When writing this post the song lyrics for Today I’m Gonna Try and change The World’ by Johnny Reid is playing through my head. Why? Well, because honestly, I have seen a lot of change in the almost 30 years of my life changes that have changed my outlook on my disability and society’s ideas.
1. When I first understood the social impact of disability I remember the first time I realized my peers saw me as different from them. I was raised the youngest of two daughters (my older sister is able bodied) the reason I tell you that is because I don’t think I understood the social implications of disability and lack of understanding from my peers until I got to mainstream school. The kids I’d grown up with in my neighborhood accepted and frankly accommodated my limited mobility in the name of inclusion. But school was a different setting. School meant a lot of confusion for both the staff and students I was the only student with a disability in the school who also attended mainstream classes.
2. You can’t make others be included despite the interest of the adults in my life to have my peers and classmates include me the reality is that simply doesn’t work. It possibly had the opposite effect, effectively making it harder for my peers to find a way to relate to me. I want to stress this isn’t to say that I was lonely sure I had moments of social isolation, but I always had a close friend or two growing up many of whom are still a part of my life today.
3. Having an educational assistant in high school or beyond is uncool and here’s a solution for those who need one frankly, when you’re a teen and even in college having someone follow you around all day that is viewed by your peers as an authority figure makes social interactions a challenge. A few months ago I was speaking with a friend on this subject and he said when he was in high school, he got creative when seeking the supports he needed. He requested that instead of having an educational assistant help him in the classroom with note taking, that an older peer would. The school actually agreed to have a coop student attend classes with him and fulfill the in-class role and thus it made social integration for him with his peers that much easier. I think it is a neat idea!
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