Wednesday, October 6, 2010
What I learned today
I spent the day, again, as a fellow for LEND (Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities), and just like the other Wednesdays, I thought I'd highlight something interesting, something that stuck out and that struck me.
What I learned today is that persons with Down Syndrome in the Netherlands, as well as other folks with intellectual disabilities, have improved access to their communities, and that those communities work hard to include these people and help to foster their independence. The speaker who talked about this was an American nutritionist, married to a Dutch man, and she had traveled quite extensively in the Netherlands. She spoke of an afternoon where she saw many, many people with Down Syndrome riding bicycles to their work from their group home, and said, too, that it wasn't an uncommon sight to see people with intellectual disabilities navigating the cities on their own. It was her "unscientific" opinion that the community fostered by this inclusion was far greater than here in the United States where inclusion is "the law" but still struggles in the culture and in practice.
I have to say that it's my non-scientific opinion that I, and a lot of people like me, spend an inordinate amount of time "defending" the rights of our children or young adults with disabilities. I have had top educators in the school system, principals even, use the "economic" argument -- that educating the severely disabled somehow "takes money away" from those who are "typical." But that's for another day...
A trip to Holland might be worth it, after all! (And this is an inside joke, meant for those who share my skin-crawling dislike of the Welcome to Holland letter.).