Regular Lives for Families with Children with Disabilities
Interview with Kathie Snow
Produced by Minnesota Governor's Council on Developmental Disabilities
Preparation for Postsecondary Education
Kathie Snow: Well, I think that it's very, very important, again, that we make sure that our children are getting the kind of education they need so that they can go on to postsecondary opportunities. And, you know, not everybody's going to go to college. I mean, not everybody that doesn't have a disability goes to college. But I think that, again, that our children need the very, very best education that they can get. And I'm a big believer in public schools.
Having said that, today, there are so many opportunities for learning so I think that if… If public school, I mean before they get to the postsecondary age, if public school is not working for kids, especially by the time they get in high school, then I don't think… we should have no compunction whatsoever in saying it's not working. We're going to home school the child. And by the time kids are older, they can almost home school themselves. You can get in a home schooling group. There's all kinds of ways to do stuff. But also now there's all kinds of Internet resources. K-12 is online. There's all kinds of, not to give a plug, but like Khan Academy. There's so many resources now where children can go and learn at their own pace and stuff.
But when we think about postsecondary, I would hope that all of us would want our children to get, again, the best education and, again, I think because of…there is still society's prejudice and discrimination in employment. We can work on changing that by having inclusive schools so that the next generation of children, they grow up together. I mean just like we see changes in young people today like the LGBT movement, that same sex marriage is not a very big deal to the younger generation as it is to the older generation. That's because of what they've grown up with. I mean, that's what, you know, familiarity makes a huge difference and so if we can have inclusive education for K-12 or three, age three through 12, that kids are included, that's going to make a huge difference in the postsecondary opportunities for them.
But I think that, again, we ought to have the same dreams for our children with disabilities that we have for our children who don't have disabilities. And so, in some families, kids are going to, after high school, just go into workforce. And that's fine. Again, not everybody's going to go to college. Or they can go to some kind of vocational school and learn a trade or go to college, whatever. Again, I think that we have to very, very careful that we stay away from any more segregated programs.
One of my biggest concerns about the "special programs" for students on college campuses they talk about for students with ID, intellectual disabilities, is that what happens in the bigger scheme of things if, for example, there is a special, here's the analogy.
If there's a, quite frankly, if there's a Special Olympics or a Challenger League or a Miracle League or some kind of segregated recreational sports opportunities, if a parent of a child with disability goes to their local park and rec, unless it's a forward thinking, already wonderfully inclusive park and rec, which they all should be but many are not, and a parent tries to sign her child up for something, they'll say, "Oh, no, we don't do that because there is a special program over here for your kid," okay? So I tell parents, "No, sign your kid up anyway."
But what happens is, the "because" is what's important. Because there is a separate special program for this or that, then the people over here who run the general program will automatically just say, "Oh, no, we don't have to make ours inclusive. We don't have to welcome your child because there's a special program over here for them." Well, that's what's going to happen with college campuses.
So that we have created these special programs, usually in conjunction with a human services agency of some kind or another, and so here are these students with disabilities on college campuses. So here's going to come another, and their parents want them to go there, so they're segregated.
Well here's going to come another student with a disability just who wants to just enroll in college like other students, and in some places they're already starting to be told, "Oh, no, you can't just enroll in college. You have to go to this program over here." And, of course, that's absolutely not true. But just the actual presence of any kind of segregated place. See, as long as we have a place to put people with disabilities, we'll put them there. If there is no place, like at my children's elementary school, there was no special ed room. There was none. The only place to be was in the kindergarten class or was in the fifth grade class. So children with emotional and behavior disorders, children with autism, children with cerebral palsy, children with Down Syndrome, they were all in general ed classes.
So when we think about postsecondary, I think that there are all kinds of options for employment, for learning. With all the technology that we have today, assisted technology has made an enormous difference in my son's life. That with computers, iPads, all kinds of stuff, computer software. All those things level the playing field and enable children with disabilities, young adults with disabilities, by the time they're college age, that they're able to do things that 15, even five years ago, that they couldn't. And so we need to explore all those things.