Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Shoes Are Ableist


All five years of her little life, Kimani has preferred to go barefoot. She will not stand for having shoes on unless she is actually using her feet for walking. Once she stops walking, the shoes come off.

Turns out, this is a problem. It is a BEHAVIOR problem that needs to be formally and legally documented as such:


Almost everything (other than her taking off her shoes) on that document is bullcrap. The medication effect, the clapping, the escapism; all conjecture.

I called the school psychologist and we talked. I explained that shoe wearing, although deeply ingrained in our culture, is not natural and so not wanting to wear shoes is really not a behavior but in fact a preference for remaining in one’s natural state of being. I said that based on this there really is no reason for a legal "plan of action" for putting her shoes back on when she needs to use them.

She conceded that this is true but that there are RULES and that Kimani’s non-conformist behavior (I shit you not, she used that word) is affecting her ability to learn, and that of the other students because she requires extra adult attention to get her shoes back on. Then she explained that she is only following the State Department of Education regulations. Regulations defined by laws, and rules and codes... and now Kimani's bare feet have become a legal behavior problem that interferes with her education.

And it is not just bare feet... they added two other behaviors to a plan that we reluctantly agreed to this time last year. She puts everything in her mouth, even bad stuff, so we agreed that it was a safety issue and went ahead with the whole Functional Behavior Assessment process, and look where it got us. She still mouths everything and now has three more behaviors that are working their way into her permanent legal record. In case you are curious the other two are "dropping" instead of walking when they want her to and dumping toys/clearing spaces off.

I asked what they might add next, spitting food or grabbing other children’s food? And she said “Yes, that too, we could add those too if you want.” Ha ha ha, if I want. No I don’t freaking want. She totally missed my point. Kimani is one total non-conformist person who without protection from the system that is trying to help her will end up locked in a box.

I feel like her whole future is on the line with what we allow concerning these things... her access to the least restrictive environment, her legal rights and freedoms, and the path her education will take. She is headed to that place, the one that only some parents and some administrators, and some teachers and some aides know about. And I will be damned before I let that happen to her.

My first thought was that I am going to have to homeschool her. That is so not me :-( Guess I better see what all is involved in that solution.

If you homeschool a child with disability, pipe up and encourage me. Tell me how you do it.


Wordshurtorheal said...

Homeschool was no me either. We are in our 10th year. And homeschool doesn't happen at home anymore for most people. Depending on where you live you might have a charter school available that will still provide supports if they are needed, like ST, PT, OT and you have the support of a teacher and a resource teacher (special education) if you desire. But I would guess even if there is nothing in place where you live you could prove the school isn't providing what it needed and petition that the LRE is at home. Homeschooling happens at the park, at a museum, at the theatre, at the the world. In it, inclusion is living life.

Lisa said...

Holy shit! Just let the girl go without shoes for crying out loud! The disruption is coming from the school's insistence that she wear shoes - obviously. If they would just let her be, maybe they could get down to the business of teaching/learning. Wow, this makes me so mad!

Me said...

I have been following your blog for a long time. Couple things--I have a background in all of this--on the education side. The schools cannot just let kids not have shoes because it is a health and safety issue. Unfortunately, bare feet carry with them fungi and other bacteria that can be passed from child to child. I had the same behavior issue with a student with DS--and we had to do a behavior plan so it was "in the file"---but we worked it out. The issue should not be that it's taking other staff away from other kids--but rather it is a health and safety concern. Kids cannot just go without shoes in a public school because it can spread disease (believe me--it can--I've seen that happen as well). As for this labeling her for life--I doubt it. I would have a frank discussion with the school team about what your goals are for Kimani's future--and your concerns about the paperwork. But--I worked with plenty of kids who had behavior plans when they were little, and eventually they did not display those same behaviors when they were older (and this was in a more inclusive environment). You can certainly also ask that certain things be taken out of the plan (like the line about medication) if you do not like it. I can help you with advice for how to work with the school if you like more. I personally am not against home schooling--but it has to be done incredibly well, and for a child like Kimani, this would mean that she would need to be able to get all the therapies privately that she is getting now. Is that possible? Plus--in reality, if Kimani is not going to become the girl and be shoved into the place you don't want her to be shoved into, she has to learn how to interact with other kids--even kids outside of her siblings. This cannot occur in a home school setting, most of the time. The other thing I would demand? Regular data on the progress she is or is not making on her behavior goals. She should have aligned goals on her IEP (or IFSP--whichever she's on) aligned with the behavior plan, and even though I realize how significant her needs are, progress should be occurring. If not--then the school needs to utilize other methods to help her learn more appropriate behaviors. The whole point of a functional behavior analysis and behavior intervention plan is that her "problem" behaviors are replaced with more appropriate behaviors (that she learns). If this is not occurring, then they need to revisit what they're doing, and perhaps utilize other methods, such as Applied Behavior Analysis Treatment---but this is not something all public schools will offer. Anyway--that is my input. If you want more personal assistance, I can help. m m p s o n m e d at gmail . com

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