Tag Archives: disabled students

Recommended Reading for November 17, 2010

Your friendly neighbourhood Anna is out of town at the moment. Please enjoy this recommended reading post from the future.

Lindsay at Autist’s Corner: Doubly Deviant: On Being Queer and Autistic

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: This is a very long, rambly autobiographical post about being bisexual and being autistic: it compares my experiences coming to terms with both of these facts (always knowing about the autism, vs. having to figure out the sexual orientation; and also, doubting the possibility that I could *have* a sexual orientation because I thought autistic people didn’t date or have sex, or even want to do either of those things) with those of Amanda Forest Vivian, who is a lesbian, and autistic, and has written about those things at some length at her own blog. I also discuss the ways being autistic has complicated being gay for me — besides my initial difficulty realizing that what I felt about girls was, in fact, sexual desire, there was also a profound isolation from the larger Gay Community, which I never felt like I could (or would want to) join.

Have we linked to High Functioning yet?

A list of different ways people use the word “high-functioning” about people with developmental disabilities; an attempt to figure out what it actually is supposed to mean.

Interested humans–people with disabilities, staff, family members, allies, and people who are more than one of those things–are invited to share different ways they have heard the term “high-functioning” be used.

Amanda Forest Vivian at I’m Somewhere Else: 12. Bird Brains

The classic example of impaired “social skills” in people with “Asperger’s” is a person who constantly talks about their favorite subject, and doesn’t notice other people’s boredom or discomfort. I will explore this by presenting two people who like to talk differently.

Shiva at Biodiverse Resistance: Call for Papers – * Critical Autism Seminar Day * Tuesday, 18th January 2011 (UK)

Keynote speaker: Anne McGuire* (Department of Sociology and Equity Studies in Education, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), University of Toronto, Canada). Anne’s doctoral research analyses the social significance and productive effects of cultural representations of autism produced and circulated by individuals and collectives engaged in autism advocacy in the contemporary West.

Our aim is for this conference to be as inclusive as possible. We welcome activists, undergraduate and postgraduate students, practitioners and academics to join us.

Melissa Mitchell at Service Dogs: A Way of Life: Book Review: MAKING THE MOVE TO MANAGING YOUR OWN PERSONAL ASSISTANCE SERVICES (PAS): A Toolkit for Youth With Disabilities Transitioning to Adulthood

(includes PDF link to download of book)

This in-depth 69 page guide covers this ins and outs of personal assistants for youth with disabilities utilizing the stories of youth with disabilities to illustrate topics related to utilizing, hiring, and selecting personal assistants. Pages 10-12 talk about Service Dogs and an option for meeting personal care and assistant needs. The section is clear, honest and bringsup many good points people who are new to dogs often don’t realize.

US: National Federation of the Blind: Penn State Discriminates Against Blind Students and Faculty

Baltimore, Maryland (November 12, 2010): The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), the nation’s oldest and largest organization of blind people, announced today that it has filed a complaint with the United States Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, requesting an investigation of Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) for violating the civil rights of blind students and faculty. The NFB filed the complaint because a variety of computer- and technology-based services and Web sites at Penn State are inaccessible to blind students and faculty. Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act requires public state universities to offer equal access to their programs and services.

This is being discussed as well at the Chronicle of Higher Education: Penn State Accused of Discriminating Against Blind Students. Please be aware that the comments are… Well, they’re internet comments in a place that isn’t exactly disability-friendly, although there are many people pointing out that blind students would like to be able to get classroom material as well.

Anyway, I have just realised that I am actually writing this from the past – I always get confused when I travel if I’ve gone forward or backward in time.

Bad Behaviour: Disabled Students and Discipline Disparities

I wrote recently here about the abuse of autistic students in Pennsylvania, and highlighted the fact that abusive ‘discipline’ is distressingly common for disabled students. In the interests of writing a post that for once does not need a content warning, I’m going to refrain from providing details of the kinds of actions that are considered ‘discipline’ in the schools, but I’m sure many of you have encountered stories in the media and some of you have probably experienced abuse in the classroom yourselves.

This is a reflection of a lot of problems with the way society views and treats people with disabilities, and of serious inadequacies in the education system. Teachers who abuse students clearly should not be in the classroom, yet they are, and they are sometimes allowed to remain even after abuse is reported. Teachers who have received no training in working with disabled students shouldn’t be assigned to classrooms with disabled students, yet they are.

But what about the flip side, when students are taken out of the classroom?

A study recently released in Delaware found that disabled students are more likely to be suspended for ‘behaviour problems.’ More specifically, while 20% of the students suspended[1. School suspension, for those not familiar with the concept, is a form of discipline where students are ordered to stay out of school for a set period of time. Students may or may not be allowed to do schoolwork at home.] were disabled, disabled students only make up 14% of the student body. The study questions this disparity, asking why it is that disabled students are at more risk of suspension although there is an established body of law that is designed to specifically provide protections for disabled students, and to limit the circumstances in which they can be suspended.

The article asks, not ‘why are students with disabilities more likely to be suspended,’ but ‘what makes disabled students behave badly?’ I personally think that’s the wrong question. What is ‘bad behaviour’? How is this being defined, and who is defining it? It’s good to see some mandatory accountability in the form of tracking discipline numbers and reporting them, but accountability is only one part of the equation. If districts are not taking action to address the disparities, reporting them doesn’t make that much of a difference.

And are schools adequately identifying disabled students? While there has been more of a push in recent years to identify and intervene when disabilities are observed in the classroom, there tend to be racial and class inequalities when it comes to diagnosis and treatment. Likewise, there are disparities in identification; a teacher may attribute differences in learning and communication styles to disability in a white child, and ‘bad attitude’ in a nonwhite child, for example.

The approach to this particular educational disparity seems to be focused on what ‘makes’ students ‘behave badly’ instead of asking whether teachers are being adequately trained to work with disabled students and asking what ‘bad behaviour’ is and who is defining it. It assumes that everyone should (and can) engage in specific patterns of behaviour and it suggests that ‘abnormal’ behaviour patterns should be punished.

Are students suspended for not using modes of communication familiar to teachers? For needing to stand or pace while learning? For needing a quiet environment for learning, and for becoming upset when one is not provided? For needing orderly and precise schedules? For not completing assignments they don’t understand or find impossible to finish? For attempting to create and maintain personal space? For expressing any number of needs and needing a space where they are accommodated? For tics in the classroom?

When nondisabled people are the ones defining ‘normal’ behaviour and deciding what is bad and worthy of suspension, inevitably you are going to end up with disparities in student discipline. When teachers are not provided with adequate training, when they are dealing with classrooms that have too many students in them, when they are being burdened with a lot of additional work outside the classroom, a tinderbox of circumstances is created and disabled students tend to lose.

Suspension is a serious punishment. Students missing a month or more of school is a serious problem. Until we reframe the way that we talk about classroom behaviour, we’re going to continue missing the heart of the problem.