Monday, November 9, 2009

The Rest of the Story (so far)

When my son was having so much difficulty with the sewing assignment, we encouraged him to make contact with the Office for Students with Disabilities, which he did. Before he had that meeting, he sent an email to the Tech teacher, explaining that he had a learning disability that made the task more difficult for him. She responded promptly and suggested a meeting, and included the head of the department. At that meeting last Thursday, my son was told that he could not meet the requirements for a BFA in Stage Management. He was told that there were about twelve of the twenty-two required courses that would pose obstacles for him. Moreover, they suggested that he try a “self-designed” major. He was getting expelled from pre-school yet again.

Now my son has spent the past fourteen years, from the pre-school that I wrote about last week through his senior year in high school getting nothing but encouragement and support – only to have the rug pulled out from underneath him with one brief meeting. When he told me about the meeting, he added, “They have a point.”

I am going to add here that he was not completely convinced that he wanted this major even before this meeting. I am going to concede the fact that some astronomically high proportion of college students changes majors, and I was in that majority.

But these two teachers gain no credibility as educators by telling my son that this major was beyond his capabilities. His college is sponsoring a seminar early in 2010 on inclusion practices for Aspberger’s students in the college environment. Guess who should go.

Let’s assume for a moment that my son is fully committed to his chosen major. Or, if he is not, let’s go on the premise that he is willing to complete one year of courses in this major before he makes a decision about whether or not to continue. If his disability were an obvious physical handicap, the school would recognize immediately that they might have to make some adjustments. If he were in a wheelchair, he could not be expected to climb a ladder to check lights.

My son’s disability is more subtle. We were told when he was three years old that he should learn keyboarding and do as much of his work on the computer as he can. While there are required courses in costume design and set design, I would guess that there is computer-assisted design software that he would be able to utilize. When my husband and I went through the course flow chart, these were the only courses (apart from his current Stage Tech course) that we could find that could be really tough. Do you mean to tell me that a school noted for its theater department can not find a way to work with a handicapped student to succeed in a theater major?

For a person with a disability, success in the classroom and eventually the workplace is all about accommodations – not accommodations that would result in “less” of a major or job description – but accommodations that adapt the requirements so that it becomes accessible to someone who wants to pursue it.

My son is meeting with the two teachers and the director of the disability office later this week, and he has agreed to let my husband be there. Our concern is that he will let this be a catalyst to stop trying, and take the easy way out. Sometimes in his eagerness to please, he overlooks what’s best for him. But we are all keeping our minds open.

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