New Ways of Thinking and Revolutionary Common Sense

Disability Is Natural Books and Media

How often do we presume a child or adult with a disability is incapable, incompetent, unable to learn, and so forth? Have we considered that perhaps the person has had no exposure to or experience with the situation?

“Sara” talked to me about her son with a disability, “Tommy,” describing how far behind he was compared to his brother and other children (without disabilities). During our conversation, it became apparent that Tommy had not had the same opportunities as his brother or other children. Because Tommy spent his life in segregated, self-contained environments at school and in special sports activities, he did not have exposure to and experience with education in a general ed classroom, as well as ordinary age-appropriate and inclusive community, social, or recreational activities. Tommy hadn’t learned how to: get along in the real world, make decisions, be responsible, make friends, be safe, or a myriad of other typical skills that are routine for children without disabilities.

This lack of exposure and experience during Tommy’s childhood will, in general, cause him to be ill-equipped for a successful life as an adult. He will have learned only how to survive in self-contained, segregated environments. And instead of looking at what we did or didn’t do, we (Tommy’s family members, teachers, professionals, and/or others in his life) effectively “blame the victim:” Tommy can’t (do-this-or-that) because he has (type of disability). Click here to continue.

Exposure and Experience

He displayed the physical characteristics of Down syndrome so just one look at his face and everyone knew there was no point in sending the boy to school. It’s true he was a slow learner but that might have been because nobody ever tried to teach him anything.

Colin Cotterill

in Disco for the Departed