Sunday, May 01, 2016

Where Awareness and Acceptance End- Inclusion Illusion

I was reading an article today, and nerves sang. The article was "Let's Be Blunt: The Illusion of Inclusion." The message was one we face: kids with special needs not only don't count, but are openly despised by the general population.

The truth of inclusion is that it doesn't really exist- and hence it didn't work for us. Joey is in a special school- and we wait to find out if he is going to be wait listed for the only high school program that can accommodate him next year that we know of (and what happens if he is wait-listed? Where will he go? How will he get an education, and access his RIGHTS?)

Even the "inclusion classroom"- which is really a special-needs classroom where kids just require less support or can be pulled out of the classroom for services they need- didn't work for Andy, and we had to pull him from school altogether. The attitude of "you are taking resources from NORMAL kids!" is so prevalent and ingrained, we don't do any real inclusion. My kid is seen as a project, a nuisance, a threat, a drain, an "inspiration", an idiot, a distraction... instead of as a member of the community, a child, a human being.

That ingraining comes out in so many ways, from so many directions. People think nothing of insulting your kid casually, and then getting mad at you when you try to make it stop. They tell you to leave spaces because they think you have no right to be there, to exist as you are. They judge you, often openly and loudly, in public places. That people think this is OK is just insane. Cruel. Heartless.

I will never forget sitting in the rows of parents at the spelling bee. Third grade. Joey introduced himself with his typical flamboyance and joy. They laughed; not with him, but clearly and explicitly at him. The attitude was clear, and voiced in plain English: oh how cute, they let a retarded kid up there. Isn't that sweet. Poor kid, making a fool of himself, why do they do that? The assumption of his intelligence- that he lacked it and didn't really deserve to be on that stage- so clear. They didn't notice me there, saying nothing. I'm a big lady, but this isn't unusual. I am often the Invisible Person. I assume these other people knew each other, and they certainly did not know who I was. I assume they weren't deliberately cruel and mean.

By the end of the bee, they were out of their chairs, cheering for him. If the last round of a spelling bee worked like all the other rounds, he would have won- but you have to spell an extra word. And when he missed it, he got flustered and decided to bow out. He deliberately mis-spelled the next word, when the other two contestants were brought back, even though they had mis-spelled their words and he had spelled his correctly in the next-to-last round. Changing the rules confused him, made him frustrated and angry, and he was done. He bowed out. But he had shown those idiots in the crowd that their assumptions about the special needs kid not deserving to be on that stage were totally wrong.

They knew he had won that spelling bee.

I often wonder if they took the lesson to heart, or if our society is so ingrained with discrimination against those with differences, those who require different things from society, that they just went back to those comfortable old assumptions. The ones supported by society, by media, by comedians, by schools, by legislators, by businesses, by politicians, even by the medical establishment(and these links are just examples or information I could dig up on the fly). Did they imagine him as an inspiration porn meme, or did they actually go out and change their attitude? Will they now really include him, and people like him, or did we just make it worse- spread the stigma by counter-example?

Joey is a human being. Andy is a human being. Guess what? So am I. So are you. Let's all start acting like it. We are all in this together, and none of us make it out alive. Treat others as you would wish to be treated, no exceptions. Why is this acceptance thing so hard for everybody? Would you want to be the kid that gets laughed at, left out, segregated, and left behind to rot? Can't we even be inclusive of ourselves?