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English 212

2002 Third Paper

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disabled education

Sherira Fernandes

Sherira Fernandes
Thinking Sex
Praxis Introduction
Disabled Education
An 18 year old student, Bob, is laying on a large rubber exercise ball in the right hand corner of the room. This is where he is normally sent to calm himself when upset by classroom activities. He starts to rhythmically bounce on the ball while groaning. The teachers rush to reprimand him for masturbating in class. At this point he begins violently trashing himself onto the floor.
This is not the first time this has happened today. Bob is one of many students who have done this today.
Bob is a multi-handicapped Life Secondary student at a school for the handicapped. He cannot speak, wears a diaper, and must be supervised at all times. Even though his mind is not fully developed, his body is. Like other men and women his age he has sexual feelings. Since Bob is severely handicapped any information that he has has been told to him either by parents or teachers. There are no other influences, no television, no friends, no text books. He cannot gain information for himself.
I could go through countless examples of students like this one; however the specifics of each case are different. Bob can hear and comprehend much of what is said to him. Many of the other students can not. Some parents encourage openness about sexuality at home. Most do not. Some parents expect the school to teach sexual guidelines, but are unwilling to uphold them at home. Most parent just want to ignore this issue, there are enough issues for these students to deal with. Some parent want to talk about this issue, but simply cannot because their children are deaf-blind or have other handicaps, and the parents do not know the terminology.
This is just one of many issues that the teachers and organizers of the school must think about. Trying to get these students to communicate that they are hungry is a costly task. It often takes weeks of screaming for a student to communicate that he has a milk allergy. How can he ask about why his penis is standing up?
The school tries to accommodate all the different types of students given its resources. The school teaches students ranging from preschool to twenty-one , each at different academic and handicapped levels. Most of the students are mixed in classes together. Severely handicapped students attend Life Secondary classes, students with better social skills attend the Secondary program. Class sizes generally range from two to ten children, and have a teacher with one or two aids. The school is state run, and the monetary support comes half from each student's school district and half from the state.
There is often resistance from individual school districts to pay for the school of disabled students in their area and parents have to fight for their children's education. Each classroom needs very high technology material, therefore each subject is very expensive to teach. Subjects like typical Sex Education are a very difficult option. (Forget about discussions on homosexuality and flexuality.) There is a hard enough time getting funding to teach the students how to eat- or communicate that they want to eat. Imagine trying to explain why taxes need to be raised in order to fund Sex Education for mentally and physically disabled students.
This is not to say that the school does not try. There is a Circles Program which discusses good and bad touching. It is helpful, but does not discuss sexual organs, the act, what it means, and consequences. In addition to those problems most of the teachers in the field are women. This is a problem for the male students who can recognize the difference between male and female.
Currently the Circles Program, or any official program is not in use. Sex is not said out loud in front of the students. Few teachers want to deal with the questions that accompany that word, or with the consequential calls from parents. These issues cannot be ignored, especially since some of the students are dating.
Individual teachers have tried to come up with different methods to discuss these types of issues. On Friday mornings Miss Lisa has nail time with the girls in her class. They paint their nails while talking about their periods. Nothing for boys.
The teachers and directors at this school are in a very difficult situation. There is no easy answer. Is it actually easier to pull a girl's hands out of her pants every twenty minutes than to come up with an individualized program that will cost tax payers literally hundreds of thousands of dollars? Short run, maybe, long run no. Currently I have only seen the students mastubate, but sources have said that it is very common for students to begin to make unwanted sexual advantages towards other students and teachers (including molestation and rape) without knowing they are doing something wrong. Sexual education is a necessity, not a privilege.


Bowers, Tressa. Andrea's Lilacs: The Story of a Mother and her Deaf Daughter. Washington DC : Gallaudet University Press, 1999.
This books gives a vivid account of a mother's struggle for her deaf child's right. Although it does not talk about sex, it does talk about the responsibilities facing the parent of a disabled child.

Budgeting and Finance Meeting for the Marple Newtown School District. 7:30, November 12, 2002 in the Gaunlet Center.
This meeting will show how money is distributed throughout the district.

Cibulka, James, and William Kritek. Coordination Among Schools, Families, and Communities: Prospects for Educational Reform. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996.
This work provides information on how to connect families and schools, and how things are done in the administrative side of schooling.

Cutler, William. Parents and Schools: The 150- Year Struggle for Control in American Education. Chicago:The University of Chicago Press, 2000.
This source talks about where the power lies in education.

Davis, Lennard. My Sense of Silence: Memoirs of a Childhood with Deafness. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2000.
This memoir gives a pragmatic account of what it is like to be raised by two deaf parents.

Fisher and Mary Procidano, ed. Contemporary Families: A Handbook for School Professionals. New York City: Teacher's College Press, 1992.
This source gives a variety of home-life situations and how a teacher or other types of professionals can deal with them.

Jade, Rowen and Michele Wates, ed. Bigger than the Sky: Disabled Women on Parenting. London: The Woman's Press LTD, 1999.
Wates and Jade collected a powerful collection of what a woman with disabilities must go through to have a child, raise a child, and basic sexual rights and views.

Jones, Walley, interview- Monday, 4:30 November 4th.
Jones is in charge of budgeting and finance for Marple Newtown Senior High School. He'll be able to talk about some of the recent hardships the school has been going through in trying to get money from the school board.

Weinhouse, Don and Marilyn. Little Children, Big Needs. Colorado: University Press of Colorado, 1994.
This book has a very useful collection of interviews with parents of disabled children, their questions, and tips for both parents and professionals.

Wincek, Jean. Negotiating the Maze of School Reform. New York: Teacher's College, 1995.
This book gives a detailed explanation of how a hardworking group of educators passed a controversial new idea for a school and put things together.

Fighting for Education: Gaining a Sexual Awareness for the Severely Handicapped
Objective- My objective is to present parents and school districts with the need for their support in the sexual education of handicapped children. This will be a sexual education curriculum for parents and school boards, not for the students.

Plan- Basic Outline
I. Get Parental Support
A. Gain Trust
B. Have parents admit that their children need to educated on the matter, may be harsh.
C. Get parents to help fight for funding
II. Get monetary support from school board
A. Show need
B. Show education plan
C. Get money!
III. Support the parents and families

Explanation of Outline-

In order to have an effective curriculum for students, one must be able to teach it. To be able to teach such a diversely handicapped group, there is a need for full parental or caregiver support, funding, and very willing, capable teachers. All of these factors bolster each other, one will not work without the other. If one group fights the other the program will not work. This is where the major challenge lies.
The first step is to convince parents of the need to educate their children about sex. Then, with the parents support we can convince the school board that the education is needed and cannot be done without funding.
It is hard for a mother or father to understand that although her daughter has the mind of a one year old, her grown body has sexual urges. The parents must also comprehend that any program instigated in school must be placed into action in the home as well. It is very difficult to have parents aggree that some of the normal practices done at home need to be discontinued because they will not be accepted in everyday life by people who are not the child's parent. For example Bob's mother allows him to sit on her lap and kiss and hug her- normal activities for a one year old and his mother, but not for a twenty year old body and strangers. Bob does not understand why he may sit with his mother in this manner and not with his teachers and peers. There must be a constant, set pattern for the way these children are cared for.
Ideas like this are very difficult for a parent to accept. Many parents of disabled children have had to fight everyone in their lives to help their disabled child succeed. Tresse Bowers describes fighting doctors, her own family, and society to get her disabled daughter the care she needed in Alandra's Lilacs. As in Bower's case, many parents of a disabled child pour their whole lives into the child; to have someone say the way they hold their child is wrong can lead to hostility. Unless one is a parent of a handicapped child one cannot understand what it is like.
Some parents would rather pretend that their children do not masturbate than pulling their children's hands out of their pants every half hour. Some parents do not have the time to go through intense behavior modification plans with their children because work, money, or other children can get in the way. Teachers would need to prove to the parents that this is imperative to their children's well being now, and in the future.
Teachers need trust and respect from the parent if education plans are to work.
The best way for teachers to gain trust from parents is to show they care, and show noticeable them improvements in children.
Getting the parents to understand the importance of constantly practicing planned methods reinforcing good sexual behavior is the next step after gaining their trust. The parents need to be taught that sexual acts are feasible, respectful behavior as long as it is done in the right place and time.
After the parents agree that sexual education is something their children must have and are willing to help, funding is needed to prepare the programs and run them. The computers and communication devices used by the students cost up to thousands of dollars. This money comes from the school board.
Getting school boards to fund such devices is quite a struggle, especially with topics like sex education for handicapped children. Right now in local school districts AP Programs, foreign languages, sports, and clubs are all being cut because of lack of funding. When speaking with my brother my project he commented If they can't eat on their own, why should we be worried about sex? The board heads must understand the effect that the welfare of these students has on the whole community, and why tax money needs to be put towards them for sexual education.
Only after all these factors are met will there be enough support for the education that these students need.

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