Tomorrow Is Too Long to Wait for Inclusion

The Real End Game for People on the Autism Spectrum

a chess board with the light pieces blurry in the foreground and the dark pieces focused in the background

By Jess Wilson

A Drug to Improve Social Skills

The big, bold headline in USA Today read, Experimental Drug Gives Hope For Rare Disease, Autism. The sub-heading read Doctors Hope Abaclofen Will Also Improve Socialization Skills In People With Autism.

It went on to describe the success of STX209, or Arbaclofen, in early trials with a small number of patients with Fragile X. The success was most notable in improving social withdrawal in the trial group. Since, according to the article, nearly a third of the population diagnosed with Fragile X also have autism, researchers have high hopes regarding Arbaclofen’s implications for the broader autistic population.

The research is exciting. To call it novel and ground-breaking are not exaggerations. This is big, new, hopeful stuff. But like a lot of exciting, novel, ground-breaking, big, new, hopeful stuff, it comes with questions that need to be answered. The biggest of which, for me, is Is it going to be good for our kids in the long run?

When I read the article, I stopped short at this:

“If an intervention makes progress in helping someone navigate the world on their own terms, that’s good news,” [Ari] Ne’eman says. “But let’s remember that “looking and acting normal” aren’t necessarily the only or best way to do that. … It’s important that we have a meaningful conversation about whether or not we’re focusing on the outcomes that matter for making autistic people happy, instead of focusing on making us appear more non-autistic.”

Hopefully, Arbaclofen does the former. Hopefully, it helps people like my daughter navigate the world more easily ON HER OWN TERMS. Hopefully, it simply mitigates some of her toughest challenges and allows her to still feel as though she is fundamentally who she is. But before we run headlong into embracing any of these revolutionary drugs or ground-breaking therapies, I think we have a responsibility to ask those questions. To, as Ari’s quote implies to me, engage in a meaningful dialogue about the cost to our kids. Because, like it or not, there’s always a cost.

Is Repetitive Behavior Really Hamful?

One of the ‘core symptoms of autism’ that is mentioned in the article and that many drugs seek to address is repetitive behavior. I have to wonder, for whom are we addressing repetitive behavior? Is it really harmful to autistics? Is finger flicking or rocking or otherwise stimming really an impediment to a successful life? Or are they really problems more for US – the NTs who become uneasy because we have no idea how to react to someone who doesn’t fit the mold of what makes US comfortable? And most importantly from my perspective, what happens to the impulse to stim when we quell the behavior that it results in? Does it disappear? Blow off into the wind? Break down into waste and find its way out of the body?

Stimming serves a purpose. All behavior does. Ask someone autistic. I have. And the answers I’ve gotten are “Calming. Soothing. Shutting out an overwhelming world. Focusing. Freeing. Comforting. “

So take away the vehicle for all of that – for calming, soothing, shutting out an overwhelming world, focusing, freeing, comforting – and what do you leave in its place? Without the behavior that served those purposes, how does a person who might very well live in a constant state of high alert, who is unable to filter the constant sensory barrage of this life, for whom there is no natural hierarchy of input, supposed to compensate for all of that overwhelm? What tools do you leave them in return for the one that you’ve taken away? Or do you simply take it away because it’s not normal and not normal is harmful?

I wrote the above and put it into my Drafts file the day that I first read the article. And then I walked away. It was too big to process in one sitting. I needed to sit with it awhile, to chew on it and to think through its huge and frankly, kinda scary implications. I had to reach a point where I was ready to say out loud, Yes, there was a time, early on, before I knew anything different, that all I wanted was for my kid to look normal. Because looking normal meant acting normal which meant being accepted by society which meant an easier life. Right? Isn’t that the formula? Isn’t that how it works? Change behavior, change a life. Right?

Life Is Not Formulaic

And then I had to figure out how to say No, that’s not it. This isn’t math; it’s life and life is messy and sticky and doesn’t lend itself to nice, neat equations and pretty little formulas. That suppressing who we are without a valid and comfortable and AUTHENTIC means to express what we NEED to express can be far more dangerous than not fitting in. That being taught to pass for something that you’re not and succeeding at it may mean success on the outside but what the hell does it mean for the inside? That being taught that what you are is not okay and that you, therefore, need to pass as something that you’re not can be deadly. That self-esteem and confidence and self-love and the deepest of personal truths are what are on the line. That I’m not being overly dramatic in taking it there. That I know that because I’ve read so many blog posts and had so many conversations with autistic adults who teetered on the edges at various points in their lives – who literally contemplated suicide, or tried, because the message that they got – whether it was the one that was intended to be delivered or not – was that who they are was not okay.

I walk the line here. It’s not a free-for-all. There ARE behaviors that are not okay. We live in a civilized society. There are some reasonable expectations within that structure that we, as participants in it must learn to meet. That we won’t hurt others. That we will respect others’ privacy and safety and dignity just as we need and expect them to respect ours. There are skills that are necessary to enable us to interact with others, to make friends if we so desire, to find and keep employment. They are important to learn.

And so too, life is absolutely, positively, without question, easier when you have the ability to make yourself understood in some fashion. And it’s sure as hell easiest when that fashion is the same as everyone else’s.

So by no means do I mean to imply that I think that we should not teach our autistic kids to play by society’s rules just as we do with any kid.

But for me, the underlying questions loom large in every single attempt I make to give my child the tools to conform, to communicate, to participate.

At what cost?

Is it still going to be good for her when she’s no longer a kid?

When she looks back will she say that I gave her the tools to succeed as she was or will she ask why I seemed so intent on changing who she was? 

How Far Are We Willing to Go to Change Behavior?

Yesterday, with this post and all of its big, scary questions still safely tucked away in my Drafts folder, I read an article about California’s ban on Gay Conversion Therapy for children under 18. For the blissfully uninitiated, GCT is the highly controversial and nearly universally condemned practice of attempting to change a person’s sexual orientation through some twisted version of psychotherapy. There is overwhelming evidence that the practice tends far more often to result in depression and suicidal ideation than heterosexualization (no, that’s not a word, but it’s as absurd as the whole concept.)

Just for context, let’s play a little game. Are you straight? If so, do you think that if I gave you aversion therapy – you know, like an electric shock every time I showed you a picture of heterosexual sex – that it might turn you gay? How about if I inundated you with photos of homosexual acts and rewarded you for showing arousal? No? What if I simply told you that your heterosexual feelings were wrong. That they didn’t conform (or that, if not society, then God, had a problem with you acting on them). That you could still BE gay, but you couldn’t ACT gay anymore. So what would happen then?

Well, according to story after story from those who have participated in this practice, what usually happens is that you either fail miserably at being what you’re not — OR — you ‘succeed’ and manage to live the life of someone you’re not. Which leads us back to the ‘overwhelming evidence that such therapy tends far more often to result in depression and suicidal ideation than heterosexualization.’

So what if you’re autistic? And I tell you that it’s okay to BE autistic but not to ACT autistic? Then what?

Is homosexual conversion therapy a perfect parallel to administering drugs for social impairments? God, no. Really, really far from it obviously. But do I think there’s a common lesson in them? Well, yeah, I do. Because when I read the second article, I found myself thinking immediately of the first.

So here I am, dragging this post kicking and screaming from the Drafts folder and out into the light of day.

I don’t have answers. I never claim to. I just have questions that I think we need to remember to ask.

I’ll end with this – based on my limited reading about Arbaclofen, I lean toward thinking that it’s likely a win. That it will indeed not just offer some relief to those who struggle to communicate, but at the same time hopefully give researchers vital information on how the process all works. But long before I’d give it to my own child, I’d have to do a LOT more research. And then I’d have to ask the big questions.

At what cost? 

And

What’s the REAL end game?

Thank you to Ari for making me think, forcing me to examine my approach and keeping me honest about what matters most.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 2012 and has been updated with a new feature images and formatting.

Thank you to Jess Wilson of a diary of a mom for giving us permission to reblog this. Here is a link to the original article.

My Decision to Homeschool My Son With Autism

My Decision to Homeschool My Son With Autism

By Allison Trotter

I’ve been asked to write about our decision to homeschool Jackson, our middle school son with autism, a number of times.  People’s response falls into two camps: extremely skeptical or enthusiastically supportive.  There seems to be little gray area on this issue.  As a former high school teacher, I never thought twice about my ability to educate my child, so the negative response took me a bit off guard until I realized that many people are intimidated by the complexities of autism education, therefore believe it ought to be left to qualified professionals.

As I was brainstorming how to explain our decision to an audience of professional educators who support an inclusive approach to special education, I felt an analogy would be an interesting way to illustrate our situation.

In addition to autism education, I am also passionate about healthy living.  I have been researching and implementing healthy nutritional, dietary and environmental lifestyle choices for over a decade.  I am a huge Michael Pollan fan and have been an advocate for local food before it became the latest craze.  So, it only seems fitting to have the local organic family farm represent our family in this analogy.  On the flip side, let’s have BigAgra business (like a Tysons or Purdue) represent any institutional school system, public or private.

With this in mind, the scenario I present to you is this:  A BigAgra business acquires a small local organic family farm.  What challenges do you foresee in this merger?  What steps need to be taken by both parties to ensure a successful transition?  And, is there ever a time to dissolve this newly created partnership because the two farms are just not compatible?

Inclusion of a small organic family farm into a massive, government subsidized and regulated farm is going to be challenging for sure.  But there are steps that can be taken to respect the integrity of the local farm without compromising the requirements of the big agricultural machine.  Compromise must be made on both sides for this partnership to work, and if it can work, how wonderful for all parties involved!  The local farm gets huge exposure to new and innovative ideas and practices, and the large farm gets a refresher course on the value of individual care and attention to purity and quality of each morsel of food produced.

Sadly, my precious organic family farm, which I had tended with painstaking care every day for twelve long, hard years, with every ounce of heart and soul I had, got plowed over and salted without anyone ever consulting me. One day, it was there, and the next it was gone.

The decision to homeschool Jackson came very suddenly and very emphatically as we were sitting in an “emergency IEP” meeting six weeks into the start of middle school.  We had no idea he was having trouble until we got a letter in his binder requesting a meeting to address his behaviors and lack of academic progress.  We felt blindsided in the meeting because all the reports home up until that point seemed fine. During the meeting, it became very clear that this large public school of over 2,000 students that housed an autism center with over 220 students had only one system. In this system, every student had to conform to it, and unlike our excellent public elementary school, there was absolutely no room for individualization based on the needs of the child. We were essentially told, “that is how we do it here, and Jackson needs to learn to adapt because middle school is tough and he has to figure it out like everyone else.” All of a sudden we realized that our special needs son was a product and not a person.

My local organic family farm was being swallowed up by an agricultural machine that had no time or interest in our silly ideas or sustainable practices to ensure a healthy and vibrant future for not only our food but for our greater community.

So now, we homeschool, and we spend more time out and about in our city, meeting people, sharing our ideas, teaching tolerance and acceptance of diversity, spreading our passion for learning, and growing the highest quality human beings that we can with our small organic family farm of unique and awesome people.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally posted in 2012 and has been updated with a new featured image and formatting.

Allison Trotter is a former high school government and economics teacher and writes for her blog Homeschooling Autism. You can find her on Twitter and Facebook.

Overcoming Barriers to Meaningful Inclusion

classroom; meaningful inclusion

By Nikki Heiman

I Believe in Meaningful Inclusion

Hi! I’m Nikki from www.mycreativeinclusion.com. I’m so happy that Think Inclusive invited me to post here! I am an experienced special education teacher and Mom to a young man with Down Syndrome. I believe passionately in inclusion, but only meaningful inclusion.

Inclusion isn’t placing a child with a disability inside a general education classroom alone. Real inclusion, quality inclusion, involves well trained, open-minded staff members who have made a solid commitment to collaboration, communication, and the success of each and every student in their classroom.

Often there are very well meaning teachers who want to provide a complete, cohesive instructional plan but they lack the support network to facilitate it. Here, I will show you how to overcome some of the most common barriers to successful inclusion.

Expense

It’s a common myth that only specialists can teach students with disabilities. While specialists are a fabulous resource and invaluable to offering support in the inclusive classroom, unfortunately with budget cuts to public education they are not always on staff at every school.

Thanks to social media and resources like Facebook Live, these specialists are offering professional development to teachers all around the world in small tidbits for FREE. They are often also more than willing to answer specific questions. One of my favorites is Autism Classroom News. Dr. Christine Reeve has a weekly Facebook live show with great tips you can use right away. I also have a Facebook live show and you can follow me HERE. Another great resource to follow is Sasha from The Autism Helper.

Knowledge

To reinforce point #1- there is a LOT to know when implementing successful inclusion. That just emphasizes the importance of having a team based approach. If I am to think about what that looks like in my school, the general education teacher knows the grade level standards inside out, my specialty is behavior and modifications, then we consult with the speech pathologist for communication strategies. If we need to we have access to occupational therapists, physical therapists and a school psychologist for even more specialized support.

In order to have successful inclusion, the entire team has to be committed to communication. The entire team also has to have a mindset that we all have a lot of to learn from each other as professionals in order for it to work.

We use shared folders in Google drive to share tools and strategies with each other. It saves so much time because we can just drop information in it when we have time and the others can read it when they have time. Since we never have plan time during the school day at the same time this is a great alternative.

Modifications

In all fairness, each of these barriers builds on one another. Curricular modifications can be easy when the team works together and there is extreme organization. For example, if the general education teacher has shared the curricular expectations and the special education teacher has helped to figure out what the basic expectations for that student are, and that is well documented, it should be perfectly natural to make modifications. For example, (I like to use my son as an example because his teachers really work hard to make inclusion work) my son is 13 and he has Down Syndrome. He is in regular education for science and social studies. Since he is reading at an early elementary level, the skills in 7th grade science and social studies are pretty high for him. What our team decided on was that for every lesson he would be responsible for only 1 or 2 key concepts. This is usually some vocabulary and we create images to match using Google Slides. It’s fantastic because he is easily distracted and in Google Slides you don’t even have to click out of the app to research information.

Behavior

Behavior…. possibly the biggest challenge in including students who are neurodiverse is managing behavior. Students who are neurodiverse process sensory input differently than the neurotypical student. Coupled with challenges with communicating those sensory processes and the challenges of self-regulation, that can result in behavior that is difficult to understand.

Every time I’m asked a question about chronic behavior, my first question is always “What is the function of the behavior?” What I’ve found is that behavior is always a communication. Once we figure out what the function of the behavior is the next step is to find a solution for the student to communicate their need that works for them but it also works for you.

The challenge with functional behavior assessments, though, is that it requires detailed and continuous data collection. Our solution to that has been to create Google Sheets. In Google Sheets, I’ve created a simple form to document the duration, latency and frequency of behaviors as well as narrative reports for the behavioral antecedent, the behavior itself and the consequence to the behavior.

Collaboration

Tying all of these barriers together is collaboration. Usually it’s just a matter of time for the team to collaborate. It’s rare for all members of an Individualized Education Program (IEP) team to have plan time at the same time so that usually leaves only before school and after school times to meet. This is a practical issue- some members may not be able to be at school early because of daycare issues and others may not be able to stay late because they coach sports teams. Parents are vital to the success of the student and having their input is so important when planning a student’s instructional day! When parents have hectic work schedules it is hard to expect them to balance their professional life, raising a child with a disability and frequent meetings at school.

Google Docs is a fabulous tool for increasing collaboration amongst all of the IEP team members. Everyone can access the tools and comment, share, etc. when they have time. If you need to video call, there are Chrome extensions to use within Google Docs, or you can use Google Hangouts.

To get you started, I wrote a free ebook titled “Time-Saving Tech for Teachers.”
That ebook is available for download by clicking the button below!

Nikki Heiman with her sonI’m Nikki Heiman, founder of “Creative Inclusion,” a company that provides resources for teachers to help facilitate inclusive education. It started as just an online resource but since then I’m now traveling the US providing professional development in schools on topics such as inclusion, technology integration and best practice in special education. I am passionate about improving education for students with disabilities and I believe that starts with happy teachers who have a LOT of tools in their teaching toolbox! I am blessed to have a teenage son with Down Syndrome that has inspired me to be a better teacher, mom and person in general. I hope to share that love and kindness with the people I meet in this journey!  I can be contacted at nikki@mycreativeinclusion.com or follow me on my blog, Facebook Page, or on Pinterest.

5 Things Children Totally Understand About Disability That Most Adults Do Not

By Emily Beitiks

If my kids (age 4 and nearly 2) and I woke up tomorrow morning and found a dragon in our living room, my son’s top concern would be “What should we name it?” and my daughter would probably try to hug it. I haven’t yet taught them that if you see a dragon, proceed with caution, as we believe them to be fictional and quite likely dangerous.

Every single thing we know today as grown-ups, we had to learn at some point in our development.

But there are some things my kids intuitively grasp without my help. To my surprise, nearly everyone I meet below the age of 4 just rolls with it when it comes to disability. Ableism hasn’t taken hold yet. Here are five things I’ve seen young children totally understand about disability that unfortunately, most adults struggle with (And feel free to share more examples in the comment section below!):

1) There’s nothing shameful about having your butt wiped.

We recently had one of my son’s friends over to our house, and my son was trying his hardest to impress her. He showed her his extensive dinosaur collection and even let her hold all the items in his treasure chest, the highest honor. Without the slightest ounce of modesty, he interrupted their play date to loudly announce, “I have to poop!” He then ran to the toilet and carried on a conversation with her while taking care of it. Shortly after, she too needed to poop and didn’t think twice about asking me to come in when she was done, already waiting with her butt in the air.

People with disabilities and their personal care assistants know this lesson. Dependence in the bathroom becomes mundane, and taboos surrounding bodily functions go out the door. When nondisabled people think about disability, needing to rely on someone else’s help for transferring to a toilet or wiping often instills fear and disgust: if I had to live like that, I’d kill myself, they say, forgetting that it was once commonplace for all of us.

2) It’s okay to ask for help when you need it, and at other times, to turn down help.

My daughter getting help.

My kids can’t tie their shoes, read a book, (and we’ve already covered the whole butt wiping thing), so they call on others for help constantly. However, when they don’t need help, they really let me know it. Typically, it involves a shout of “I CAN DO IT MYSELF!!!,” deeply insulted that I would try to assist them with something that they had now mastered.

People with disabilities might ask for help at times, and at other moments prefer to do something without help, knowing that help can be counterproductive (e.g. you should never push a wheelchair rider’s chair or open a door for someone unless you have been asked to). Children get that it’s okay to be complicated when it comes to what your needs are.

3) We should search for commonalities before differences.

Here’s a recent conversation I had with my son (pictured right), looking at a photo of the Geico gecko (pictured left):

Carver: Hey, he looks like me!

Me: I don’t see that. Like at all.

Carver: Really? Huh.

I didn’t press further. Apparently, the lines between his body and the gecko’s weren’t as different in his mind as they were in mine.

When you think about it, several children’s movies (ET, Lilo and Stitch, The Iron Giant) show kids befriending and harboring aliens that everyone else wants to cage up or eliminate…while fictional, the impulse of children to embrace difference or even celebrate it as something cool, rather than stigmatizing, is grounded in reality. As my son’s mysterious connection to the Geico gecko, kids see commonality before difference, and my guess is it’s because they simply haven’t lived long enough to learn a cemented version of what “normal” is.

4) Devices are really useful and cool!

An assistive device!

Too often adults think of anyone who uses a wheelchair as “wheelchair bound,” suggesting the device is a tool of oppression rather than one of mobility. Children do not, however, share this perspective. My son recently said to me, “I wish I had a wheelchair, don’t you mom?” (in part because he knows he’s not allowed to play on the elevator in our house, that’s only for when a wheelchair rider visits).

And why would kids think negatively about assistive technology devices? They too rely heavily upon them, from their strollers to the stools in front of the sink to their own potty chairs and “special” scissors. Next time you see a parent toting a baby on their back, ask them how they are coping with having a “bjorn-bound” member of their family!

5) The built environment determines what you can and can’t do.

I bet this helped sell a lot of toys…

Ask any kid who grew up in the 80s anywhere near the Stonestown Galleria in San Francisco, and they’ll likely remember the joy of walking through the small door at the Imaginarium toy store. In a world built for adults, there was something magical about encountering that door, knowing that it was meant for you. I’ve seen my son react similarly when we’ve visited children’s museums that have lowered sinks and toilets at his height. And when kids encounter the converse, they’re similarly frustrated. Why is that cool toy (that I’ve taken away from my son because he hit his sister with it) out of reach on the top shelf of the bookshelf?! Kids are constantly learning what people with disabilities experience every day: what you can or can’t do and even your sense of belonging vary with the surrounding environment.

I wish I could say that what I’m taking away from these observations is optimism that the new generation of children is growing up with a keen understanding of disability. Alas, my hunch is that instead, it reminds us that we are gradually learning to make different assumptions about disability (negative and stigmatizing) that take over.

As children grow up, they often become fixated on difference, and don’t hesitate to point it out, whether it’s “Your teeth are yellow!”, “That boy is wearing a dress!”, or “You don’t have an arm!” When they do this in front of their parents, it is often quickly shut down with “Don’t stare!” or “That’s rude!” teaching them that the difference is shameful. And when our door for acceptance of difference slams shut, children can be especially cruel to other children, resulting in social exclusion and bullying.

Ableism is a learned process. However, that does give us hope that we can teach different lessons that allow us to reconnect with the lessons we grasped more easily in our youth. I’m working on that with my kids every day (so that warning about dragons being fictional and potentially dangerous might have to be on the back burner).

Source: 5 Things Adults Unlearn about Disability || Disability Remix Blog

Photo Credit: mel issa/Flickr

Solutions To Help Educate Young People With EBD

In almost every classroom there are children with behavioral challenges. Here are some solutions to help educate young people with EBD.

Do you know that it is almost certain that in every classroom you enter in the school system there is a learner struggling with a condition called Emotional and Behavioral Disorders (EBD)? The unfortunate thing about this scenario is that in most cases, such students are never identified. They may be given other labels such as dull, lazy, on uncooperative. If not addressed, problems caused by such learners can make the work of the teacher challenging and disturb other learners. This is the reason why there is a need for smart solutions to help educate young people with EBD.

The aim of this article is to look at this problem in depth to try and solve the misunderstanding associated with it. The discussion will start by looking at what EBD is and then go on to discuss some ways by which learners with EBD can be educated in the modern classroom. Since the problem can affect kids, teenagers, and adults, it is important to look at solutions for all these groups. Educating such learners can present challenges which, when correctly identified, can be mitigated.

Defining EBD

Experts indicate that attempting a definition of EBD, which is sometimes known as Emotional Disturbance (ED), is quite difficult because it is a misunderstood phenomenon. For example, one question frequently asked is how emotional and behavioral disorders can be distinguished from a behavioral disorder. Even though it may be difficult to come up with a scientific definition, it is easier to pin down some of the physical behaviors that define this problem.

While all students in the classroom will exhibit typical daily behavioral problems, and sometimes even dangerous ones it is not all of them who suffer from EBD. A young person with EBD would usually exhibit what is known as antisocial, externalizing, or internalizing behaviors.

Externalizing Behaviors

When a learner constantly gets out of their seat for no apparent reason, curses, and yells at anybody who crosses their path without provocation and is disturbing to peers, that learner is showing externalizing behaviors. Other symptoms of this problem are exhibited in the student ignoring instructions from the teacher, constantly hitting and fighting with other students, complaining or excessively arguing and failing to comply with directions. The signs above do not represent all the behaviors that should be watched for. Others such as destruction of property, failing to complete assignments, stealing, lying and throwing temper tantrums should also be noted.

Internalizing Behaviors

While some young people suffering from EBD may show the signs described above, others will show the exact opposite while still suffering from the same problem. They exhibit a very limited need for social interaction with others. Such children’s behavior is defined as internalizing.

While it is easy to ignore such children because their behavior does not present a threat to others, doing so endangers their development. If a child is not interested in playing with other children their age, lacks the necessary social skills required to make productive friendships, and often finds refuge in outlandish fantasies and daydreams, they may be suffering from EBD. Other behaviors indicating the prevalence of this problem in a young person can include being afraid without due cause, always complaining that they are sick or have been injured, and sometimes just looking depressed.

Possible Problems Educating People With EBD

As can be seen from the definition above, there are serious problems associated with attempting to educate learners with EBD, the common model of learning and teaching is one that depends on classrooms, and lecture theaters having learners who follow certain regulations about behavior. This is exactly what people with EBD do not do very well, and this represents massive problems for the teacher, the learner themselves and the other students in the classroom. This is the reason why children with this disorder tend to have a high chance of leaving school prematurely, ending up in jail, going into both drug and alcohol abuse, living on the margins of society and eventually dying early.

The main problem when educating learners with EBD is that they tend to perform below their grade level at a particular time. They find it difficult to read and perform mathematical calculations. Learning depends on learners being willing to corporate with the teacher, the rules, and needs of other students. Experts also indicate that such learners’ behavior interferes with their ability to learn the skills needed for productive scholarship and therefore tend to score very low marks in intelligence tests.

Educating Kids With EBD

While Children may suffer from EBD, they still need to be educated. A few things can be done by the teacher to mitigate this challenge including ensuring that class rules and activities are maintained clear and straightforward. Learners, especially those suffering from EBD, struggle with rules that are too demanding and complicated. The teacher can attempt to keep standards in the classroom broad and minimal. For example, the teacher can train the learners to arrive on time, be polite and respect the needs of others. They can then emphasize these rules until every student internalizes them.

Teaching activities should also be simple and clear. When the teacher uses events that are clear and simple, learners with EBD are given a chance to be part of the learning. This allows the learners to participate and interact with the activities of the lesson. This makes them feel that they are a part of the class.

Teaching Teenagers With EBD

When it comes to teenagers, the strategy is the same as with kids but should be made suitable for their age. Since teenagers with EBD generally lack the emotional balance required to concentrate for long periods of time, teachers should ensure that lessons have some small breaks to help bring such learners into the lesson.

If the teacher starts to feel that some of the learners are starting to fall behind in the lesson, they should stop teaching and allow them to catch up. Sufficient time should also be allowed for such learners to finish their assignments. Allowing for physical activities will give learners a chance to use their energy for something productive and controlled.

Education For Adults With EBD

It is probable that people with EBD will need to be educated later on in life when they are adults as the chance that they would have left school earlier is quite high. The most important thing to remember when dealing with such adults in the classroom is to understand the need for motivational strategies. Success should be celebrated appropriately. Educators should allow such learners to make decisions about their learning and be part of setting the rules.

How The Education Approach Differs When Educating People With EBD

The discussion above shows that educating learners with EBD is something that should be approached in a different way from educating everyday learners who do not suffer from such disorders. Teachers of such learners should always understand that these learners are slow and therefore lessons should be planned with them in mind. The teaching should be slow, and when there is a need to stop and allow these learners to catch up, the teacher should allow for this time. Teachers also need to ensure that their instructions are clear and simple.

Programs For EBD Learners In Different Countries

Different countries have various programs aimed at helping learners with EBD to get alternate learning. Such services provide therapeutic services to such learners. In the United States, such learners can benefit from The Elementary Learning Program, the Secondary Alternative Learning Program, or the Secondary Transition Program.

In the United Kingdom, learners can attend one of the many special needs school specifically dealing with learners who face such problems. Parents can check with the education departments in their countries to identify special schools in their communities that offer services for learners with EBD.

Learners with EBD attending colleges of higher learning can find it difficult to cope with the workload required in higher institutions of learning. This is made worse by the fact that higher intuitions of learning are not designed to deal with students who face these challenges. This is when those essay writing services become useful. Students can order papers in subjects that they are struggling with. These papers are then written by professionals who will help the learner to understand what the requirements of the question are. Using the custom writing services could be the difference between learners suffering from EBD getting to complete their qualification and ending up in the streets with no education and work.

Having emotional and behavioral disorders should not mean that a learner should be condemned to a lack of education. There are some things that can be done by the learner themselves, the teachers, parents and government departments to ensure that such learners do get an education. If this is not handled with care, such learners end up living on the fringes of society, being involved in drugs and dying prematurely.

Photo Credit: Hans Splinter/Flickr

Tia Moreen is a writer and traveler, who is currently running a small business and works as a blog editor at EssayHub. Loves bookcrossing and cooking.

 

Source: Solutions To Help Educate Young People With EBD » Education Press

What Inclusion Means to Me

what inclusion means to me

By Sue Robins

Recently, I was asked to speak to all the teachers at my son’s high school about “What Inclusion Means to Me.”  There would be about one hundred educators in the audience for their professional development (PD) day.  I sweated out my approach, talking to the special education teacher who had kindly recommended me, the physics teacher who was the organizer, and many families who had kids with differences in schools across the country.  I was desperate to understand my audience, not to misstep, to represent other families well, for I had a lot of skin in the game.  The high school I was speaking at was where my son Aaron would be for the next six years.  I could not screw this up.

I had spoken once before to an audience of parents and teachers on this same subject, almost three years ago in Alberta, Canada.  My stumble then was not to include any research about the other kids in the school – the ‘typically developing’ kids, many of whom were traveling on a strong academic path.  One mom had angrily protested from the back of the room, “your kid is taking away from my kid’s teaching time!”  I have recognized over the years that it is crucial to address barriers and concerns that the audience is holding early on in the presentation, for if you don’t, they hang onto those concerns during the entire talk, and this is a barrier to the listening.

This time I was more grizzled and wiser (but alas, still not perfect – is there such a thing?).  I drew upon others for expertise in my talk.  I don’t know one thing about adapting or modifying curriculum, so I showed Shelley Moore’s excellent bowling video.  I leaned on Ian Brown’s wisdom about the value of people with disabilities.  The moms from my Family Inclusion Group Facebook page kindly offered up some beautiful quotes about our kids being brave and presuming competence. I was very aware of not being self-serving – not only concerning myself with my own son’s experience but with his colleagues’ experiences, too:  those who used wheelchairs, those who were non-verbal, those identified with ‘behavior’ challenges.   I had many people behind me in spirit for this extraordinary opportunity:  for a mom taking up a morning in a high school’s PD day is a rare sight indeed.

And what does inclusion mean to me?  In the end, I talked about our journey with Aaron. I spoke about when he was first diagnosed (the baby we expected was not the baby we got).  I addressed my struggles with my fears about people with disabilities when Aaron was born, embedded in my head from my junior high days in 1974. I acknowledged the good work teachers do – how busy and exhausted they are too and asked them to reflect on why they chose to teach.  I talked about how inclusion was so much more than academic inclusion inside a classroom, how it was about inclusion in the hallways, at lunchtime, at school events, in sports, in extra-curricular activities.  I invited the audience to think of one way educators and the other students could include the kids in special education in the school, no matter how simple:  learning the students’ names, giving high fives, starting up a Buddy program, picking one thing from their class lesson to teach them each day.

My intention was to touch hearts to change minds.  My key messages:

-the value of children with disabilities (the disabled do the work of love, says Ian Brown)

-expanding the definition of diversity to include different abilities

-to point out how we are not preparing the high-achieving students for the real world if they do not know people who are ‘the other.’

I had to pause a few times during the talk to catch myself from crying.  This topic is deeply personal to me, as Aaron’s school experience is everything to us.  We chose to live in our particular school district.  We bought a condo close to the school.  I resigned from my job to be more visible and available to support his school experience.

Scanning the audience, I knew others were crying too.  Maybe they had someone with a difference in their family.  Maybe they were remembering the feeling of being left out.  Maybe they were triggered to recall why they chose to teach.  In the end, the applause was more than polite, and I had a patient line of teachers waiting to chat with me.  It tears me up to think about how much these educators want to reach all children, but sometimes they just don’t know how.  This desire is everything.  Change happens with just one step at a time – the first step is the most important one. This is the beginning of belonging, one high five at a time.

Inclusion to me means finding love + belonging.  It means taking the time to understand another person’s perspective, to feel empathy, to demonstrate compassion.  These are the same messages I share with healthcare audiences, as I’ve realized that these concepts are profoundly universal.

In the end, for me, everything always circles back to Raymond Carver:

And did you get what

you wanted from this life, even so?

I did.

And what did you want?

To call myself beloved, to feel myself

beloved on the earth.”

― Raymond Carver, A New Path to the Waterfall

Photo Credit: Bradley Huchteman/Flickr

sue robinsSue Robins is a writer, speaker, and mom of three.  Her youngest son Aaron is 13 years old and has Down syndrome.  Her essays about motherhood have been published in the New York Times, Huffington Post and Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper.  Sue is passionate about families who have children with differences, coaching families to tell their own stories and nurturing gratitude and compassion in health care (and now education) settings.  She is also a partner in Bird Communications, a health communications company in Vancouver and Edmonton.  She can be found on Twitter and Facebook as @suerobinsyvr and her blog is suerobins.com.

What Do Successful Teachers Do with the First Hour of Their Work Day?

teachers; a numberless clock mounted on a plain brick wall

By Megan Gross

Inspired by a recent Fast Company article on the habits of successful business folks during their first hour of work, we asked our colleagues about their morning routines. Although the colleagues we surveyed work in different schools and states, their morning activities reflect on the skills essential to the role of a successful teacher: communication, collaboration, and preparation.

What do successful teachers (inclusion, special/general education or other educators) do during their first hour of work?

1) Review calendar & schedule for the day

One of our colleagues starts the day by asking, “Is there anything special or potentially difficult happening today?” as she reviews her calendar. She looks for schedule changes, such as assemblies, fire drills, or special events on campus, and if there are any paraprofessionals who called in sick. With this information, a student’s visual schedule can be updated to reflect the day’s activities, adjustments to staffing can be made, or time can be allotted to orient a sub. Several of our colleagues also have staff communication binders and these are updated every morning to include class-specific or school-wide activities, changes in the schedule, absences, or other information to assist paraprofessionals and inclusion teachers in keeping everyone in the loop.

2) Check email

Unlike the technology and business gurus profiled in the Fast Company article, teachers make a point of checking emails before the school bell rings. Some teachers quickly scan their email looking for anything that might affect the daily schedule, information from parents, and flag emails to respond to later in the day. Others find this is the only quiet time in the day to thoughtfully respond to a parent, remind a teacher about accommodations, or send out invitations to IEP meetings. For many, the mind is the freshest in the morning, making email response one of the most logical places to start.

3) Check-in with teachers or paraprofessionals

Many of our inclusion teacher colleagues are running between classrooms for the majority of the school day, so they take advantage of the time before the bell rings to talk with colleagues. Some may meet with their paraprofessionals about the upcoming school day while other teachers discuss student needs or classroom supports with general education teachers. These morning check-ins may be the only time staff interact with each other, besides passing in the hallway, before the school day is done, so teachers make an effort to talk to staff and build community one “Good morning” at a time.

4) Finish prepping a modification or paperwork

Inclusion teachers often allow time in the morning, before students arrive, to finish up a small project from the night before. Accomplishing one small task before students arrive helps one of our colleagues “dive in” to the school day and also prevents her from staying at work all night. A small task might include completing IEP data sheets or paperwork, creating modified curriculum resource for a student, or the occasional mad dash to the copy machine.

5) Morning Joe

No. Not the MSNBC show. Overwhelmingly…Coffee was a huge part of an educators morning routine. Whether it was brewed at home, taken from the staff lounge or picked up at a drive-thru on the way to school, teachers love their “black gold.” We don’t know what your morning routine is for your first hour of the day, but it is of vital importance that you have some of that time carved out for yourself just to breathe, relax, and meditate on the day at hand. Sometimes, that is the difference between a productive day and a day where you feel like you are running behind.

Photo Credit: Lee Haywood/Flickr

Megan Gross is a special education teacher and inclusion specialist in California. She has facilitated inclusive education in K-12 classrooms. Megan is the co-author of The Inclusion Toolbox: Strategies and Techniques for All Teachers and ParaEducate, a resource book for paraprofessionals and special education teachers. She currently teaches high school and is the co-advisor of her campus’ Best Buddies club. Megan lives in San Diego with her husband and two children. Follow Megan on Twitter (@MegNGross).

The Pursuit of Inclusion: Blazing a Path for Our Son with Prader-Willi Syndrome

pursuit of inclusion; a dirt path running a lush forest

This past year, our son Dean, who has Prader-Willi syndrome, began his preschool career at the ripe old age of 3. Dean, like others his age, was in a “natural environment” program, which met at a daycare with typical and special needs peers. In this program, a parent or caregiver is required to attend with each student and is there primarily to observe. This experience and others involving mother’s groups, playgroups, and outside educational programs, has given us great insight into what is best for Dean.

I love the special needs environment because they really “get” some things, like how someone with muscle tone as low as Dean’s might need extra support to sit in a chair so they can concentrate more on work than on not falling over. They used a slant board for Dean to view his work at eye level so it would be easier from visual-spatial and fine motor standpoints. And having a PT, OT, and SLP at the ready – for a quick consult even if Dean doesn’t receive their services – is a dream. A relief. The smaller child-to-teacher ratio is necessary for the amount of help Dean needs to be most successful.

And yet, we find that typical environments tend to have more of a healthy fear of specific information we might have about Dean or PWS. They don’t assume they know how certain meltdowns or specific speech issues will play out. They’re not jaded by the usual categories of special needs and approach Dean more as an individual who is perhaps a bit more complex than is their average student. As with our doctors, babysitters, caregivers, or the average onlooker, we find so helpful those who seek to learn rather than those who ignore the pertinent first-hand information we have for them and assume that they know best.

For this coming year, our county does not offer what we are really looking for, which is an inclusive classroom. These scenarios exist in nearby counties, but not in ours. The recommendation of Dean’s IEP team (and something we wanted in part) was a “center-based” (special ed.) classroom. But I asked about opportunities for Dean to interact with typical peers, and I was told that this was only a possibility. For us, leaving this up in the air was surprising, not to mention… unacceptable.

I told his teacher that we were thinking about doing a few days in a typical preschool, and then the other days at center-based. She referred to Dean’s IEP and mentioned that if he wasn’t at center-based every day, he might not be able to meet all of his goals. She said, “You have to decide what’s a priority for you: academics or socializing.” My head spun as I thought about what she said, for it never occurred to me that this was an either/or issue. We want both for Dean, and we weren’t going to get it with what was being offered to us. So we decided to send Dean to a typical preschool two mornings a week, and to center-based three times a week. As we have done for him countless times in these past three years, we are blazing our own path. To do anything less would be a disservice to our sweet Dean, no matter what the learning environment.

Photo Credit: Nicholas A. Tonelli/Flickr

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in 2012 and has been updated with a new featured image, category, and tags.

Ali Foley Shenk lives in Richmond, VA with her husband Bob and their three boys: Cole, Dean, and Emmett. Ali writes, mostly on her blog at divingintothewaves.com, and is also a freelance copy editor. She also volunteers with the Foundation for Prader-Willi Research (www.fpwr.org).

You Just Can’t Take Me Anywhere!

can't take me anywhere

My parents used to say, “We just can’t take you anywhere,” meaning I could not be trusted not to cause a “scene” – and for parents who valued appearances in society as they did, this was quite the denouncement.

It has only been four months since I emerged from extreme isolation and denial of my social difficulties – the way I dealt with it was by NOT dealing with it: staying isolated and alone, the way I like it. I honestly prefer to be alone, and, until recently assumed most autistics were like me.

NOT so. Even some of the most severely impacted are not as misanthropic as I; in fact, they are surprisingly affectionate. I am beginning to consider perhaps my hermit-like qualities are not even related to autism at all. However, the fact remains – I am still as averse to being with other people for more than an hour at a time, maximum. I simply do not LIKE them when I am required to be in their presence. They irritate me supremely and my hostility and aggression, when irritated, is still not completely under my control. I no longer profess to “hate” them as I did vehemently when younger (and before Buddhist training), but still resent any occasion where I must interact face to face, unless it is a structured activity with clear rules, like sporting activities or firefighting. One on one contact is preferable, as there are not as many variables to attend to, but I prefer digital and online communication – I express myself best there and do not get as frustrated, as I control the interaction and can step away when necessary when getting frustrated.

As a child and adult (up until 1999, when my last documented episode of public aggression occurred), I was extremely aggressive, and, for this reason, was placed in very restrictive settings where they could physically restrain me. I saw no reason not to be so violent until multiple arrests and beatings from the police forced me to re-evaluate my public lashing out. At that time, I discovered Buddhism and its practice of non-violence and rose to the challenge of changing my behavior. I was successful; however, my primary strategy was to limit my exposure to provocative situations, which meant not venturing into public except when I most others are not present- i.e., never being out in rush hour, going to an all – night supermarket at 4 AM, etc. This did not completely curb my physical and verbal assaultiveness – as recently as a few weeks ago I hit my support person as he was attempting to restrain me from engaging in another obnoxious behavior – disruptive yelling late at night. The difference is now I feel remorse and truly do not want to be this way.

Here is an article on aggression in ASD: Aggression in autism spectrum disorder: presentation and treatment options

The article above spends much time discussing antipsychotic medications, which have been tried on me, to no avail. First off, I am extremely sensitive to the neurological side effects such as Parkinsonianism/Extra Pyramidal Symptoms. My diaphragm seizes up, and I cannot move the muscles needed to breathe. This makes antipsychotics potentially deadly for me. They also did not ameliorate any of my behavior issues, and since I do not have a thought disorder (schizophrenia), they are useless and harmful for me. Ritalin and the stimulants, which I was on for many years, also do not help in the long run. Neither do any of the other classes of drugs and, believe me, I have been on them all. Buddhist practice and the willingness to change are the only things which have worked for me, and for that I am grateful.

Thank you, Autistry Studios, for helping me seek resources which may help with self-control, like this one:

aggression2

It may seem simplistic, but I have never attempted anything like this. Only the challenge of following the Buddhist precepts has inspired me to try. When others were trying to control me, I resisted strenuously -and my will is incredibly strong.

I am doing better regarding aggression, but have a long way to go – had I not ventured out on those two days I may still be under the illusion I now have it all under control.

On the bright side – I no longer fight with strangers – nearly all aggression is verbal now, and even that is infrequent as I know my triggers and usually avoid them. I also did not wear my weighted vest, which DOES help calm me -and both days I FORGOT MY SQUISHIES! It is remarkable how much these items calm me. It is also remarkable how often I forget this.

As far as lashing out at my support guy – I AM sorry, and even that episode was minor.

Photo Credit: Ben Seidelman/Flickr

Source:  Just Can’t Take Me Anywhere! – Autistry And Me

I am Christian Espicha, an adult woman with autism. Though diagnosed as a young child with autism, partly because I also possess a genius IQ, I did not receive appropriate services until recently when I became a client at Autistry Studios in San Rafael, CA. Recently, at age 45, I was the oldest member of the Humboldt County Structure Firefighting Academy to graduate. Also, I completed EMT training and worked as a firefighter/EMT in Trinity County, California. I performed, with my fellow firefighters, mountain rescues, and recoveries assisted the Forest Service with fires in the Trinity National Forest and assisted with water rescues/recoveries on the Trinity River. I am also a writer and artist. See my website at https://www.autistryandme.wordpress.com and autistryandme on Facebook and follow me @Screenshotaut on Twitter.

 

12 Actors Changing Disability Representation on Television

12 Actors Changing Disability Representation on Television

The awareness of disabilities and long-term illnesses in the media has risen considerably in the last few years, where actors with disabilities are making a positive impact and landing key roles regardless of their disabilities. There’s an ongoing argument where non-disabled actors are playing disabled roles, even though real disabled actors are available, which is particularly evident in Hollywood films. So within this feature we’ve specifically focused on television media, as there’s a definite increase of disabled actors now landing significant roles in television.

Although the public shouldn’t necessarily look to the media to learn about these disabilities, it’s certainly raising the awareness and helping to dissolve stigmas around the subject. The lack of disabled actors in television and film is something which has improved considerably over the years, however still needs changing and is an area which needs much more discussion and attention.

Good news is that there are already quite a few channels out there trying to make those changes, including the BBC, and some remarkable television shoes that are making waves in the media. A recent one to watch out for is ABC’s new comedy “Speechless” which follows a family of five with a special needs child.

“In July 2014, BBC Director General Tony Hall pledged to quadruple the number of disabled people on screen by 2017.”

This feature outlines 12 actors with disabilities and long-term illnesses that are making a positive awareness in the media with their outstanding performances in television phenomenon such as “Game of Thrones,” “Breaking Bad,” “Stranger Things” and more. Check out which actors are on the list, as well as an infographic which presents some statistics on the employment of disabled artists within television.

Peter Dinklage

Show Spotlight: Game of Thrones

Disability: Restricted Growth (Dwarfism)

Peter dinkllage

Award-winning actor Peter Dinklage has earned an incredible place in the media spotlight for his outstanding performance as Tyrion Lannister in HBO’s “Game of Thrones” television series.

Winning both a Golden Globe and Emmy Award for his performance as Tyrion Lannister, he’s created a positive awareness around Restricted Growth (Dwarfism), especially not only being part of such a popular television show but playing such a major character within the show.

This is an incredible example of how a real disabled actor playing a pivotal role can have such a positive impact and awareness and that professional actors should be considered for these roles regardless of their disability or long-term illness.

Rather than playing a typical comedy role which Dwarfs are usually often seen playing, Peter has made a breakthrough for both disability in television and increased the awareness of Dwarfism.

Further reading links:

RJ Mitte

Show Spotlight: Breaking Bad

Disability: Cerebral Palsy

RJ Mitte

Looking for acting opportunities where his disability would serve to educate viewers, actor RJ Mitte landed his most iconic role to date as Walter “Flynn” White Junior on AMC’s Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning “Breaking Bad” series.

Living with Cerebral Palsy, just like his “Breaking Bad” character, RJ Mitte is on a mission to get more disabled people on TV and to increase the awareness. Unlike his character Flynn though, Mitte doesn’t need to rely on any walking devices and RJ had to learn to slur his speech to create a more dramatic version of his disability.

A celebrity ambassador for United Cerebral Palsy, RJ Mitte is an inspiration around the world. He’s engaged in public speaking, has been seen gracing the catwalk and was also part of Channel 4’s Paralympic coverage back in September this year.

“He hopes seeing more disabled people on TV will increase understanding of disability and make people more comfortable around disabled people.”

Further reading links:

Gaten Matarazzo

Show Spotlight: Stranger Things

Disability: Cleidocranial Dysplasia

Stranger Things

Bringing awareness to Cleidocranial Dysplasia, a rare genetic disorder, Gaten Matarazzo is an upcoming actor to watch out for! Known for playing Dustin in Netflix’s cult hit series “Stranger Things,” he certainly holds his own as one of the coolest characters.

“It’s a condition where you’re born without your collarbones,” he told Ross. “I don’t have any. It affects your facial growth, your skull growth, your teeth — that’s why I don’t have any [teeth], these are fake right here. I have teeth, but they’re all baby teeth. I need a lot of surgery.”

At just 14 years old, Gaten is making a positive awareness around his disability at such a young age by speaking openly about it on chat shows and other media interviews. Although his disability isn’t directly related to his character in “Stranger Things,” Gaten is demonstrating that a professional actor can be cast for a key role despite their disability. With season 2 of “Stranger Things” on the horizon, there’s plenty more of this charismatic little start to come.

Further reading links:

Russell Harvard

Show Spotlight: Fargo

Disability: Hearing Loss

Russell Harvard

Born with Deafness, Russell Harvard has been acting since a child. Landing his first villainous role as Mr.Wench in “Fargo” the crime-drama television series, he was happy to play somebody that wasn’t himself and play a character that wasn’t defined by being deaf.

Although Russell Harvard’s role in “Fargo” isn’t a positive character to look up to in the show, since he’s a bit of a villain, the idea that Harvard can play a villain (like any other professional actor) is a step in the right direction for showing that actors can land and should audition for major roles regardless of their disabilities.

Further reading links:

Sarah Gordy

Show Spotlight: Call The Midwife

Disability: Down’s Syndrome

Sarah Gordy

Sarah Gordy, a professional actress, dancer, and model with Down’s syndrome, is best known for her high-profile role as Sally Harper in the BBC’s “Call The Midwife,” a television series set during the 1950s. As well as BBC shows, Sarah has acted in short films, radio dramas, commercials and many theatre productions.

With ten years experience on stage and television, her aim is to play roles where people see her as a woman and actress first rather than just someone with Down’s Syndrome. The BBC’s “Call The Midwife” was a major turning point where they didn’t see her as just an actress with a disability; they saw her as a woman first. Some of Gordy’s earlier accounts with the BBC weren’t so promising.

“She told Disability News Service that she was once informed by senior BBC executives “in business suits” that she was “not Down’s enough,” “not pitiful enough” and “too attractive” to play the part of a character with Down’s syndrome.”

This stigma around actors with disabilities needs to end. Someone with a disability like Down’s Syndrome needs to be seen in their right and for their acting talents, not just playing someone with Down’s Syndrome that viewers need to pity and feel sorry for. Sarah Gordy is making viewers look up to her as a role model and a confident and powerful woman.

Further reading links:

Colin Young

Show Spotlight: Call The Midwife

Disability: Cerebral Palsy

Colin Young

Co-star with Sarah Gordy on BBC’s “Call The Midwife,” Colin Young is a disabled actor with Cerebral Palsy. Making his debut in “Call The Midwife,” Colin played the role of Jacob Milligan who had an on-screen relationship with Sally Harper, played by Sarah Gordy who is an actress with Down’s Syndrome.

Although featuring two disabled characters having a relationship has been a massive breakthrough for disability portrayal and acceptance within the media thanks to “Call The Midwife,” both Colin Young and Sarah Gordy believe there is still a long way to go. All professional actors who are disabled should be getting cast for their talent and abilities rather than to just portray their disability.

Further reading links:

Michael J. Fox

Show Spotlight: The Good Wife

Disability: Parkinson’s Disease

Michael J Fox

Diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 1992 at just 30 years old, Michael J. Fox has soldiered on with his acting career, showing determination and becoming a huge inspiration to other people with disabilities and health conditions.

Despite having Parkinson’s Disease, Fox has continuously shown commitment and motivation within his acting career and has successfully contributed to positive awareness around Parkinson’s Disease, by sending out the message that people with a disability or condition can carry out a relatively normal life and do things which they’re passionate about.

Landing his recurring role as the character Louis Canning, a cut-throat lawyer, in the CBS drama “The Good Wife”, Michael J. Fox was able to show that just because he’s an actor with a disability, that doesn’t mean he should have to play a role where he’s portrayed as helpless and needs sympathy for the viewers.

Further reading links:

Jamie Brewer

Show Spotlight: American Horror Story

Disability: Down’s Syndrome

Jamie Brewer

Model, actress and active member within the Down’s Syndrome community, Jamie Brewer has been shining the spotlight on Down’s Syndrome with positivity and showing exactly why people should accept such disabilities, especially within the media, and why disabled actors deserve the same opportunities to present their talents.

Making history on the New York catwalk in February 2015, Jamie Brewer was the first Down’s Syndrome model to walk at fashion week, thanks to designer Carrie Hammer. This was an incredible milestone for Brewer to be at the forefront of, and thus inspiring many others with disabilities.

As well as modeling, Jamie has also been getting a strong reputation for her acting within the television series “American Horror Story.” Playing a range of characters, which included some challenging narratives, the series helped to showcase her acting ability and versatility.

Further reading links:

Robert David Hall

Show Spotlight: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation

Disability: Double Leg Amputee

Robert David Hall

Robert David Hall is a disabled actor who is best known for his character on CBS’s “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” television series. Being a double leg amputee in real life, David Hall plays the role of a medical examiner called AI Robbins.

Not always a double leg amputee, Robert David Hall was severely burned in 1978 from a car accident. After several months in a burn unit and double leg amputation, he now walks comfortably on two prosthetic limbs.

“A committed disability advocate, Hall has used his position to raise awareness of those issues that impact the quality of life for people with disabilities and recently joined the board of directors of the National Organization on Disability.”

Further reading links:

Lauren Potter

Show Spotlight: Glee

Disability: Down’s Syndrome

Lauren Potter

Taking on the character of Becky Jackson on Fox’s musical comedy show “Glee,” Lauren Potter was born with Down’s Syndrome and is helping to increase the awareness for people to look at an individual’s skills rather than their disability or health condition.

“Playing Becky on Glee was SO amazing. I had so much fun over the last six years. It was fun being so spunky and funny, but I also got to do some really dramatic and sometimes even sad scenes. Everyone in my Glee family was so nice and supportive. Because of Glee, I’ve gotten to do so many amazing things, and I’ve gotten to meet so many amazing people and speak out about things that are important”

Although Lauren has brought plenty of positive connotations for “Glee,” the show has also received quite a lot of negative reviews as well. Lauren’s co-star Kevin McHale plays a character called Artie who is in a wheelchair, yet he doesn’t use a wheelchair in real life. This just shows the negative impact that casting non-disabled actors for a disabled role can have, even though Lauren Potter has brought a considerable amount of disability awareness to the show.

Further reading links:

Liam Bairstow

Show Spotlight: Coronation Street

Disability: Down’s Syndrome

Encouraging actors with disabilities to follow their dreams, Liam Bairstow is most known for landing his role as Alex Warner on ITV’s “Coronation Street.” Born with Down’s Syndrome, Liam has had a major part to play when it comes to changing people’s perception of Down’s Syndrome and acceptance of actors with disabilities within television.

Making British history in 2015 for his role on “Coronation Street,” Liam Bairstow was the first actor with Down’s Syndrome to be cast in a British television soap and is certainly one to watch out for!

Further reading links:

Lisa Hammond

Show Spotlight: Eastenders

Disability: Pseudoachondroplasia (Restricted Growth) and Joint Hypermobility

Born with Pseudoachondroplasia (Restricted Growth) and Joint Hypermobility, Lisa Hammond is best known for her character Donna Yates on the BBC’s “Eastenders” series.

Hammond has made an incredible achievement for raising the awareness of Restricted Growth and Joint Hypermobility disabilities, although she has also sadly come under quite a lot of criticism for the role as well. Although Lisa is often seen in a wheelchair in real life, she doesn’t always need to be in it… which led to one of the episodes of Eastenders featuring Donna Yates standing up and out of her wheelchair, which resulted in quite a stir in the media.

“Lisa, who says she will walk in a scene if she feels able, added: ‘But if I can’t or pain levels are bad then I’ll use my chair. I’ve been shouted at. I’ve had people say, “Oi, why are you in a chair when you were walking on EastEnders last night?”

Although negative, the media attention which Hammond received should hopefully make people realize that not all disabilities are as they appear and just because someone might sometimes need a wheelchair, doesn’t mean they need to be in a wheelchair 24/7.

Further reading links:

The Employment of Disabled Actors Within Television

Disabled actors getting cast for a key television role because of their acting ability rather than their disability is the talking point and mission behind many disabled rights organizations.

Although the proportion of the employment of disabled actors within television has increased quite considerably the last few years, there’s still a long way to go. There’s still plenty of cases where able-bodied actors are being cast for disabled roles, rather than disabled actors. This is particularly evident in Hollywood films, however, is still very evident in television as well. Take a look at the below mini infographic which helps put this matter into perspective.

Sources used for infographic:

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