Michael Phillips, a 32-year-old man with significant disabilities, recounts his inclusion experience at Plant High School as a student.
Sometimes it is easier to see how students with significant disabilities can be included in elementary school. The demands are often not as intense as in high school and the students are typically more welcoming. Watch and read this incredible story of Michael, now a 32-year-old man, who experienced inclusion at a secondary school in Tampa Bay, Florida.
Born with the most severe form of spinal muscular atrophy, Phillips could not walk or sit up while attending the South Tampa school. He used a voice amplification device to take part in class discussions. A special switch allowed him to use his thumb to take photos and lay out pages on a computer.
At Plant, he experienced “inclusion,” making friends with able-bodied peers and outshining many of them in class. But that followed nine years when Phillips says he was segregated with children who had a wide array of disabilities.
Because he has a tracheotomy tube, Phillips communicates through a device called a NeuroSwitch. Letters, then words, appear on a screen overhead. In his bedroom, they’re duplicated on a larger screen mounted on an armoire.
Because of his complex medical issues, the school district placed him in ESE classes. “It was different grade levels and different disabilities all in this one room,” he said.
When he was a hospital-homebound student, a math teacher spent lesson time telling Phillips and Clay about his divorce. “Every week, he’d give me an A. But we’d never actually get to doing any math,” Phillips said.
School officials say much has changed since Michael Phillips, now 32, was a student. But as Phillips reflects on his education — both in ESE classes and after he joined the mainstream — he hears echoes from his childhood in the current controversies.
“I think the real issue is a complete lack of expectation for the disabled,” he says.
Source: Severely disabled Plant High grad argues for inclusion, changes in special ed – Tampa Bay Times