Sunday, April 10, 2016

Citizenship in School: Reconceptualizing Down Syndrome by: Christopher Kliewer

     In the beginning of Kliewer's piece, he introduces a young man named Jason Kingsley who describes the challenges of living with Down Syndrome. Kingsley states that people are knowledgeable of the fact that people with disabilities are able to learn and endeavor a full, rich life. On the other hand, the challenge is to eliminate the negative stigma towards people with developmental disabilities, get rid of the stereotypes, and break the barriers for people with disabilities. Kingsley ponders  "how do we erase those negative attitudes [when] people without disabilities are judging us?"

     After reading Kingsley's question, I could not help but stop and pause. I completely understand where Kingsley is coming from, since I too face this challenge. When I entered into the third grade, I began having a difficult time in school especially when it came to grasping the concepts of mathematics. I used to spend hours at the table erasing problem after problem and eventually ending up in tears, since I could not figure out the answer and was fearful of receiving a "bad grade." As I continued my elementary schooling, I still struggled in mathematics to the point where my parents decided to have me tested so I could receive "extra help." As I entered middle school, course work stared to become increasingly difficult and made me become extremely anxious. It turned out via the testing results that I had a slight learning disability, causing me to take a longer time to process information and concepts I was learning. I was able to get help from my teachers and was offered extended time on tests and quizzes usually. In my middle school, the grades were divided into two different teams of teachers. One was known as the seventh or eighth grade team (depending on your grade) and the other was known as the bridge team (who taught both grades). I was apart of the bridge team for both seventh and eighth grade, and absolutely loved my teachers due to their unconditional support. On the other hand, I was always told by my classmates (some of which whom I thought were close friends) that the bridge team was known as the "stupid team" and that you were placed on that team since you were not advanced or qualified to be apart of the seventh or eighth grade teams. This statement always bothered me, as well as other students who were apart of the bridge team now contemplating the concept of themselves not being "good enough." Just because I was apart of this separate team of different teachers and usually took more time than the average student to complete and assignment does not make me "stupid," which I have come to the conclusion of now. As a young middle school student, that acknowledgment was hard believe at the time. When my teachers found out about this association being rumored throughout the school, they assured me and other team classmates that this was no the case at all, and our grades and awards that were achieved proved a point. As I transitioned into high school, I was able to work with a resource teacher through my four years who helped me to reach graduation tremendously. To this day, there are no words to describe how appreciative I am of her help and support. Even though I was apart of the academic support center in high school, I was able to achieve high and excelsior honor rolls, receive stellar grades, was awarded numerous awards (including a scholar ship), and graduate with the commitment of attending college in the fall. Still, students in my high school teased and joked around with each other, making comments about how academic support center was for "stupid" students and that they got the easy way out. All I can say is: how dare they. If they only knew what it was like to live your life with a disability.

    Kliewer's observation of Shayne Robbins' classroom was really inspiring for me to read, since she understood that not all children learn the same way. I love her quote, "So what, if you don't fit exactly what you're supposed to? You know, it's not like I fit many people's idea of what a teacher's supposed to be like." Kliewer continues to build on this point by going on to say that Shayne "recognized a child's nonconformity as natural human diversity; a source of strength that could be supported by the school community in order that it add a unique and valuable dimension to that community."  This point I feel is exactly right. These students just need that extract help or support system to instill their academic ability and can benefit others, whether its fellow students or even teachers, to learn from them.   

 -Questions/Comments/Points to Share:

  Recently while scrolling through my Facebook feed, I came across this open letter written by a young women who had dedicated her life to working with children diagnosed with autism. I feel that her message which she conveys throughout the letter connects with Robbins and Judith Snows' ideology. I encourage you to check it out.

1 comment:

  1. Whoa I love the personal connection you had with the article! I understand where you are coming from as well there were two different math groups in my high school. A lot of the people made the same comments like "Oh you're in the dumb groups" ext. But still I learned the material and still graduated of course the words do hurt but, everyone work and learn at different paces. Again love the connection you made!