Disability: We Have Superpowers Too
Author: Kathleen M. Cleaver | Contact: Disabled World (Disabled-World.com)
Peer-Reviewed Publication: N/A
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Synopsis: What about the children and adults with disabilities that don't have success stories? They have superpowers, too!. Barbara is my 64-year-old sister. She is legally blind, has a significant hearing loss, and has been labeled severely intellectually impaired. If she were a child being evaluated today, she would probably also be diagnosed as autistic. Tricia is my 42-year-old daughter. She has cerebral palsy and has been labeled as severely intellectually impaired. Both girls are dependent upon others for their safety and personal care.
Over the past 50 years laws have been passed, curriculums written and technological advances made that have helped disabled children and adults advance in education and learn skills once thought impossible. Children once placed in a special education classroom are now being educated with their peers in an inclusive setting.
Children with disabilities like Down Syndrome, autism, and learning disabilities are featured in the news for their academic achievements, sports, the arts, and the workforce. These are wonderful success stories, but what about the children and adults that don't have success stories? They have superpowers, too!
Barbara and Tricia
Barbara is my 64-year-old sister. She is legally blind, has a significant hearing loss, and has been labeled severely intellectually impaired. If she were a child being evaluated today, she would probably also be diagnosed as autistic. Tricia is my 42-year-old daughter. She has cerebral palsy and has been labeled as severely intellectually impaired. Both girls are dependent upon others for their safety and personal care. Both girls were educated in special education schools. When Tricia reached high school age, her class was moved to the same high school that her sisters attended. Both girls participated in a curriculum that centered on basic academics and life skills. Outside of school, Barbara and Tricia had parents who were very involved in their education and care. They were included in family activities and social events. Most of all, they were loved.
Barbara and Tricia do not fit into the model of disability success. Their achievements cannot be measured by reading scores, graduation rates, or job performance. They like being around other people but have very limited ability to join in conversations. Physical and academic achievements are limited due to their intellectual and physical disabilities. What they have achieved is important to them.
Barbara loves music. She learned to sing before she could talk. She especially loves Christmas music and the Beatles. She knows the tune to almost every Christmas song and can sing it on key. The words are a different story!! She knows the Beatle's songs when they are played on the radio. When Barbara was little, she liked to chew on things. She chewed the labels off of her records. She could still identify the records even though they no longer had any identifying colors or pictures. We think she identified them by smell or taste! Barbara can operate a combination radio and CD player to play her CDs and find her favorite radio station.
Barbara doesn't read print or braille. She has never seen a calendar, but if you ask her the date, she can tell you the day, the date, and the month. Summer is her favorite season and the only season she can name. August is her least favorite month because she knows summer will soon come to an end. She knows all the holidays and the dates of family and friends' birthdays. She is my walking calendar!
For Tricia, everything comes in twos. She can count to two and identify a set of one or two objects. It makes sense when you think that most of our major body parts come in sets of two. She understands that you use money to buy things and likes to hand the cashier dollar bills. She has a keen eye for detail. She can find a small hole in your shirt or a missing button. She points out changes in home decor. It can be as small as a new picture on the wall or as large as a new sofa. Blue is the only color she can name. Maybe it is because my car is blue. Her favorite places to visit are restaurants, church, and schools. When riding in the car, Tricia will call to my attention most of the fast food restaurants, churches, and schools. Even those she has never visited.
Tricia's favorite pastime is watching movies. Comedy is her favorite genre. She has a few favorite movies that she enjoys watching and can identify the movie by its cd cover.
Most of all, Tricia gives the best hugs, even though she can only do it with one arm!
What if Tricia and Barbara were born recently? Would they have more superpowers? Would they advance in an academic setting? When I examine the strategies for helping disabled children in an academic setting, I don't believe they fit the needs of my girls. I worked as a special education teacher for many years with the goal of preparing students and supporting students in an inclusive setting. Some students needed more support and a different program to help them develop their superpowers.
If Tricia and Barbara were born today, maybe they wouldn't be disabled. With the advancement in fetal monitoring, maybe Tricia wouldn't have suffered hypoxia. We are not sure what caused Barbara's disabilities. In 1958 we didn't know the negative effects smoking had on a developing fetus or the possibility that my mother was exposed to rubella while pregnant. I can't look back at "what ifs," but I can move forward and celebrate their superpowers!!
Barbara and Tricia have significant disabilities. I cannot change that no matter how hard I try. They are healthy, happy, and successful in their own way. I can't ask for more.
I am proud of their superpowers; I hope you are too!!!
About Kathleen M. Cleaver
Kathleen M. Cleaver holds a Bachelor’s degree in elementary education and the education of children whose primary disability is a visual impairment (TVI). During her thirty-year career as a teacher, Kathleen received the Penn-Del AER Elinor Long Award and the AER Membership Award for her service and contributions to the education of children with visual impairments. She also received the Elizabeth Nolan O’Donnell Achievement Award for years of dedicated service to St. Lucy Day School for Children with Visual Impairments.
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• Cite This Page (APA): Kathleen M. Cleaver. (2022, August 11). Disability: We Have Superpowers Too. Disabled World. Retrieved January 27, 2023 from www.disabled-world.com/disability/blogs/superpowers.php
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