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The Short Bus: The wheels of the disability machine set in motion

short-busIn the book, The Short Busauthor Jonathan Mooney describes his personal odyssey from a “Severely Learning Disabled” special education student to an Ivy League graduate (Brown University).  Shortly after completing college, Mooney undertook a cathartic cross-country journey on a “Short Bus” (that he converted to an RV of sorts) to meet and interview many students and former students from the “special ed” world.  He makes compelling cases that:

(1) the “Short Bus” has become an icon that has come to serve a social function of categorizing people with disabilities;

(2) “Disability” is an inherent negation (i.e., a statement of what the disabled person is not – not normal, not whole);

(3) “Normal” looms as an “impossible” goal of “if” (if you say, do, think, or achieve certain things, then you, too, will be “normal”).

The task, he argues, is not to “normalize the abnormal,” but rather, the true challenge for parents and teachers (of all children) is to address areas of weakness while discovering and cultivating strengths. Early childhood professionals must avoid catching the dreaded “Attention to the Deficit Disorder.”  Are we too heavily focused on deficits, rather than on a child’s strengths?  How do you respond to the following hypothetical:

Bobby is great with art, but poor with math (in spite of his strong efforts to succeed). In your opinion, should Bobby’s parents:

(a) do nothing

(b) get Bobby a math tutor (and help him strive to be excellent in all subjects)

(c) get Bobby an art tutor (teach him to cultivate his strengths, and hope he hires an accountant when he becomes an adult)

(d) b & c