DSM: RE: Developmental Disabilities: "Can the student take responsibility..."

Joe Jackson (shoeless@jazztbone.com)
Wed, 25 Oct 2000 12:43:05 -0400


My sense when you are asking the question regarding the student taking
responsibility for him/herself is that you are asking that in the sense of
whether the student can initiate their own processes to the extent that they
can progress in given academic areas. While that isn't really the "meat" of
what I was getting at by "taking responsibility", it's an interesting
question and I will try to give you my answer.

I believe that every child, regardless of the individual learning style or
learning challenges, gets what they need to get in these schools. Your
point that cognitively-challenged might be less inclined to go off on
specific learning tangents by themselves is well taken; however I submit
that this kind of exploration is not what happens most of the time and is
probably the least important work that gets done at the school.

It's a given that kids are intensely curious, that the curiosity comes
naturally, and that the model seeks to create an environment where the
curiosity isn't preempted by externally-imposed curriculum. This is the
premier "product" of Sudbury model schools, and the reason it's so important
is that each student has his or her own work to do. The "work" on each
individual student's plate is the culmination of their life experiences and
myriad other factors.

So the key is that if any learning disabled student, just like any non-ld
student, chooses to spend their time doing internal work (e.g. not looking
like their doing much from the outside, just decompressing and reassessing
and letting life come to them for a change) or socialization or playing or
taking a class, whatever it is it's the work they desperately need to do.

Now, what I was thinking of (though I like your interpretation - it adds an
interesting twist)when I said "responsible for themselves" was being
capable of existing in a society where nobody is there constantly
reinforcing and correcting and holding hands.

Our school has a book of rules that is a result of years of figuring out how
to give the individual maximum freedom while protecting the rights of
others; it is up to the individual student to be responsible for respecting
and helping protect the rights of others, and if a student has an
unwillingness and inability to do that they will not be able to attend.

In other words, everyone has to be able to stop short of behaving in a way
in which if everyone behaved the school would destroy itself.

This is an area that I could see being a problem for quite a few learning
disabled students.

Thanks for pointing my attention to the Mothering article. I really hope
kids of the future won't have to suffer under the ADD label as my stepson
(who is now 23yo and gainfully employed and domiciled. Hurray!!) did.

-Joe Jackson from Fairhaven School in Maryland
please note my new email address:
Kids rule at Fairhaven School

> -----Original Message-----
> From: owner-discuss-sudbury-model@sudval.org
> [mailto:owner-discuss-sudbury-model@sudval.org]On Behalf Of Holly L
> McHaelen
> Sent: Tuesday, October 24, 2000 2:21 PM
> To: discuss-sudbury-model@sudval.org
> Subject: DSM: Developmental Disabilities: "Can the student take
> responsibility..."
> On Fri, 20 Oct 2000 02:43:03 -0400 "Joe Jackson" <shoeless@jazztbone.com>
> writes:
> >
> > As far as bonafide disabilities are concerned (be they autism, brain
> > damage, blindness, deafness, spinal cord injuries, etc.), I think the
> two
> > questions should be: 1) Can the school accomodate the disability (i.e.
> a ramp
> > for a wheelchair-bound student), and 2) Can the student take
> responsibility for
> > themselves in the school.
> Thanks, Joe, this is helpful as a framework for assessing the "goodness
> of fit" between a school and potential student. The first criterion
> --can the school accomodate the disability--seems fairly clear-cut, but
> I'd like to hear more thoughts on determining if the student meets the
> second one-- can the sudent take responsibility for him/herself in the
> school. Is this just about matters of safety and hygiene? Or is there
> more to "responsibility", for example a responsiblity to be a
> contributing and engaged member of the school community? Since there's
> no curriculum and no requirements around a student's learning process, is
> it important for a student to at least have a cognitive understanding of
> the range of what's available? I think I'm coming from ignorance about
> "disabilities" here, but I'm wondering about children with "delayed"
> cognitive functioning-- might they be less likely to explore on their own
> initiative as children typically do? And if so, what would it mean for
> them to be in an SV environment where there is no effort to direct them
> or engage them in a specific task/activity? I would imagine that a
> child who's been barraged with targeted "special needs" services might
> have developed more "learning disabilities" as Daniel Greenberg defines
> them in his "Why the School Doesn't Work for Everyone" article.
> Thoughts?
> Also, whether children have developmental disabilities or not, how do SV
> schools go about determining whether prospective students are
> "appropriate" for the school?
> Re: ADHD/ADD, there were several excellent articles in the July/Aug 2000
> issue of "Mothering" magazine [www.mothering.com], they generally
> advocated not medicating children, but explored different facets of the
> "condition".
> Thanks!
> Holly McHaelen
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