Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Chill, Baby

If I hear one more time that the primary purpose of high school education for children with disabilities is to prepare them for work, I am going to scream. I wrote last week about Ashley not getting History or Science in high school because ‘she doesn’t have a history or science disability.” Her IEP draft was full of ‘vocational’ goals and objectives, and if the school district staff asked me yet again if I had ‘connected’ with vocational rehab agencies for Ashley, I might just have told them where they could stick their sheltered workshop job.

I understand that our children with disabilities may need a little more time to prepare for the workforce, but seven freakin’ years??? That seems a tad excessive to me. Heck, I can start listing the names of many non-disabled high school students who were not prepared for adulthood and the workforce when they left high school. And, are our children to have no other focus in their lives once they turn 14 years old? That’s pretty sad if that is what the school district believes.

Why shouldn’t our children with disabilities be entitled to the same work-life balance being promoted for those without disabilities? (Work-life balance can also be applied, imho, to education-life balance).

According to a survey conducted by the National Life Insurance Co., four out of ten employees state that their jobs are "very" or "extremely" stressful. Those in high stress jobs are three times more likely than others to suffer from stress-related medical conditions and are twice as likely to quit. The study states that women, in particular, report stress related to the conflict between work and family. Do you think our children with disabilities can also suffer from stress? Heck, their lives are often nothing but stress.

The number of stress-related disability claims by American employees has doubled according to the Employee Assistance Professionals Association in Arlington, Virginia. Seventy-five to ninety percent of physician visits are related to stress and, according to the American Institute of Stress, the cost to industry has been estimated at $200 billion-$300 billion a year. What do you think the costs will be if a person with a significant disability experiences stress and burnout?

Ashley loves art – and music – and plants – and shopping – and traveling – and reading – and math – and science. Restricting her enjoyment of those things during her remaining school career – approximately seven years – will not a happy future employee make. And don’t even get me started on the preconceived notions about the type of work our children with significant disabilities will be targeted to perform. Trust me, if you ask Ashley to stuff envelopes for eight hours a day, five days a week, envelopes won’t be the only things getting stuffed.

School districts need to lighten up. Let our children with disabilities enjoy their high school years as much as non-disabled students. Don’t start them down a path to stress and then wonder why it costs so much to provide care for them later in life.

Chill, baby….


  1. Great post! I don't have kids; still I can appreciate your wanting the best for your daughter.
    I hope Ashley's remaining years at school DO allow her to enjoy the things you listed above, while also helping her to prepare for her adult life. When, hopefully, she can continue to enjoy art, music, plants, shopping, etc. along with her peers.
    Art and plants in particular sound like they could be part of an interesting future, even if part time or as a volunteer or hobby. Have you thought about art, gardening, floral, or therapeutic horticulture programs, if she's interested? Does her school offer any of that? No need to answer, just an idea.

  2. Oh, and I didn't mean to exclude reading, math and science, and traveling, from the list. I hope your daughter can continue to pursue all of her interests.
    Striking a balance IS difficult, especially in this economy.