November 20, 2016
Citizenship in school: Reconceptualizing Down Syndrome
by: Christopher Kliewer
This article by Kliewer discusses how the special education systems work in most schools across the country today. He talks about the way to be successful in life is to form relationships with others in the community and this article specifically talks about Down syndrome children in the classroom. He states, "Such acceptance is the aim when children with Down syndrome join their nondisabled peers in classrooms, and many schools and individual teachers have entered into this effort, which seeks and finds community value in all children." (74) One of the few teachers that use a very different approach is Shayne Robbin. Her work with children who are Down syndrome is a very different approach of how children with special needs can be integrated with non special needs students and what they may contribute and be valued as an important part of her class. She uses the strengths of each student to develop lessons that appeal to them. She believes you should not single out the student with the disability but instead incorporate his or her needs with the needs of every student. Kliewer focuses on ways schools should avoid isolating children with Down syndrome in a different classroom. Students with disabilities should not be educated differently. Children with special needs have to be nurtured and given additional attention but also when they learn in a mainstream environment, students receive the same education and learn from each other. This reminds me of something Kozol said, "Clumping so many people, all with the same symptoms and same problems, in one crowded place with nothin' they can grow on? Our children start to mourn themselves before their time." (Kozol, 11) And also in last weeks articles, Jeannie Oakes talked about tracking in schools. She stated, "School professionals and parents oppose tracking because they believe it locks most students into classes where they are stereotyped as "less able," and where they have fewer opportunities to learn." (Oakes, 178) Both Kozol and Oakes believe that putting less abled students together will make them believe they are less abled and not able to be what they want or who they are. Segregating children because of their disabilities does not inspire them to become successful.
While reading this weeks article, it brought back many memories from my own family. My father's sister was Down syndrome born in 1942. She was 3 years older than my dad but her mental state remained that of an 8-10 year old. Her name was Marjorie and she attended elementary school and was put in a special ed classroom for all her years of schooling. When she reached a certain age, she was moved to the junior high and again placed into the special ed classroom. She remained there until she aged out. I think she was approximately 18 and never made it to high school. She was able to read and write in cursive. She could do simple math but did not go beyond a 3rd grade level or so. She did not have any of the opportunities described in this article. When she left school, she stayed home for the next year or so. Her father died shortly after, and because he was their only remaining parent, my dad and Marjorie went to live with their older sister. At this time, Marjorie went to "work" at the Fogarty Center several days a week. This was a place that welcomed people with developmental disabilities and made them productive members of the community. They would make things or put things together that would be sold. They would be paid for each item they completed. I remember growing up how important it was to Marjorie to show us her paycheck. Usually she would make $3 -$15 a week depending on what they were working on. But the amount didn't matter to her as the concept of money meant nothing, she was just so proud of her paycheck. She did this for many years until her retirement. She died approx 20 years ago. I think of how much she was loved and well taken care of but her education was not something to be proud of. She was not given the opportunity to be her best.
the little girl in this video talks about being down syndrome and its not scary at all
Don't Limit Me!! is a powerful story of Megan