"I want to live in a world where we don't have such low expectations of disabled people that we are congratulated for getting out of bed and remembering our own names in the morning. I want to live in a world where we value genuine achievement for disabled people."
Stella Young, TEDxSydney 2014
Why are these such profound statements that they are shared, retweeted, copied and pasted onto blogs? Why do children with disabilities have to prove their desire to communicate with as many words as their peers? Why do they have to communicate effectively with pieces laminated paper and Velcro, a 2 button rocking plate switch, a single message button, or a Yes/No app before anyone helps them achieve comprehensive communication. To talk across all environments, all partners, all activities and; most importantly, to say ANYTHING, even the bad stuff we don't want to hear?
Why is every other Kindergarten student tossed right into the class learning science and social studies, biology and literature while our children with disabilities have to PROVE that they can achieve in these subjects before they are allowed to be exposed to the curriculum and to share their school experience with all of their friends in their neighborhood? At a minimum we should give them a chance to join the party.
Assuming competence should be a given. We shouldn't need to be told to do this. No teacher in regular education meets a child at the door expecting failure and therefore limiting their education. Are we so brainwashed by our training that we can only see the disability? Are we sharing this errant notion with parents so convincingly that they too can see only the disability and not the potential in their own child? I cannot tell you how many times a parent has told me that a well meaning professional has tried to help the family "face the reality" of their child's disability. So deeply wrong. Not to assume competence is simply discrimination based on a diagnosis, a physical or sensory difference.
I'm not saying that some of our friends with disabilities don't need supports. But give them a chance to try before you assume they can't. Assume that they want to interact, make connections, and communicate just like you do. Make sure they have a way to do it too. That's OUR job. That is where the supports come into play, when we are expecting our student to achieve with the others and finding they need a little (maybe even a lot) of support. If we start from a perspective of expecting people to interact like their same age peers then our supports become meaningful and pointed toward real world goals.
If you wouldn't be okay spending your life interacting by handing people picture cards or answering "yes" or "no" as people try to guess your meaning or; ignored and manipulated because you are assumed to have nothing of value to say, you must understand that it's not okay for a non-speaking person either. If we truly believe our children are valuable, intelligent, have something to say and want to make connections, we would never be satisfied until they had a way to do it.
And did I mention.....