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Wednesday, January 02, 2013

My Daughter Kerry Advocates for the Disabled, PT. 2


A while ago, I composed a speech for advocacy for the disabled, listing several grievances about how people with “disabilities” are treated in society, “special ed” programs, etc. I did not go into too much detail about the “vocational” program I attended, and so now I am writing this essay about what I saw in that building.
            While I knew I wanted to pursue the Army or firefighting, I decided to enroll in this new “vocational” program, assuming that my tasks would fall to mostly helping out with the low-functioning classes-that was what I was so informed. I was also informed that the “vocational” program had moved from the main high school building into a smaller building nearby that had for a while housed the middle school students but didn’t work out for them. I assumed that it would consist of the “grad” students and maybe the high school students and that we would, for the most part be helping out with other classes, given career preparation skills, possibly internships at sports centers, day cares, fire stations, etc. This ended up being the biggest mistake I have ever made. I entered this so-called “vocational” building to find that they had moved all the nonverbal, low-functioning and remediation students into it, and put the “grad” students in with them. I truly regret not just collecting my diploma and enrolling in the Fire Academy or going to an Army recruiter that first day. The building was extremely small and cramped; it stank, and they NEVER cleaned it. Several of the teachers were snappish and rude, and had superior, know-it-all manners. It became apparent right away that they would NOT be encouraging or supportive in any way for our future. We were taken to grocery stores to perform “internships”, i.e. unpaid labor there. We were expected to do rudimentary first-grade level work. If I tried to speak up, they would yell at me to shut up and do my school work. All the books in the “library” were at a fourth grade or below reading level. (I entered the first grade reading at a fifth grade level.) In no time at all, the teachers were targeting especially me. Not just because I was definitely one of the more outspoken students; but because I was, hands down, the most “capable” in the whole building. I was borderline “neurotypical.” I was, as far as society was concerned, everything I was NOT supposed to be. I wanted to enlist in the Army with a backup plan for firefighting, instead of being content with bagging groceries for a living. I knew that I was lesbian and attracted to other women, instead of being asexual. I was clean and cared about my appearance. I was athletic and coordinated. I-GASP!-drove. I knew that I, no question, intimidated the teachers, with their strict low expectations and stereotypes for “disabled” people. This is why they had it out especially for me. One instance would be right before the winter break. A teacher asked me to write a paper on my holiday of Yule, or the Midwinter Solstice. She told me that I only needed to make it three pages long-and then pointed out that an ordinary college level paper would require several more pages and extensive research. When I offered to do a regular college-level paper for her, she stared and me and snapped, “No…I know you CANNOT do that.” No. That is not it. The truth is, she knew I COULD do it. She was fearful that I would bring her back a perfect, detailed, college-level paper, and completely dumb down her and the rest of these rigid, holier-than-thou teachers.
            After the new year, they set up “Fun Fridays” for the students who had had “good behavior” and gotten no “strikes” during the week. Students would get to choose from several different activities to partake in on Friday afternoons. The “grad” student were expected to partake as well-sitting quietly in the classroom with our Ipods, not bothering anyone, was “not an option.” Students who had made the slightest slip-up during the week, however, were sent to “Focus Fridays,” in a separate room where they were expected to complete worksheet after worksheet on proper behavior until the end of the day. One day, they decided to send me to “Focus Friday” for no apparent reason. They claimed that I had been “teasing” another student. This I had no recollection of. When I asked them to please refresh my memory, I was simply met with blank stares and “Well…uh…you did.” What they were doing was trying to make me feel dumbed down, and assert themselves over the big, bad, “most capable, borderline-neurotypical” student that they so feared.
            That was the message at this building. Don’t ask questions. Be quiet. Sink into oblivion. This was not a “vocational” building-this was a place set up to intentionally dumb us down, make us feel degraded and humiliated, and show that “disabled” people have NO place in society. There was nothing “vocational” about this building. I am hoping that others can see my side of the story. It, frankly, makes me angry that I need to do this. This is a sad truth, that society still looks at any and all “disabled” people this way. This is no different than the way a person of mixed European and Native American blood would have been treated a hundred years ago-no differently than if they had been a full-blooded Native American. Society obviously has not been educated to our needs, thoughts, and feelings-many obviously bhow people with “disabilities” are treated in society, “special ed” programs, etc. I did not go into too much detail about the “vocational” program I attended, and so now I am writing this essay about what I saw in that building.
            While I knew I wanted to pursue the Army or firefighting, I decided to enroll in this new “vocational” program, assuming that my tasks would fall to mostly helping out with the low-functioning classes-that was what I was so informed. I was also informed that the “vocational” program had moved from the main high school building into a smaller building nearby that had for a while housed the middle school students but didn’t work out for them. I assumed that it would consist of the “grad” students and maybe the high school students and that we would, for the most part be helping out with other classes, given career preparation skills, possibly internships at sports centers, day cares, fire stations, etc. This ended up being the biggest mistake I have ever made. I entered this so-called “vocational” building to find that they had moved all the nonverbal, low-functioning and remediation students into it, and put the “grad” students in with them. I truly regret not just collecting my diploma and enrolling in the Fire Academy or going to an Army recruiter that first day. The building was extremely small and cramped; it stank, and they NEVER cleaned it. Several of the teachers were snappish and rude, and had superior, know-it-all manners. It became apparent right away that they would NOT be encouraging or supportive in any way for our future. We were taken to grocery stores to perform “internships”, i.e. unpaid labor there. We were expected to do rudimentary first-grade level work. If I tried to speak up, they would yell at me to shut up and do my school work. All the books in the “library” were at a fourth grade or below reading level. (I entered the first grade reading at a fifth grade level.) In no time at all, the teachers were targeting especially me. Not just because I was definitely one of the more outspoken students; but because I was, hands down, the most “capable” in the whole building. I was borderline “neurotypical.” I was, as far as society was concerned, everything I was NOT supposed to be. I wanted to enlist in the Army with a backup plan for firefighting, instead of being content with bagging groceries for a living. I knew that I was lesbian and attracted to other women, instead of being asexual. I was clean and cared about my appearance. I was athletic and coordinated. I-GASP!-drove. I knew that I, no question, intimidated the teachers, with their strict low expectations and stereotypes for “disabled” people. This is why they had it out especially for me. One instance would be right before the winter break. A teacher asked me to write a paper on my holiday of Yule, or the Midwinter Solstice. She told me that I only needed to make it three pages long-and then pointed out that an ordinary college level paper would require several more pages and extensive research. When I offered to do a regular college-level paper for her, she stared and me and snapped, “No…I know you CANNOT do that.” No. That is not it. The truth is, she knew I COULD do it. She was fearful that I would bring her back a perfect, detailed, college-level paper, and completely dumb down her and the rest of these rigid, holier-than-thou teachers.
            After the new year, they set up “Fun Fridays” for the students who had had “good behavior” and gotten no “strikes” during the week. Students would get to choose from several different activities to partake in on Friday afternoons. The “grad” student were expected to partake as well-sitting quietly in the classroom with our Ipods, not bothering anyone, was “not an option.” Students who had made the slightest slip-up during the week, however, were sent to “Focus Fridays,” in a separate room where they were expected to complete worksheet after worksheet on proper behavior until the end of the day. One day, they decided to send me to “Focus Friday” for no apparent reason. They claimed that I had been “teasing” another student. This I had no recollection of. When I asked them to please refresh my memory, I was simply met with blank stares and “Well…uh…you did.” What they were doing was trying to make me feel dumbed down, and assert themselves over the big, bad, “most capable, borderline-neurotypical” student that they so feared.
            That was the message at this building. Don’t ask questions. Be quiet. Sink into oblivion. This was not a “vocational” building-this was a place set up to intentionally dumb us down, make us feel degraded and humiliated, and show that “disabled” people have NO place in society. There was nothing “vocational” about this building. I am hoping that others can see my side of the story. It, frankly, makes me angry that I need to do this. This is a sad truth, that society still looks at any and all “disabled” people this way. This is no different than the way a person of mixed European and Native American blood would have been treated a hundred years ago-no differently than if they had been a full-blooded Native American. Society obviously has not been educated to our needs, thoughts, and feelings-many obviously be “vocational” program I attended, and so now I am writing this essay about what I saw in that building.
            While I knew I wanted to pursue the Army or firefighting, I decided to enroll in this new “vocational” program, assuming that my tasks would fall to mostly helping out with the low-functioning classes-that was what I was so informed. I was also informed that the “vocational” program had moved from the main high school building into a smaller building nearby that had for a while housed the middle school students but didn’t work out for them. I assumed that it would consist of the “grad” students and maybe the high school students and that we would, for the most part be helping out with other classes, given career preparation skills, possibly internships at sports centers, day cares, fire stations, etc. This ended up being the biggest mistake I have ever made. I entered this so-called “vocational” building to find that they had moved all the nonverbal, low-functioning and remediation students into it, and put the “grad” students in with them. I truly regret not just collecting my diploma and enrolling in the Fire Academy or going to an Army recruiter that first day. The building was extremely small and cramped; it stank, and they NEVER cleaned it. Several of the teachers were snappish and rude, and had superior, know-it-all manners. It became apparent right away that they would NOT be encouraging or supportive in any way for our future. We were taken to grocery stores to perform “internships”, i.e. unpaid labor there. We were expected to do rudimentary first-grade level work. If I tried to speak up, they would yell at me to shut up and do my school work. All the books in the “library” were at a fourth grade or below reading level. (I entered the first grade reading at a fifth grade level.) In no time at all, the teachers were targeting especially me. Not just because I was definitely one of the more outspoken students; but because I was, hands down, the most “capable” in the whole building. I was borderline “neurotypical.” I was, as far as society was concerned, everything I was NOT supposed to be. I wanted to enlist in the Army with a backup plan for firefighting, instead of being content with bagging groceries for a living. I knew that I was lesbian and attracted to other women, instead of being asexual. I was clean and cared about my appearance. I was athletic and coordinated. I-GASP!-drove. I knew that I, no question, intimidated the teachers, with their strict low expectations and stereotypes for “disabled” people. This is why they had it out especially for me. One instance would be right before the winter break. A teacher asked me to write a paper on my holiday of Yule, or the Midwinter Solstice. She told me that I only needed to make it three pages long-and then pointed out that an ordinary college level paper would require several more pages and extensive research. When I offered to do a regular college-level paper for her, she stared and me and snapped, “No…I know you CANNOT do that.” No. That is not it. The truth is, she knew I COULD do it. She was fearful that I would bring her back a perfect, detailed, college-level paper, and completely dumb down her and the rest of these rigid, holier-than-thou teachers.
            After the new year, they set up “Fun Fridays” for the students who had had “good behavior” and gotten no “strikes” during the week. Students would get to choose from several different activities to partake in on Friday afternoons. The “grad” student were expected to partake as well-sitting quietly in the classroom with our Ipods, not bothering anyone, was “not an option.” Students who had made the slightest slip-up during the week, however, were sent to “Focus Fridays,” in a separate room where they were expected to complete worksheet after worksheet on proper behavior until the end of the day. One day, they decided to send me to “Focus Friday” for no apparent reason. They claimed that I had been “teasing” another student. This I had no recollection of. When I asked them to please refresh my memory, I was simply met with blank stares and “Well…uh…you did.” What they were doing was trying to make me feel dumbed down, and assert themselves over the big, bad, “most capable, borderline-neurotypical” student that they so feared.
            That was the message at this building. Don’t ask questions. Be quiet. Sink into oblivion. This was not a “vocational” building-this was a place set up to intentionally dumb us down, make us feel degraded and humiliated, and show that “disabled” people have NO place in society. There was nothing “vocational” about this building. I am hoping that others can see my side of the story. It, frankly, makes me angry that I need to do this. This is a sad truth, that society still looks at any and all “disabled” people this way. This is no different than the way a person of mixed European and Native American blood would have been treated a hundred years ago-no differently than if they had been a full-blooded Native American. Society obviously has not been educated to our needs, thoughts, and feelings-many obviously b
            While I knew I wanted to pursue the Army or firefighting, I decided to enroll in this new “vocational” program, assuming that my tasks would fall to mostly helping out with the low-functioning classes-that was what I was so informed. I was also informed that the “vocational” program had moved from the main high school building into a smaller building nearby that had for a while housed the middle school students but didn’t work out for them. I assumed that it would consist of the “grad” students and maybe the high school students and that we would, for the most part be helping out with other classes, given career preparation skills, possibly internships at sports centers, day cares, fire stations, etc. This ended up being the biggest mistake I have ever made. I entered this so-called “vocational” building to find that they had moved all the nonverbal, low-functioning and remediation students into it, and put the “grad” students in with them. I truly regret not just collecting my diploma and enrolling in the Fire Academy or going to an Army recruiter that first day. The building was extremely small and cramped; it stank, and they NEVER cleaned it. Several of the teachers were snappish and rude, and had superior, know-it-all manners. It became apparent right away that they would NOT be encouraging or supportive in any way for our future. We were taken to grocery stores to perform “internships”, i.e. unpaid labor there. We were expected to do rudimentary first-grade level work. If I tried to speak up, they would yell at me to shut up and do my school work. All the books in the “library” were at a fourth grade or below reading level. (I entered the first grade reading at a fifth grade level.) In no time at all, the teachers were targeting especially me. Not just because I was definitely one of the more outspoken students; but because I was, hands down, the most “capable” in the whole building. I was borderline “neurotypical.” I was, as far as society was concerned, everything I was NOT supposed to be. I wanted to enlist in the Army with a backup plan for firefighting, instead of being content with bagging groceries for a living. I knew that I was lesbian and attracted to other women, instead of being asexual. I was clean and cared about my appearance. I was athletic and coordinated. I-GASP!-drove. I knew that I, no question, intimidated the teachers, with their strict low expectations and stereotypes for “disabled” people. This is why they had it out especially for me. One instance would be right before the winter break. A teacher asked me to write a paper on my holiday of Yule, or the Midwinter Solstice. She told me that I only needed to make it three pages long-and then pointed out that an ordinary college level paper would require several more pages and extensive research. When I offered to do a regular college-level paper for her, she stared and me and snapped, “No…I know you CANNOT do that.” No. That is not it. The truth is, she knew I COULD do it. She was fearful that I would bring her back a perfect, detailed, college-level paper, and completely dumb down her and the rest of these rigid, holier-than-thou teachers.
            After the new year, they set up “Fun Fridays” for the students who had had “good behavior” and gotten no “strikes” during the week. Students would get to choose from several different activities to partake in on Friday afternoons. The “grad” student were expected to partake as well-sitting quietly in the classroom with our Ipods, not bothering anyone, was “not an option.” Students who had made the slightest slip-up during the week, however, were sent to “Focus Fridays,” in a separate room where they were expected to complete worksheet after worksheet on proper behavior until the end of the day. One day, they decided to send me to “Focus Friday” for no apparent reason. They claimed that I had been “teasing” another student. This I had no recollection of. When I asked them to please refresh my memory, I was simply met with blank stares and “Well…uh…you did.” What they were doing was trying to make me feel dumbed down, and assert themselves over the big, bad, “most capable, borderline-neurotypical” student that they so feared.
            That was the message at this building. Don’t ask questions. Be quiet. Sink into oblivion. This was not a “vocational” building-this was a place set up to intentionally dumb us down, make us feel degraded and humiliated, and show that “disabled” people have NO place in society. There was nothing “vocational” about this building. I am hoping that others can see my side of the story. It, frankly, makes me angry that I need to do this. This is a sad truth, that society still looks at any and all “disabled” people this way. This is no different than the way a person of mixed European and Native American blood would have been treated a hundred years ago-no differently than if they had been a full-blooded Native American. Society obviously has not been educated to our needs, thoughts, and feelings-many obviously believe we don’t have any at all. Thank you if you have read this far. We need to stand up.

--Kerry Perdy

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