Wednesday, 22 June 2011

To Integrate Or Not To Integrate, Why Bother Asking, It's Not Like a Parent Has a Choice

I had the good fortune of hearing my dad's voice on the phone the other night.  He's in Olds, AB right now, working hard, far away from home.  He said he came upon an article that he had to share with me, as it made him think of Dayton.

My dad was born hearing impaired.  I had no idea that there is a Deaf Community Culture out there, similar to the Autism Community Cultures we have.  There are many groups out there working hard to bring about Autism Awareness, probably more so in the States than here in Canada.  In the States, they've dedicated the whole month of April towards Autism Awareness!  Well done!  All these communities work on awareness, acceptance and appreciation for diversity.

One particular Autism group comes to mind in respect to searching for, well... RESPECT for diversity - Age of Autism.  Another is Autism Speaks.

There are many, many adults who have been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, who take strong offense at the idea of someone 'fixing' their autism.  They also don't agree with the idea that vaccinations play a roll in triggering the autism spectrum.  Their goal is to be respected and accepted for who they are as individuals and ask others to stop trying to 'fix' them, as they are not 'broken.'  And what is it, may I ask...  that integration in our schools teaches our children?  Does it really teach to embrace diversity, or does it teach the children with 'issues' to conform to the 'norm?'  Does mainstreaming our kiddos teach all children to accept each other for who they are, or is it to try and teach my child to 'pretend' to be 'normal?'  Ugh...  I hate the word normal... 

While talking to my dad, he asked me to substitute the word Deaf for the word Autism, and see whether or not I thought the author's writing relates to what Dayton suffers through in school...  I ask for you to take my dad's advice as well.

In no way am I stating that deafness is the same as having autism, but there are definitely some similarities.  Adults and children on the autism spectrum disorder, often have sensory processing issues (also known as SPD).  Most on the spectrum have what's called an auditory processing problem.  Dayton most certainly does.  When I asked Dayton "hey buddy, what's two plus two," he just looked at me as though he saw a third eye growing out of my forehead.  After many frustrating attempts at having Dayton answer my question, I finally gave up asking my question verbally, but I'm a stubborn woman.  I know full well my son knows the answer and I'm not letting this go.  I grab a piece of paper and write out my query as numbers instead of words...  "Ohhhh..." he says.  "Why didn't you ask me like this before momma?"  Instead of answering me verbally, Dayton wrote the number 4 beside the math question...

The following is quoted from Deaf Culture:  About the Deaf Community:

even well-meaning attempts to integrate deaf people into hearing society may actually imprison them in a zone of silence. Jostled by a crowd but unable to communicate, they are effectively alone. The problem is especially acute in schools, where mainstreaming has led to the decline of residential schools for the disabled and the deaf and the integration of many such students into ordinary public schools. Since deafness is rare, affecting one child in a thousand, deaf students are thinly scattered. As a result, half of all deaf children in public school have either no deaf classmates at all or very few.

"Mainstreaming deaf children in regular public-school programs," the prominent deaf educator Leo Jacobs writes, will produce "a new generation of of educational failures" and "frustrated and unfulfilled adults." Another deaf spokesman, Mervin Garretson, is even harsher. The danger of mainstreaming, he contends, is that def children could be "educationally, vocationally, and emotionally mutilated."

Most classroom teaching is done by speaking.  If my child has auditory processing issues, how can he contribute to the rest of the class?  If he can't follow verbal instruction, how can he possibly learn in a mainstreamed classroom?   How does this affect my babe's self esteem?  "emotionally mutilated." 

There's a reason why I have a picture schedule for Dayton in our main washroom, and believe me, it is not because the drawings add to the decor.  How I wish I could simply tell Dayton "get ready for school buddy."  He wouldn't even know where to begin!!!  I have to give him one instruction at a time in order for him to comply, not because he's defiant, but because he literally CAN'T. Which brings me back to asking why are we so focused on integration and mainstreaming?  Is it not more important to ensure that our children get a quality education by professionals who understand their way of thinking?  I think it's time for the government to step up to the plate and do what's right, not politically correct.

"If you were a droplet of water placed into the ocean, could you pull yourself out or would you simply blend with the waters?"  Pulling yourself out means you're a unique individual, something everyone strides to be once hitting puberty.  That's why we have kids dressing in 'goth,' expressing themselves with make up or trying to start a new 'fad.'  Yet, we demand our children blend into the waters.  They must be 'just like the other children.'  In the same breath, we ask ourselves and others to 'think outside the box.'  Could it be possible that our kiddos are doing exactly that?  Thinking outside that proverbial box?

Consider yourselves hugged,


PS.  Thanks dad for sharing this link with me!!!  

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