New Ways of Thinking and Revolutionary Common Sense

Disability Is Natural Books and Media

Shouldn’t people in the human services system (including special education) be held to the highest standard of humane practices? Is it time to place an embroidered wall-hanging of "Treat others the way you want to be treated," in the office of each and every "helping professional"?

Kathie Snow

A few weeks ago, a neighbor (“Janet”) called, inquiring if my daughter, Emily, could babysit her children. Before putting my daughter on the phone, Janet and I chatted about what was going on in our lives. (As a side note, Janet is a substitute teacher, her husband has his own business, they’re both well-educated, and they recently remodeled their home with the latest in home appliances.) As we talked, Janet began complaining about her oldest son, Robert, a sixth grader:  “Oh, he is so lazy and he’s always trying to take the easy way out!”

“I don’t understand—what do you mean he’s ‘lazy’ and ‘takes the easy way out’,” I asked.

“Well I’ll tell you,” she huffed. “The other day in his band class, he wanted to switch from the saxophone to drums because he thought drums would be easier! See what I mean? He just always wants things to be easy! I told him, ‘No way, Buster! You’re sticking it out with the sax!’ ”

Her comments weren’t out of the ordinary. I’ve heard many parents say similar things about their children, and at one time, I shared a similar attitude. But my work in the disability field, combined with being the parent of two teenagers, one of whom has a disability, has given me a different perspective. So I shared my thoughts with my frustrated neighbor.

Kathie: Janet, do you have a dishwasher?
Janet: Of course!
Kathie: What about a microwave oven, computer, cell phone, washing machine, and dryer?
Janet: Yes, you know I do!
Kathie: Why do you use those, Janet? Isn’t it to make life easier?
Janet: Well, yes, I guess so.
Kathie: So why is it okay for grown-ups to decide to do things or use things that make our lives easier, but it’s not okay for our children to do the same thing?

At that, she sputtered and hemmed and hawed, and then began to rethink her accusation that her son was “lazy” and always wanted to “take the easy way out.” Oh, if changing attitudes in Disability World was this simple!

Across the country, children and adults with disabilities in all environments—in their homes, in schools, at work, and in other places—are in the same boat as Robert: they are held to a higher standard than those who impose the standard.

Children with disabilities, for example . . . 
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The Disability Double Standard