Week 3 Blog

Stacy Peterson

For GSPE 503 Chapter 5 and 6 readings and other assignments

Difference or Deviance?

The term "diversity" is used frequently in society, and certainly in education. To be inclusive and to support diversity is to increase the value and enrichment of the education. The term "deviance" (defined as differing from the norm), however, has a negative connotation. Historically, it has been associated with age, racial/ethnic group, nationality, income level, religion, political affiliation, sexual orientation and gender. This term invokes a response from society to "avoid, isolate, reject, and segregate" (p. 229). I was curious how Smart planned to use the term "deviance" in relationship to PWDs, as I have always associated that term with criminal behavior and not to PWDs (nor to the categories deviance has historically been attributed to). Smart defines a person that is handicapped as deviating from what he or others "believe to be normal or appropriate" (p. 229). She expands the definition of "stigma" to include the "undesired differences" of PWDs (p. 229). The Norman Kunc video came to mind when Smart states that "many PWODs mistakenly believe that PWDs want to be "normal" (p. 231).
Big image
I never thought about how prejudice and discrimination becomes so much easier when labeling someone as a "deviant", and that it could manifest as "passive unconcern" when the physical environment for the PWD is inaccessible (p. 232). Smart lists that the lack of awareness of prejudice and discrimination toward PWDs is due to the:

  • Biomedical Model of disability;
  • feelings of vulnerability and existential questioning aroused in PWODs; and
  • widespread myth that disability is a private, family concern.

In my practice, I had a patient in his early 20's who was paralyzed from the neck down after a sledding accident when he was young. Every time I saw the family members, I sensed that they were alone in managing their son's day-to-day affairs. They struggled with his integration into society (he never completed high school), keeping of friends (he only seemed to befriend caretakers versus people unrelated to his care - Smart calls this "coerced" and "unnatural" contact), and accessibility to various events (p. 252). I sensed all of that, but now after the reading I have clear thoughts on how and why prejudice and discrimination exists for PWDs.

The examples provided in Chapter 5 regarding the failure of the dental profession to treat PWDs, abortion of disabled fetuses, PWDs being targeted for crimes, the prohibition for flying solo prior to 1986, etc. was very disheartening. While I knew most of what she listed, the dental profession statistics were new to me. I wonder if this holds true for other professions and if this is currently an issue that is raised in dental schools.

Contact Theory

The contact theory originated in the 1950s-1960s as a "method to integrate racial and ethnic minorities on a fully equal basis and to facilitate a racially pluralistic society" (p. 247). I was surprised to learn that this experiment not only failed, but had a worsening effect on the level of prejudice and discrimination on PWDs. I would have imagined that "inclusion" would have resulted in more attempts to see the PWD as an individual. It's hard to believe that everything seems to come down to a power differential, and that equal social status relationships are necessary to make the contact work. I could not believe that I could see the comparison of "tours of zoos" to tours of institutions of PWDs, and see the power differential. I would never have thought of this comparison, and it is disturbing that this is the case.
Big image

The Degree of Visibility of the Disability

Smart discusses the benefits of disclosing and costs of not disclosing a disability. It made me pensive. If I were to lose a limb, for example, would I attempt to hide the disability with a nonfunctional prosthesis or would I allow people to see my disability? I wish I could say I would be like Norman, and just "be", but I admit I would likely try to hide my disability. In part, I think the reason would be to steer conversations away from disability. People are curious, and the conversation might not go into directions I would prefer. For example, it is often why I don't bring up what I do for a living unless asked. I love what I do and am not ashamed...it's not that. It's that I experience that part of my life to such a great degree, I appreciate conversation that is about something else. I think in many ways I would feel the same about my disability.
Big image

Christopher Reeves

Everything that I read about Christopher Reeves was new to me. I never really paid attention to his story much when he was alive. In part, I tend to be more impacted by "regular folks" than I am celebrities. Nonetheless, the article by Charles Krauthammer was intriguing. Charles writes so eloquently and with such talent; he really engages the reader. I completely understand his viewpoint, and appreciate the number of times that he also says that it isn't for him to say how Christopher Reeves wants to address and live with his disability. In some respects, I feel like I would never want to be a celebrity, from the standpoint that what you say and do appears to impact so many, either positively or detrimentally, and you can't predict how your message will affect someone. I am sure that Reeves thought with all his heart that he wanted to positively change views on spinal cord injuries.
Big image

Social Construction & Deconstruction of the Disability

The "pace of life", "expectation of performance" and "cultural construction of disability" are highlighted by Wendell as social constructs to disability. She believes that the biomedical as well as social constructs of the disability contribute to how disability is perceived and dealt with. This made a lot of sense. I could see individuals who have work load increased or change in work expectations be "forced" to address the disability that they may have previously been able to handle. I do believe that our pace of life is increasing as time goes on. I think we have a greater cognitive load, for one. For example, it used to be that a person remembered something after being exposed to it at least 5 times on average. Now, in light of technology, media and other communication mediums, a person will remember something after being exposed to it at least 12 times on average. Think of the cognitive load! Now apply this to someone with a cognitive disability or even fatigue disability...as our pace continues to increase, the disability is more socially constructed.

Of course, once you describe a problem, you try to think of ways to mitigate the issue. One that is currently being applied in some workplaces is incorporation of exercise (walking, yoga, etc.) into the work day. Sometimes, this is done incentive-wise with pedometers. The "stop" and "walk" or other activity has employees stop the hectic pace of their day and focus on their own health and well being. The pedometer also makes them aware of what their activity level is throughout the day, instead of only focusing on work tasks. Of course, on the other hand, this can also be stressful for the person with mobility impairments, whose definition of exercise might not change the dial on the pedometer (and, they end up not getting the same health plan benefits as their able bodied coworkers). They also may feel ostracized from participating in activities that their coworkers can.

A way to help the brain not to respond as much to cognitive load is to "train" it as it has been in previous decades. For example, recalling 7 serial numbers is thought to be important for sequencing (patterning) recognition and short-term memory. An easy thing to do would be to refrain from using "speed" dial and voice calling to challenge this action of the brain. Then, overall short-term memory may be improved for other tasks.
Big image

Impression Management and Simulation Exercises

I am torn regarding the concept of impression management being criticized. I understand that the purpose of impression management is to reduce the discomfort in others, but I believe it is also for the PWD or PWOD. I don't feel as if it different than what everyone does for a job interview, or when people get cosmetic surgery (face lifts, for example) for aging or other deformities. I do think that, generally, surgeries should be reserved for medical needs, but who wouldn't want their child to be teased less if, let's say they had a severe facial disfigurement? My husband and I talked and said that we would choose to use a prosthetic even if it wasn't functionally important. Maybe we're shallow, or maybe we don't want conversations to focus on our identity and relationship versus what would be our disability. However, just because we choose to do this does not mean that others who do not are "less than".

Smart makes a definitive statement that simulation exercises are useless and actually increase prejudice and discrimination. This has not been my experience. For example, I have used for a high school Science Day for inner city kids the "Operation" game to demonstrate that all of us have physiological tremors (normal finding), but they usually have a small enough amplitude and fast enough rate that it goes unnoticed. We talk about how we can have an "enhanced" physiological tremor (a diagnosis) and what factors cause it. I felt as if it deepened their understanding and did not see any stigma applied. If it is done correctly, I think it can be a powerful kinesthetic approach to education. I don't think anyone goes as far as thinking a temporary simulation can substitute for living with a disability day in and day out, as Smart suggests.
Big image

Experiencing Prejudice and Discrimination

In the Smart text, the effects for PWDs are outlined of the following behaviors and attitudes: stereotyping, role entrapment, pity, lowered expectations, lack of privacy, hypervisibility and overobservation, solo status, token status, infantilization/paternalism/motherese, objectification, being viewed as animals, unnecessary dependence, marginality, lack of equal social status relationships, the media's portrayal of PWDs, crime and abuse against PWDs and second-class citizenship.

The area that I am going to comment on is the "hypervisibility and overobservation", as it is something that I thought about today. I was in church and the pastor was introducing the seniors who were graduating in 2015 (and went to our church). The first senior to talk was an individual with gait and speech disabilities. Most likely, he has cerebral palsy. It was great that he was standing up there talking about his future just like all the (presumably) able-bodied seniors. The pastor and seniors on the stage seemed to listen to him just like all the others. However, I couldn't help but stare at him as he walked off the stage and to watch as his (presumed) mother helped him to his seat. I noted how fast and smooth or irregular he walked, how his posture was and what his facial expression was. In part, this is due to my medical training. I try to "diagnose" individuals and learn about all the differences. I feel as if it is innocent on my part, but I wonder how it would feel to be the object of stares. I'm sure we've all experienced being in public and not wanting to "mess up". I wonder if he feels this all the time when he is out in public. Nonetheless, I don't know how to change not looking. If anyone has suggestions, I would be open to it!
Big image

Additional Thought....

When reading about the Biomedical Model being responsible for not considering PWODs have any responsibility to modify or change, I thought of an area that has changed quite a bit. ASL is now standardly taught in preschools and elementary schools. When I was in high school in the 1980's, ASL was also offered as a "language" option. There is also a lot of research to support improved brain development with inclusion of "baby" sign language. I have taught my own kids basic ASL since they were born. My daughter is going to be graduating from Kindergarten and will recite Bible verses from A-to-Z while signing.