- Our children with disabilities have a lower bar.
- Raise the bar by changing our perspective to see all students with disabilities as individuals who need to be to be met where they are, just like any of our other students. They will rise up past old-thinking expectations and go farther than they otherwise would.
- A disability is a part of who someone is, but not all of who they are.
“It’s so amazing that he cooks!”
We get this a lot. My fiancé, Dan, is totally blind. He also enjoys getting up on the roof to hang Christmas lights and clean the gutters. He uses a chainsaw to break down wood. But his favorite things to do are cook, grill, smoke, and use the deep fryer.
And he is amazing. He is an amazing partner and father. He is an amazing musician, educator, and trainer. However, his blindness does not make him these things and this isn’t a blog about him. It’s about something I’ve also encountered my entire teaching career: our children with disabilities have a lower bar.What if these individuals were not amazing, incredible, inspirational, or whatever because of their disability? Click To Tweet
Raise the Bar: A Little History
My first position was in a cross-categorical unit. I was hired to take 4th grade students who had never been in a regular education classroom and begin to include them with typical peers. These students had spent their entire school day in one room, including specials and recess by themselves. One of the parents told me that the previous teacher had told her that her daughter would never do math. I had another teacher yell at me in the hallway between classes that she didn’t have the words “intervention specialist” tattooed on her forehead and she had no business teaching these kids.
The attitudes I had encountered were shocking. Before I started teaching, I became involved in a few advocacy groups for different disabilities. No matter the disability, there is a common theme you will find: they do not want to have decisions made about them without being involved. In order to be involved, they have to be viewed as capable.
I saw some of these individuals do things that really changed my perspective: individuals with sensory processing disorders planning, presenting, and engaging in large multi-day conferences. Adults and teenagers who were nonverbal, using a variety of augmentative and alternative communication to write poetry and make speeches.[scroll down to keep reading]
Raise the Bar: A Challenge
Consider this: what if these individuals were not amazing, incredible, inspirational, or whatever because of their disability? We can absolutely respect and admire the hard work and perseverance that goes into the activity, however, we should view it through the scope of character traits, not the disability label. In other words, we should be inspired by a talented musician because of the hard work, dedication, and the hours he or she has put in to become that, not because he or she is blind or visually impaired.
At the end of the day, these individuals understand that their disability is a part of who they are, but not all of who they are. When we change our perspective as seeing all students with disabilities as individuals who need to be to be met where they are, just like any of our other students, they will rise up past old-thinking expectations and go farther than they otherwise would.
About Marie McCumber
Marie McCumber is an Elementary School Teacher at the Ohio State School for the Blind. She believes in the capability of all individuals and tries to advocate for this. She loves to be outdoors teaching and with her own family, creating in the kitchen, reading, writing, or relaxing in her hammock.