Everybody Belongs: Changing Negative Attitudes toward Classmates with Disabilities

Everybody Belongs: Changing Negative Attitudes toward Classmates with Disabilities

Everybody Belongs: Changing Negative Attitudes toward Classmates with Disabilities

Everybody Belongs: Changing Negative Attitudes toward Classmates with Disabilities

Synopsis

The evil prosthesis of Captain Hook, the comical speech of Porky Pig, and the bumbling antics of Mr. Magoo are all examples of images in our culture which can become the basis of negative attitudes and subliminal prejudice towards persons with disabilities. These attitudes influence and underlie discriminatory acts, resulting in negative treatment and segregation. A teacher's ability to recognize and counter such images may well determine the success of inclusion and mainstreaming programs in our schools and society. Well-researched and well-written, this book offers practical guidance as grounded in solid research to schools that are wrestling with how to mainstream children with disabilities.

Excerpt

The evil prosthesis of Captain Hook, the sinister hump of Richard III, the pitiable crutch of Tiny Tim, the blind bumbling antics of Mr. Magoo, the comical speech of Porky Pig, even the pathetic pleas of poster children in their wheelchairs—these are six examples of negative disability images deeply ingrained in our culture. Because the influence of such images so often works subliminally, most of us remain unaware of how we internalize them or how they affect, in particular, childrens’ attitudes and their accompanying behaviors. Forming attitudes regarding disability from such images is like basing assumptions about African culture on old Tarzan movies.

We learn negative attitudes toward disability early in life from such strong cultural influences as school, the media, our language and literature. Many first encounters with literature, for example, include stereotyped characters like the childish dwarfs and hump-backed wicked witch in Snow White, the Little Lame Prince, the evil giant in Jack and the Beanstalk, or the sly deformed dwarf, Rumpelstiltskin. Franks (1996) found that many various disabilities are used symbolically in fairy tales. For example, in Grimm’s Fairy Tales (1945/1995), the story of Cinderella ends with her stepsisters having their eyes picked out by doves. The final line reads, “And so, for their wickedness and falseness they were punished with blindness for the rest of their days” (p. 161). Similarly, the prince who climbs up Rapunzel’s hair to get into the tower loses his sight by having his eyes “scratched out by the thorns among which he fell” and is forced to “wander about blind in the wood [with] nothing but roots and berries to eat” (p. 132).

Such images impress on young minds that people with physical or mental differences are to be feared, pitied, trivialized, or ridiculed. Children learn early from these stories that physical beauty symbolizes goodness and disability symbolizes evil. Furthermore, the evil disabled

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