Friday, October 11, 2013

Doom and gloom

This is the second day of the  Conductive Education World Congress and the second day of listening to some odd statements about my own disability. Yesterday a man presented his research part of which dealt with how adults with CP assess their own quality of life and how they enjoy it. "This data shows, that you don't have go to a university, you can have CP to still find joy in life". I could say of course, that I do have CP and not necessarily the mild form of it, but I did go to a university and
I have three law degrees. I'd say my self esteem and perspectives where only enhanced by it.  The problem I saw in a lot of those presentations is that nobody really expected the people with disabilities to accomplish much and amount to anything. As if the only goal of the rehabilitation process and the most you can get out of an individual like me is getting them some degree of functionality and have them  enter the workforce on some lower level to be productive. A woman from the UK presented some alarming statistics that the younger generation of CP children is less educated and requires more severe care than kids in similar studies a decade before. And it really got me wondering. To what extent is this lack of drive towards education a product of a particular child's actual inability to learn and absorb knowledge and to what is it caused by all the factors external from child's intelligence. Their own mobility and spasticity, but also transportation, accessibility, stairs, lack of lifts, logistics. I have always said that I was able to go to school because my parents were lucky enough  to get an apartment with no stairs leading up to the elevator,  in a building with a lift and on a relatively low floor. This may sound funny, but not all parents of CP children where that lucky. And if you think about all the struggle you'd have to go through just to get them out of the house every day, you'd lose passion to educate them as well. And this before we even get to school, before anything remotely related to their individual learning ability even has a chance to manifest itself. Before I moved to America, I had to accept those architectural barriers as my reality. This was my world. Things blocking me had nothing to do with how smart and driven I was and my career perspectives had less to do with my knowledge and talents and more with how someone designed a city around me to exclude me at every junction. And you think, this is life. You have to conform somehow to those barriers around you and find the things you can do. We chose my highschool on the basis of proximity, not my interests in math and physics. My father suggested I go into computing so my brother can help me along, get me a job, so I can be in that way productive. Not until I moved to America had I thought that there is another way to approach this. Not have me mold to the world's limitations, but mold the world around me so it can have less limits. In that sense I started to think of Conductive Education as a counter movement to the American accessibility trend. Yes, Peto says to try, to fight, to be the best that you can, but it seems that he's essentially saying change the individual, because the world will not change for him. And in that way, while I gained more ability and just enough to function in America, I do think it conditioned me to accept the world as is and expecting less out of life often feeling inadequate. Americans are getting rid of stairs, putting in lifts.  You can get around more and you get to experience more in life. But they also sit the children in wheelchairs early, don't promote developing the physical abilities, mobility, body awareness to that extent, elements I find useful even as I live in more accessible Florida. In my mind, both need to change, grow and adapt- the children as well as the surroundings they live in.

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