Grief

My grandma passed away a few weeks ago. At the time I was not able to talk about it. I was having trouble expressing my emotions and it was aggravating my depression. 

It reminded that it is so easy to forget that the grief experienced by people with disabilities is real. People assume that some disabilities mean the person does not understand or is incapable of experiencing the emotions. The grief is just as real, maybe worse. The loss of a loved one may aggravate a person’s mental health issues. A person may have difficulty expressing his or her grief because of communication difficulties. 

Do not rob them of their grief because of your ignorance. 

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One-On-One 

I work with four special education students. Each has their own unique needs and issues. I have learned so much from each student. I have developed many skills and gained a lot of knowledge. I have become much more confident in my abilities. 

I became the one-on-one for one the students recently. I work with her everyday. We do sensory based activities including finger painting and playing with goop. Goop is mixtures of various materials including sand and shaving cream. 

Working as a one-on-one has allowed me to go in depth. I have developed a schedule that fits the needs and wants of the student. The activities are fine tuned to her interests and abilities. I have gotten to know the student and developed a closer bond. 

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Disability Conceptions & Attitudes

Conceptions and attitudes towards disability has changed a lot over the centuries. The conceptions and attitudes were greatly influenced by eugenics. Eugenics is the relationship between scientific information about heredity and social policies. Eugenics was based out of and reinforced by social Darwinism, “survival of the fittest” and inheritance of “undesirable” traits. Eugenics was reflected in scientific, literary, religious, and sociopolitical movements. It spread through mainstream medical and eugenic journals, international meetings, and conferences.

In Nazi Germany, treatment of people with disabilities changed drastically in just a few decades. By the early 20th century there was a mass of pseudo data on the inferiority of people with disabilities. Eugenics was embraced by Hitler and Germany because of its view of “different and inferior” as defective. The “inferior,” people with disabilities, were likely to commit undesirable social behavior and often criminal behavior. Physicians “do no harm” was seen as a product of a less advanced era in history. Problems could be eliminated through sterilization, incarceration, or death. Prior to World War II, custodial treatment was used placing people with disabilities in institutions and state asylums. At the outbreak of World War I, treatment shifted, including implementing cost cutting measures. There was high levels of deprivation and neglect of patients in institutions. People with disabilities were considered of less economic worth. Without proper support many could not contribute to society. In the 1920s, asylums attempted to differentiate between the “curable” and “incurable.” Treatment would not work for the “incurable”, therefore another method was needed to eliminate the threat. Forced sterilization of people with disabilities was utilized to prevent disability and criminal behavior. During the 1930s there was open discussion of killing inmates in asylums. This only reinforced the idea that people with disabilities were “inferior.” Rights were granted exclusively to physicians to alleviate suffering. This shift in mindset lead to the creation of “life unworthy of life.” People with disabilities were considered incurable with no will or sense of living. A program for children and later one for adults were implemented to systematically kill people with disabilities. Soon after the killing programs started, the world learned of the deaths. The public and the rest of the world was revolted and outraged. The backlash scared authorities and the programs were shut down. However, the program was continued in secrecy through lethal injection, starvation, and intentional exposure.

In the United Sates, 1890-1920, almost every scientist interested in heredity was interested in eugenics. This viewpoint was continued through naturalism–a loss of innocence, freedom, and spontaneity. Eugenics was linked to morality, intelligence and success. People were with disabilities were seen as immoral, unintelligent, and unsuccessful. They deviated from what eugenics deemed the “ideal body”. In the late 19th century, the “painless destruction” of insane and deficient minds was advocated by eugenicists. This “painless destruction” was tied to “pure breeding” the elimination of defectives or people with disabilities and related social problems. In the early 1900s, the menace of the “feebleminded” spread. People with disabilities were seen as dangerous moral defectives threatening the community. This rhetoric fed people’s fear, ignorance, and arrogance of people with disabilities. In 1908, there was a shift to the emerging mental hygiene movement and community services. The new message was adjustment and adaptation, the “maladjusted perpetual defective”. Despite this move forward to positive thinking, Henry Goddard, a psychologist and eugenicist disagreed. In 1911, Goddard argued that there were two solutions–segregated institutions or total institutions and sterilization if necessary. According to J.M. Murdock, total institutionalization was used to prevent more “misery, pauperism, degeneracy and crime”. This led to the development of special education (special classes), training schools, testing methods, and reclassification of disability. People with disabilities were receiving supported services but were still seen as defectives. These special classes promoted placing people with disabilities in public schools to socialize them. When puberty hit, they would be placed in institutions for the remainder of their life. Eugenicists believed the a feeble child would be a feeble adult no matter what intervention was undertaken. Meanwhile, in 1911, states mandated eugenic sterilization of certain adult feeble minds. In 1914, a commission in New Jersey advocated for the creation of widespread colonies of mental defectives.

*War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race (2003, pp. xv-xxv) by Edwin Black
*Useless Eaters: Disability as Genocidal Marker in Nazi Germany by Mark Mostert in The Journal of Special Education, 2002, 36(3), 155-168
*Inventing the Feeble Mind: A History of Mental Retardation in the United States (1994, pp. 131-183) by James Trent

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US Precedent & Nazi Germany Eugenics

Throughout the first six decades of the 20th century in the United States, eugenicists focused on the creation of a “superior Nordic race.” Eugenics was linked to morality, intelligence and success. People were with disabilities were seen as immoral, unintelligent, and unsuccessful. Politicians promoted eugenics as a tool to shape public opinion. Eugenicists believed in “pure breeding,” the elimination of people with disabilities to create a “master Nordic race.” To achieve this, eugenicists used sterilization of people with disabilities to prevent them from continuing their genetic line.

German National Socialists under Adolf Hitler took power in 1933. The Nazi party, especially Hitler, was fascinated with American eugenics. German and American eugenicists shared information and worked together. German eugenicist activities gained approval by leading American eugenicists and institutions. During the mid-20s, Germany gained prominence in legitimate genetic research and racial biology. This helped to strengthen Germany and the United States relationship within eugenics. Throughout 1936, the United States eugenic leadership continued their support of Hitler. Hitler and the Nazi party based much of its eugenic work on American work. After World War I, the German Psychiatry Institute created a massive catalog of family profiles for eugenics. This same recording of family profiles occurred in the United States for the previous 15 years by the Eugenics Record Office. In 1933, Germany created a mass compulsory sterilization law based of the American “model sterilization law.” Eugenic courts developed to decide sterilization cases and “defectives” were organized into nine categories.

Until Germany’s defeat in World War I, eugenicists focused on positive eugenics, the higher birthrate of the superior. However, a eugenic faction favored a racial ideal, a “master Aryan race,” that dominated the eugenic movement. The United States “superior Nordic race” evolved into a German “superior Aryan race.” Germany’s obsession with creating a “master Aryan race” eventually led to the use of euthanasia. The obsession with eliminating the “undesirable” through euthanasia led to the Holocaust. People with disabilities and many other groups were considered lesser forms of life that were “unworthy of life” and should be exterminated. One particular group, Jewish people, were considered eugenically undesirable. Anti-semantic propaganda spread through Germany and the world as Jewish refugees fled the country. Starting in 1940, Germany began euthanizing these “undesirable” groups. Psychiatrists picked victims after a brief view of their records. Thousands of Germans were systematically gassed in concentration camps. Eventually 50,000-100,000 would be euthanized.

*War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race (2003, pp. xv-xxv, 279-318) by Edwin Black
*Useless Eaters: Disability as Genocidal Marker in Nazi Germany by Mark Mostert in The Journal of Special Education, 2002, 36(3), 155-168
*Inventing the Feeble Mind: A History of Mental Retardation in the United States (1994, pp. 131-183) by James Trent

 

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Eugenics & Forced Sterilization

Eugenics is the relationship between scientific information about heredity and social policies. There were forced sterilization laws and regimens on every continent. Movements spread throughout Europe, Latin America, and Asia. Social Darwinism, “survival of the fittest” and inheritance of “undesirable” traits reinforced the sterilization movements. Eugenicists spread sterilization as a method of eliminating “defectives” through mainstream medical and eugenic journals, international meetings, and conferences. With backing from the political community and widespread propaganda the use of sterilization as an effective method deepened its hold on people with disabilities.

In Germany, eugenics was embraced by Hitler because of its view that people that are “different or inferior” are defective. The “inferior,” people with disabilities, were likely to commit undesirable social behavior and often criminal behavior. At the outbreak of World War I, people with disabilities were considered of less economic worth. Without proper support many could not contribute to society. Problems could be eliminated through various methods including sterilization. Physicians “do no harm” was seen as a product of a less advanced era in history. Forced sterilization of defectives was utilized to prevent disability and criminal behavior. In the 1930s, a massive sterilization program with more than 205 local courts was implemented. Anyone could be reported for investigation; physicians that failed to report were fined. Nine categories of defectives were identified for sterilization. To carry out these sterilizations, mass sterilization mills, approved by leading American eugenicists, were used. It was announced 400,000 defectives would be immediately sterilized. The world was revolted by Germany’s actions but United States eugenicists were elated.

In the early 1990s, the United States was drowning the rhetoric of the menace of the “feebleminded.” The “feebleminded” or people with disabilities were seen as dangerous moral defectives threatening the community. This rhetoric fed people’s fear, ignorance, and arrogance of people with disabilities. Eugenicists believed in “pure breeding,” the elimination of people with disabilities to prevent “feeblemindedness.” To achieve this, eugenicists used sterilization of people with disabilities to prevent them from continuing their genetic line. According to eugenicists, sterilization would greatly reduce the number of people with disabilities and therefore reducing the burden on there caretakers. Sterilization would lead to less procreation, less feeblemindedness and less social instability. Many powerful and prestigious institutions were involved including the Carnegie Institute, Rockefeller Foundation, and Harvard University. The involvement of these institutions helped to spread the use of sterilization. The Carnegie Institute used propaganda and advocated for sterilization. In 1911, many states mandated eugenic sterilization of certain adult “feeble” minds. New Jersey passed legislation to sterilize certain adult “feeble” minds. The legislation had the enthusiastic support of Governor Woodrow Wilson. Sterilization was carried out by placing people with disabilities in institutions and sterilizing them. African Americans were banned from institutions because of racism. This allowed them to avoid the forced eugenic sterilization campaign.

*War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race (2003, pp. xv-xxv, 279-318) by Edwin Black
*Useless Eaters: Disability as Genocidal Marker in Nazi Germany by Mark Mostert in The Journal of Special Education, 2002, 36(3), 155-168
*Inventing the Feeble Mind: A History of Mental Retardation in the United States (1994, pp. 131-183) by James Trent

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Concept of Normality

According to Davis we live in a world of norms that exist everywhere in everyday life. Normality has became common belief and is practiced by many. It is a utopian hope for social-economic improvement. Normalcy originates from our desire to compare ourselves to others. We either conform to or avoid this concept of normal. We categorize and label each other based on our similarity to the norm. This concept of normal is reinforced by the normative, ideological, and universal structure of literature.

Normalcy is a social concept constructed by society. The concept of “normal” is actually an “ideal” of society. This ideal applies to the “ideal” body. In the 17th century, the “ideal” body was a mytho-poetic body of the gods. The body was divine and unattainable by humans. Since it was unattainable, there was likely no social pressure to conform. The concept of normal changes drastically in important historical moments. Adolphe Quetelet used statistics to combine the physically average and morally average. A person who embodied both averages was “ideal.” Deviation from the middle was wicked morally and physically. The concept of normalcy is intertwined with the eugenics movement. Eugenics created a concept of the norm that aimed to normalize the abnormal. The movement became obsessed with elimination of “defectives.” Later on, physical differences became synonymous with identity. Deviance from the norm became identifiable and criminalized. The “normal distribution” curve within statistics took over as a template for body normalization. The curve had quartiles, ranked to show superiority and create a dominating vision of the human body. The changing social concept of normal is a reflection of progress and ideological power shifts in society. In an age of postmodernism and posthumanism, normalcy still holds power. To understand the abnormal, the power of normal must be reversed.

*Introduction: Disability, Normality, and Power by Lennard Davis in The Disability Studies Reader (2013, 4th ed.)

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Hierarchy of Disability: Stigma

Culture and society is shaped by people’s understanding of “normal”. Normalcy is less human nature, more a societal feature. People strive for the “ideal body”, originally a mytho-poetic unattainable ideal. Over time the “ideal body” became the average and people with disabilities deviated from this ideal. Deviancy is of people’s own making, it is in the eyes of the beholder. Society sees people with disabilities as deviant from the norm. Deviancy is a stigma that is discrediting and is seen as a reflection of inferiority. Some groups are seen as more deviant than others. The deviancy of some groups is feared, dreaded and seen as a menace to society. The more deviant a group is the more stigma they experience. Society attempts to use normalization to make people with disabilities more “normal”. This normalizing of people with disabilities covers up the disability that would potentially be seen as unsettling. Some people with disabilities are seen as subhuman because of their behavioral traits. Others are considered criminal or a threat to society. Some people with disabilities cannot alter their “stigma” or disguise it. The harder it is to normalize people with disabilities, the more stigma they experience.

*Stigma: An Enigma Demystified by Lerita Brown in The Disability Studies Reader (2006, 2nd ed.)
*Introduction: Disability, Normality, and Power by Lennard Davis in The Disability Studies Reader (2013, 4th ed.)
*The Principle of Normalization in Human Services by Wolf Wolfensberger (1972, pp. 12-25)

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Poster Children

Culture and society is shaped by the use of poster children. People viewed poster children as representing all people with disabilities. This assumption limited people’s understanding of disability. A limited understanding of disability opens the door for misunderstanding and stereotyping leading to stigma.

Showing the poster child off to executives of supporters and politicians gave power to the stigmitizer rather than the stigmatized child. The powerful and influential executives and politicians understanding of disability was limited to poster children resulting in the generalization of all people with disabilities. With this power, the charities used poster children for fundraising, often advertising on telethons. The representation marked the children as different and separate from the “normal” population. This separation of children with disabilities reinforced the idea that people disabilities deviate from the “normal”. The rationale served as justification for the discrimination and segregation of all people with disabilities. Choosing a poster child became a artistic process with each organization picking a child the represented their message. The child had to be helpless but not too disabled. Charities used the process of normalization to make the child appear not too different. This normalizing of the child covered up the disability that would potentially be seen as unsettling. Labeling the child’s disability as unsettling or a menace to other people emotional wellbeing labeled the child as “undesirable” further stigmatizing them.

The poster children were associated with innocent suffering which appealed to the masses. However, it blended pity for their suffering and fear of the different and unknown. People with disabilities embodied people’s fear of difference and the unknown, further stigmatizing people with disabilities. People’s fears of difference and the unknown often lead to stereotyping of others to quell the fear and explain the unknown. Stereotyping of people with disabilities is reflected in the portrayal of poster children as a vulnerable child, one of the most weak. The portrayal of the poster children as vulnerable and weak fed into the stereotype of people with disabilities as “inferior”. The portrayal reinforced people beliefs that people with disabilities are helpless and incapable or “useless eaters”. The stereotyping and stigma can lead to some people with disabilities believing in their “inferiority”. They become dependent, passive, and helpless because that is what is expected of them. Their disability can become a master status that colors peoples perception of the entire person.

*Stigma: An Enigma Demystified by Lerita Brown in The Disability Studies Reader (2006, 2nd ed.)
*”Heaven’s special child”: The making of poster children by Paul Longmore in The Disability Studies Reader (2013, 4th ed.)

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Oppression Of All

All marginalized groups experience a lot of the same oppression. The oppression is the result of political/economic entities that form a hierarchy of social status. People are placed into class structures ranking them based on superiority and inferiority. The use of political power and privilege paves the way for oppression. The powerful have control and the powerless (marginalized groups) lack control. Those in power determine who survives and thrives in society. Members of marginalized groups are seen as outcasts to varying degrees depending on group membership and situational factors. Each marginalized group has built a culture to gain human rights. The culture stems out of a need to create an identity and be recognized. Participation in the culture provides a sense self respect and self worth.

Three marginalized groups–African Americans, women, and people with disabilities–experience similar forms of oppression with some key differences. All three experience violation of equal rights and protections including job discrimination and formally the right to vote. Each has experienced a duality of oppression in different forms. For African Americans it is superiority/inferiority, for women it is domination/subordination, and for people with disabilities it is normality/abnormality. African Americans and people with disabilities have experienced significant abuses by the government. African Americans were enslaved and people with disabilities continue to be institutionalized. Where African Americans and people with disabilities are seen as less than human, women are not. Women are considered fully human but less capable. Women have not experienced enslavement or institutionalization because of their gender. However, women have continually been told they should not work and should be the caretaker.

*Nothing About Us Without Us: Disability Oppression and Empowerment (1998, pp. 21-36) by James Charlton

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Welfare System

According to Drake, the welfare system finds pathology is the person not the status quo. The welfare system sees the person as the error/problem not the existing society. Disability is seen as a personal condition that makes you “defective” or “deviant” in some way. People with disabilities were contained through removal from society and placement in institutions. The inability to function as a “citizen” is the fault of the individual with a disability.

Drake argues the welfare system forces the individual to adapt to society instead of changing the environment. This results from the view that the individual is the problem. The welfare system has control over what is considered important and what the clients goals should be. The client has no power over adapting to society. The welfare system has little impact on the social, political, economic environment. The point of the support is to help people with disabilities thrive in the current environment.

According to Drake, the welfare system is meant to provide support and rehabilitation but functions as a force of control and conformity. The welfare system is meant to support and rehabilitate people with disabilities. It is designed to address social concerns over poverty, housing, etc. Instead people with disabilities are forced to conform to the “norm”. Support is provided if the client fits the definition of a person with a disability. Some adjust to the “norm” by taking on the roles and expectations to be dependent.

I have never been on welfare but I have experienced the mindset. People have always viewed my disability as the problem not the environment I am in. Before I was diagnosed people thought I was a brat and my parents were bad at parenting. My entire life people have equated processing issues to intelligence. My processing issues meant I was stupid and incapable. The lack of support in the environment to overcome the processing issues was not the problem. People believe that if I work harder, I can do better ignoring the limits my disability places on me. Growing up I really struggled in school. I was not told to work harder but to not work so hard. People said I had no need to put in so much work because I was not going to make something of myself. My family does a great job of encouraging me to be myself but the rest of the world usually does not. Many have told me to just behave like other people. I am expected to conform to the “norm”. I am not allowed to be my weird, goofy self. I cannot do my stimming behaviors because I will be considered a “problem” and forced to conform. One form of circular logic I have experienced is in regards to bullying and social anxiety. Growing up I was bullied a lot because I was quiet and shy (the problem) instead of the bullies (the environment). I developed social anxiety and became extremely isolated and shut off. People thought my “anti-social behavior” was the problem not the bullying that led to it. I was told to speak up and be myself and I would not be ridiculed. One situation in which I experienced rehabilitation in the form of conformity was speech therapy. I did two forms of speech therapy, one through 5th grade the other through 7th grade. I was expected to conform to the rules of proper English. My speech therapist would observe and correct me in class.

*Welfare States and Disabled People by Robert Drake in Handbook of Disability Studies (2001)

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