Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Kliewer: Reconceptualizing Down Syndrome (Reflections)

There were a few points made in Kliewer's essay, aside from the incredibly touching stories, that stood out to me. He explains the difference between a model of utilitarian individualism and a model of human reciprocity. In a model of utilitarian individualism, individuals stand alone in constant competition and scrutiny of each other. Anyone considered apparently inadequate is marginalized, devalued, and stripped of having a voice in the wider community. This often includes people with disabilities, such as people with Down Syndrome - which the essay focuses on. In a model of human reciprocity however, the focus is not on individuals, but on the community. In this model, everyone is valued for the unique and varied ways they enrich the experience of the whole community; everyone is included and everyone has a voice. Kliewer argues for this model and presents stories as evidence for how well it benefits not just less abled individuals, but well abled ones also. 

He argues that schools are the most important sites for this model, to develop a knowledge and a sense of community in which they understand that everyone has something valuable to offer the group, or society as a whole. This will also lead to a more socially just society. An important part of this model also has to do with the need to have a deeper, broader understanding of intellect. In one of his examples, Kliewer points out how a 7-year old boy with Downs is tested to be considered at a 2-year old level, yet his teacher and his peers recognize that he's at the same intellectual level they're at. The model of human reciprocity appreciates the reality that intelligence and understanding can be demonstrated in different ways, ways that are outside the box of the standardized testing ideology.

One statement I really liked was this: "Acknowledging students with [disabilities] as thoughtful, creative, and interested learners with personal identities that distinguish them from all other people suggests an individual value that enhances any context containing the child."

This reminded me of the little boy, in the video we watched about inclusion classes, who said that having a disabled individual in the class was good for everyone because it offers them exposure and understanding that prevents them from reacting negatively to involvement with such individuals. Kliewer and many other professionals who advocate for inclusion further believe that learning is augmented for all students in an inclusive classroom. 

Here is a video I found that makes a lot of the same points as Kliewer in his article

and this one I just thought was cool because it used stop animation, and analogies like the one about wearing glasses we use a lot in FNED

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