Regular Lives for Families with Children with Disabilities
Interview with Kathie Snow
Produced by Minnesota Governor's Council on Developmental Disabilities
Kathie Snow: But I think in terms of employment, it is high time that people with disabilities were paid, and that's a whole another subject of sheltered workshops and sub-minimum wage. But there are so many teenagers today who, as part of their IEP, their parents will say they have a job or some parents will say, "Oh, I want my 18-year-old to stay in school until…stay in the public school system in high school until they're 22."
And I say, "Why? Why do you want… why should your young person, your child do that?" "Ah, well, because they get services." And I say, "Well, okay, what kind of services?" "Well, they're going to get my child a job." And I'll say, "What kind of job?" "Well, bagging groceries." Okay, well, bagging groceries is a fine job for a teenager. And I'll say, "How much are they going to pay your child?" "Oh well, they're not going to pay him." And I say, "Well, it's not a job." You can call it slave labor or you can call it volunteer work, but I don't know very many volunteer jobs at a grocery store. There are real volunteer jobs as docent at a zoo or a museum or maybe a library or I mean there are real volunteer jobs, okay? But you don't… and I said, "Does anybody else volunteer to bag groceries at Safeway or Kroger or whatever store?" No. Then why should a child with a disability be expected to work for free? I mean we can't do that. We can't do that to young people.
So I think that if we think about the postsecondary options are employment, are continuing your education online or in whatever fashion you can. Again, we all have those great expectations. Keep it in mind, my son is working on his master's degree. I mean a lot of 26-year-olds are not still working on their master's. I mean but some are. But it's taken Benjamin many years to get his college education.
As parents, we have to investigate every option for them and give them as long as they need to get done with what they're going to get done in their time frame. And it's important that parents look into, do whatever research it takes to learn the options. When Benjamin started community college, I mean a lot of students with disabilities are not going to get a high school diploma because of where they live. I mean that's another whole story. It's like if they received special services, well they don't, they weren't really, didn't have real grades. Or schools give all kind of excuses. So you can get your GED through the high school or through the community college or whatever.
But a lot of the community colleges, especially for parents who say… Any parents who are watching this say, oh, my kid could never go to college because he didn't get a high school diploma or whatever. Most community colleges, I mean everybody you have look in your own state. Most community colleges do not require a high school diploma to enter. They require that you take what's called ATB, an ability to benefit test. That can… Will this person benefit from taking college classes?
And in our son's case, he took those tests. And that also tells the school what sort of where to put the person as far as the types of classes they should start taking. And so Benjamin did fine in like reading and writing and that kind of stuff. He did really, really poorly in the math area. And part of that is because my husband and I do not have the math gene and so our children do not have it either, right? But also Benjamin because of having cerebral palsy and not writing with a pencil makes it harder to do math. Because when we do math, we hen scratch. We make little marks and so math was hard. And so Benjamin when he first started college was taking some pre-courses. Somebody might call them remedial. I like the term "pre" like pre-math, you know.
And so Benjamin needed to take those. Well, that's no reason for him not to go to college and get his degree. I mean that's one reason it took him longer, he had to take some pre-courses before he got up to that level. And sometimes we helped… My husband and I helped him sometimes. Other times he had a tutor or somebody at school. But I mean, you know, postsecondary opportunities, whether it's college education or trade school might be difficult for our kids. College is difficult for Benjamin. It's difficult for a lot of people. But he perseveres. We encourage him knowing that the more education you can obtain, the higher your employment rate is going to be as well as the higher income that you'll have.