Context Matters

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Live Class Discussion

Post any thoughts or comments you may have into the chat room, linked below.
Discussion Board

This button links you to a private chat room, designed specifically for this lesson. When creating your screen name, it is suggested you not use your real name. Please remember we are all adults and should act respectfully.

Posts are deleted after a period of inactivity. You can see how many other people are in the chat room by looking at the right of the screen. If a comment or piece of discussion seems particularly interesting/helpful to you, we encourage you to screenshot the page and keep a printed copy in your course notes
One of things we would like the class to discuss in the chat room is your greatest fear about teaching kids with disabilities. Remember, it is anonymous, as long as you do not use your real name as your nickname when you first open the chat room. Be honest, and respond to and comment on our classmates' fears. Maybe, as a class, we can overcome any fears that we may have.

What is "Normal"?




conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected.

"it's quite normal for puppies to bolt their food"

synonyms: usual, standard, ordinary, customary, conventional, habitual, accustomed, expected, wonted

How do you decide what "normal" is?

Deciding what is normal is usually based on statistics. A large group of people are tested, and normal is the result 95 percent of those people show. The number of people that are tested and who these people are will affect the results, so careful consideration needs to be given to these issues.

Science Learning Hub ©2007-2014 The University of Waikato

Normal or Abnormal?

Read the following statements and consider whether these people would or would not be considered “normal”.

Sarah only bathes once or twice a month.

Tom, a grown man, has sexual relations with a teenage girl.

Young Mary frequently walks around balancing objects on her head.

Katherine does not speak in the presence of males and never makes eye contact.

John never wears clothing.

Every time Lewis loses a tooth, he climbs up a ladder and dutifully places it on the roof of his house.

In response to her cousin’s death, Olivia amputated her own finger.

Think about it...

One might say that all of the above persons described would be considered abnormal or having abnormal behaviors. Change the context. Instead of thinking about these individuals in the context of modern American culture, think about whether or not these people would be considered normal in say Indonesian tribal culture, Middle-Eastern culture, or maybe even Greek culture. When the context is changed, the above described people are considered perfectly normal. Every single one of the described behaviors is considered "normal" in another culture.


Think about your feeling as you read the following literature. How much could you miss about an individual if you don't consider the context?

The following is a poem written by Jordyn's cousin when he was young:

Living with Aspergers

By Adam Kunkel

Aspergers, would you know it if you saw it?


A unique brand of Autism,

It’s distinct for every person,

No two Aspies* are the same.


Certain irrational fears, such as being wrong,

Stressed out when under pressure.

Have you noticed?

Lack of focus

Can’t focus on one thing for long periods of time,

It takes forever to write a story (or a poem).

Have you noticed?

Reciprocal conversation difficulties

Couldn’t have a continuous conversation to save a life,

Difficulty expressing thoughts and feelings.

Have you noticed?

Social challenges

Incredibly shy when around new people,

Hard to make new friends, but old friends stay forever.

Have you noticed?


Won’t stop until everything is perfect,

It takes a while to be perfect, and trouble often ensues.

Have you noticed?


Not likely to score below an A in school,

May be smart, but has little common sense.

Have you noticed?

Advanced analytical skills

Very problem solving oriented, extremely logical,

Concrete thinker, hands on type of person.

Have you noticed?

Hyper focused

When focused on something, you can’t pull them away.

Oblivious to the world, everything else is blocked out.

Have you noticed?


A gift or a curse?

Some may say it’s the latter,

But I know the truth,

It’s the first.

Aspergers, would you have noticed that I have it?

*Person with Aspergers

What is 'normal'? Challenging Disability Prejudice

Once we've defined "normal", everything else is abnormal.



[yoo-jen-iks] Show IPA

noun ( used with a singular verb )

the study of or belief in the possibility of improving the qualities of the human species or a humanpopulation, especially by such means as discouraging reproduction by persons having genetic defects orpresumed to have inheritable undesirable traits (negative eugenics) or encouraging reproduction bypersons presumed to have inheritable desirable traits (positive eugenics)


1880–85; see eugenics, -ics

Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2013.

Scholarly Article on Eugenics in Education

Incredibly Interesting. Please read and reflect upon.

Eugenicists believed ability was innate and that it was the job of education to successfully sort students and match them to the vocations for which they were best suited. By matching inborn ability with the appropriate path society would achieve a system of meritocracy where income and ability were directly correlated. (p. 108)

Winfield, A. G. (2007). Eugenics and Education in America: Institutionalized Racism and the Implications of History, Ideology, and Memory: Vol. 18. A Book Series of Curriculum Studies (W. F. Pinar, Ed.). New York: Peter Lang.

Interesting Document on Sterilization and Eugenics

I found this document fascinating and appalling at the same time. It is very long, and we do not expect you to read the entire thing, although we highly recommend it.

By separating students with disabilities from their non disabled peers, we are in essence taking them out of society and therefore the gene pool. If disabled persons are segregated from the rest of society, the likelihood of reproduction is much less than if they are fully included and valued members of society. This all starts with children in the classroom.

Segregated classrooms vs. Inclusive classrooms --- Think about it.

Watch the Following Short Clip

As you watch/listen write down your answers to the questions you are asked.


Although these questions may have seemed overly formal and were given too quickly, a student living in Brazil would most likely have been able to answer them within the given time, but you probably couldn't and that's because CONTEXT MATTERS.

Students are often pulled out of class, by a complete stranger, and given a series of questions to answer within a designated time limit. These questions will often determine if the student belongs in special education and IQ tests are used to sort students according to ability level. However, these tests do not take context into account, such as the students’ culture, necessary accommodations, test taking skills, or just nervousness.

IQ Interrogation

Our guess is that if placed in a situation similar to the one described above, you would not behave "normally" either.

You are a young child. You have been pulled out of your classroom, an environment you felt comfortable in, and taken to a room in an office in a part of the building you may never have been in before. You like your teacher but the person who took you is a stranger you have never seen before. They intimidate you. They tell you that they are going to ask you questions and give you tests. You wonder why you have to take these tests, and you worry because you didn't get a chance to study.

You no longer feel comfortable. You no longer feel safe. You feel like you might even be in trouble. You're worried. You're scared. And you can't even think straight.

How could you possibly answer the questions?

How could you possibly meet their standards?

This situation is not "normal" for you.

How could you possibly be "normal"?

Forms of intelligence Testing for Special Education

In other words: what the child is doing in the strange room with the strange person.

My Life with a Learning Disability

Something to Think About


Some of the most AMAZING and WONDERFUL things and people in our lives are ANYTHING BUT NORMAL. Why would anyone want to be normal?

By: Abagael Bergey and Jordyn Triplett