[From Bruce Nevin (991211.1307 EST)]
From Fred Nickols (991211.1035 EST)] --
Question 2: However, whether I am dealing with a child or an adult, if the
reference levels for the perceptions to be controlled are negotiated,
discussed and adopted in an atmosphere of fairness and understanding,
especially an appreciation of the person's limitations, stages of
development and competencies, does the adoption of externally-posed
reference levels wreak the same kind of havoc?
Regarding special personal limitations in particular, and "fair" process in
general, this may be relevant:
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A real test of the validity of the responsible thinking process for many
educators is how well the process works with special ed students. As I've
traveled throughout the U.S. and overseas, I've heard both teachers and
administrators claim over and over again that many special ed children
cannot think and decide for themselves how to deal responsibly with their
peers and adults. Some educators claim that a number of these children
really can't distinguish right from wrong, and so teachers and parents are
held responsible for the children's actions.
Erin Powell, without a doubt one of the most competent special ed teachers
I've ever met, at one time believed that her students were limited with
regard to personal responsibility. For many years, she had trained others
in the use of behavior modification. But Erin was willing to challenge her
own beliefs and what she had learned from others. I often recall the day I
was visiting Erin's class when little Jimmy refused to line up. I was
overwhelmed by what she did with Jimmy and the other children. Even to
write these words brings tears to my eyes.
Erin had seven students in class that day, all between five and eight years
old. Jane was six years old, with mild mental retardation. She tried to
speak in complete sentences, but others had great difficulty understanding
what she said. Vanessa and Amy were seven years old and were also mildly
mentally retarded. Sheryl was an eight-year-old non-verbal autistic child
who used communication overlays and signing to communicate. Oscar was also
an autistic eight-year-old. He communicated verbally using at least
three-word sentences. Eddy was five years old, with severe mental
retardation. He was microcephalic and used a wheelchair that gave him
maximum support. He could roll on the floor to go small distances in the
classroom, and other individuals pushed him in his wheelchair. He was
working to express himself by using a switch connected to a loop tape.
Finally, there was six-year-old Jimmy, who was labeled severely mentally
retarded. He had difficulty speaking but was beginning to use single-word
phrases. Jimmy used a walker to move around.
Erin asked the students to line up for lunch. All except Jimmy formed a
line; Jimmy started walking around the room. Erin guided him to a wall with
a poster depicting the classroom rules and a board with "Yes" and "No"
communication symbols on it. Using RTP, she guided him through the
questions, and Jimmy finally committed to following the rules and began to
make his plan, using the symbols to communicate. While Jimmy was working
with Erin, the other students waited patiently in line listening to Jimmy.
There wasn't one disruption. When Jimmy was done answering Erin's
questions, excited by having made a plan, he turned to walk toward the
other students in line. In his excitement, he bumped into a desk, laughed,
then took his place at the end of the line. He was smiling at us and,
unintentionally, bumped into the person in front of him. Erin suggested to
Jimmy that he take his place at the front of the line and lead the class to
Jimmy was so proud that he was being responsible by leading the class to
the cafeteria, he often looked back and smiled at the adults. Sometimes
when he looked back, he bumped into a post or a wall. And when he did, he
would laugh and then proceed onwards. Meanwhile, the rest of the class
followed Jimmy, staying in line without any adult telling them what to do.
Jane, hardly reaching the top of Eddy's wheelchair, was pushing him while
staying in line. This was her classroom job. At the cafeteria, some of the
children, on their own or with some assistance, took their appropriate
seats at the table. Others went through the line to get food for those who
couldn't manage it on their own. Remarkable!
So many educators suppose that children like those in Erin's classroom
could not do many of the things they did on that day (or any other day).
They couldn't learn to respect the rights of other students. They couldn't
learn to help others when the need presented itself. I saw, firsthand, how
children with severe disabilities could be successful and responsible for
their actions using higher-order thinking. On that day, Erin Powell taught
me far more than I could have ever taught her.
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At 10:54 AM 12/11/1999 -0500, Fred Nickols wrote: