close family member, am uncertain of how to think of his disorder. My aunt did right at making the disorder only a small part of his life because I believe it could have affected the way he also views himself. Not being labeled, has avoided him feeling abnormal in school, and thus others and himself have not lowered his expectations. He puts the same effort in school and in his social life as others. When he has trouble in school, he asks for help like any other person who has trouble with their studies and he tries his best even if he has trouble in school.
However, he is “successful” in his social life (he has many friends), but has been unsuccessful in school. He has trouble focusing in school, which makes me and my mother wonder if maybe receiving special education would have helped him. I know, he tries his best, but he finds it really hard to concentrate to do his homework and to focus in school. For as long as we’ve known him, he doesn’t do as well as many other students do. Some of the symptoms of ADHD are the following: People with ADHD are “easily distracted, miss detail […] frequently switch from one activity to another, “have difficulty focusing on one thing,” “become bored with a task after only a few minutes” (NIMH). All of these symptoms are related to some of his troubles in school which makes me wonder if maybe he did need help at finding studying strategies.
However, there is no way of knowing if his behavior in school is related to his disorder. His environment could also play a role in his school troubles. His dad was an alcoholic for many years of his life, which very much lowered his self-esteem. My brother says, “a father is a very important role model for a men.” It was for my cousin as well. My cousin told me how his dad’s behavior has affected the way he does in school and life. In addition to this, although there is a big controversy in why, Latino youth and African American American’s tend to do dropout of schools at a higher rate than other races and ethnicities. He goes to a Latino populated school and does not receive the best quality of education. If both of these examples play a major role in his school life, then it is hard to tell how much each his environment and his disorder affected his “success” in school. Ultimately, attributing his behavior in school to ADHD could have led to ignoring environmental issues and wrong report of progress of recovery if he would have received special education treatment.
Therefore, I agree with his mother that the best treatment for him was to make the disorder a small and hidden part of his life. The cons of receiving a treatment out-weight the pros. Yes, he has not done well in school and could have had troubles in school related to the disorder. However, he is very “successful” in other aspects of his life. In addition to this, my cousin could have also been affected in school by his environment; his dad’s alcoholism and his school environment. Even though he struggles in school, he has received help in school, like any other person who has trouble focusing in school without being labeled as a person with ADHD. Labeling people with mental disorders sometimes negatively affects the way we perceive the person and the way the person with the disorder perceives himself. The consequences of this is that this would to some extent lead to ADHD defining him instead of ADHD only being a small part of his life. Nevertheless, each mental disorder and each individual with a mental disorder is different. In my cousin’s case the best treatment for recovery was no treatment at all.
Also, I think that, although people can be born with certain disabilities, the society plays a huge role in making them feel different, excluded, or inadequate. For instance, a student who has difficulty reading is made to feel crappy every time they read aloud to the classroom. But how often do we actually need to do that in real life? And how does this become a measure for other aspects of them? It doesn’t mean that this person cannot be a great musician, leader, or student in other aspects. But in some ways, it still brings down a person’s self esteem. In a classroom structure that didn’t focus so much on reading aloud, this student could feel very different. So therefore, I think the environment plays a huge role.
And everyone should check out this short speech by Mia Mingus! A queer, disabled, Korean adoptee activist! http://community.livejournal.com/micscorner/4252.html SOOOO GOOD!
I always thought that disability is more of a concrete characteristic, but now I think disability can sometimes be a socially constructed way of classifying people. I remember when I transferred into a school in Korea, there was a student in my class who had a mental disability. The teacher never mentioned his condition so we did not know what kind of disability he had. All I knew was that his actions were random, his speech was poor, and according to what the other students told me, he had some kind of a mental problem. I remember everyone always made fun of him and called him a “retard,” and disliked sitting next to him. Once, during recess, he supposedly smeared poop all over his chair, causing the whole class to become disgusted with him. He got in trouble for it, but I’m not sure what actually happened because I did not personally witness the incident. Thinking back, I wonder if he would have been treated better if the classroom had a more supportive atmosphere socially and educationally. I don’t remember if he was obligated to do any of the homework or participate in class, but I do remember how his existence was ignored. Now, I wonder to what degree he was disabled. I wonder if he was given the proper educational and social support in class, would he have been able to participate in class as well? In other words, I wonder if labeling him a “retard” limited his capabilities. I did not stay in Korea long enough to know him, but it really boggles my mind whether his capabilities was nonexistent or that the label and the mistreatment he received actually caused his capabilities to seem nonexistent.
To me, the term "disability" is a socially constructed label for a concrete physical/mental characteristic. The word "disability" gives a distinct flavor to this characteristic, one that suggests that the person affected has lost his or her ability to do a certain task such as learning, walking, etc... Unfortunately one side effect of this labeling is that it's very black-and-white: either the individual has the ability or does not. There's very little middle ground, with this understanding of the physical/mental characteristic, for each person's individual nuances and ways of overcoming the existing barriers of the characteristic. So in that sense, I think that whoever coined the word "disability" originally intended to refer a physical/mental characteristic, but it's difficult to argue that the term is entirely innocent since it has been impregnated with various other socially constructed meanings.
A friend of mine last semester got into a terrible accident. She got off her bus, and in the process, was hit multiple times by a biker, a car, and then the actual bus in a horrible domino-effect incident. She wound up in the hospital and with a temporarily paralyzed right arm, from the shoulder down to the hand. This happened a few weeks before finals, and though she was given the option to withdraw for the semester, decided that she wanted to finish her classes. So, she became a part of DSP (The Disabled Students' Program), and began looking for scribes (other students to do the writing portion of her finals for her, while she dictates to them during the exam) as well as emailing her professors to ask about alternative final times and the DSP scribe program. Most of her professors were understanding and accommodating. However, one of them was particularly difficult and told her she should just withdraw from the class if she couldn't take the final herself and take the course again next year. He didn't want to deal with coordinating a separate final time and scribe option, and would rather have had her waste an entire semester's worth of work and effort and receive the mark of withdrawal on her transcript. His inflexibility gave her so much added stress and difficulty on top of the serious physical repercussions of her accident, scrambling to find scribes, and general finals stress from a heavy courseload. The temporary nature of her disability gave a shocking and disappointing view into the experiences others may encounter that do not have the benefit of knowing that they will someday have that label removed.
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
To classify someone as disabled has been something has been construed by society, yet I still believe that it has been based on a concrete physical/mental characteristic. The terms has been solidified in recent times to classify those individual with disability into groups that can receive special attention. Specific guidelines were constructed in order to have these individuals receive aid and which ones should not. Thus I see no problem with the term being used as long as it is being utilized to help those that have a disability. I did have a roommate for a semester who was in a wheel chair. His disability required that he have an attendant sleep overnight as he was incapable of turning sides overnight. He also required that certain food be cut for him and such. Being his roommate I helped him go about his everyday life, which made me realize the difficulties they encounter that other individuals do not. In elementary I had a fellow classmate who was missing an arm, yet he seemed to be much better at sports than most of our class. Yet I have never noticed no one be treated unfairly due to certain disabilities.
Whether people have a physical or mental disability, they always have to accommodate and compromise. There are people who will never know what it feels like to walk or pedal with their legs and there are people who will always have to work harder in school/work because of a mental disability. For them, what we consider the simpler things in life all become quite complex. I think there needs to be more awareness of issues regarding disabilities so we can remove stereotypes and normalize disability. I hope that one day we, as a society, can realize that even people with disabilities are normal human beings; they have feelings, dreams, and aspirations just like everyone else and they shouldn't be judged because of a physical/mental disablement.