INCLUSION SHOULDN'T BE A LOTTERY.
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"...When asked what inclusion means to him, Brent Sullivan, a 48-year-old Autistic near Wilmington, Delaware, replied, “It is the feeling of being wanted.” Like Jack, he first learned to spell just a few years ago. When asked what growing up without communication was like, he said, succinctly: “It was unpleasant. Real communication,” he continued, “has given me more options.”
Brian Foti, in the greater Philadelphia area, said, “It’s wonderful to hear you talk about Autistics as capable intellects. This is my mission.” With regard to his own recently gained access to communication, he added, “It is allowing me freedom to express my thoughts without [others] assuming what I want to say…”
The youngest of our nonspeaking participants to date, Charlie Taylor in Waynesboro, VA, said, simply, “DJ is my hero.” His story, though, highlights the barriers to inclusion that exist in many places. His mother, Patricia, home schools Charlie because she feels their school district is not accommodating to Charlie’s needs.
It was striking how many audience members and panelists look upon DJ’s experiences of inclusion in middle school, high school and college with envy. Not all school systems and not all school administrators go the second, third, and fourth miles to make sure that every child has access to language and to communication.
It also became clear just how important funding and overall availability of resources are in helping people of all disabilities to gain access to a full, connected life. A member of the audience from a poor neighborhood shared her story—largely one of misdiagnosis, and lack of information and support in helping her care for a disabled son and in managing her own disability.
In central Philadelphia, I asked nonspeaking advocate Nick Pentzell for his thoughts on the most important ways by which to advance and expand inclusion. His first response: “Wow.” He then followed with, “Number one, attitude adjustment; two, adequate funding; three, not having to prove oneself over and over again.”
Nonspeaking CommUnity Consortium
-- excerpted from blog post by DEEJ director Robert Rooy
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