Education of disabled children topic of forum

Travis Reed

Fifteen researchers of childhood resilience and attachment studies from around the globe spoke at the University on Thursday as part of the Kellogg Leadership Fellows Seminar.
The conference served to publicize some of the findings that the researchers have obtained and redirect some misguided stereotypes about the education of handicapped children.
“We’ve been on a journey together, exploring common and different issues of resiliency and attachment across both hemispheres of the globe,” said Michael Tierney, a Kellogg International Fellow.
Not only has the Kellogg International Fellows program increased knowledge of the education of children with disabilities, but it has also served to originate an ideological shift in the education of children.
It seems that the education of handicapped children for many years was following an erroneous path.
“The thinking that a handicapped child is ‘damaged’ and needs to be ‘fixed’ is not healthy for the child or for society,” said Judy McKenzie, a Kellogg International Fellow.
“We’re moving from a damage deficit model to a challenge model. We now look at a disabled person as someone who has challenges, not as someone who needs assistance,” McKenzie added.
In addition to ideological barriers about the education of handicapped children, the methods of researchers have also been improved by the Kellogg program.
“In the past, we generally emphasized what a child couldn’t do. This merely served to frustrate the child,” McKenzie said.
As a means of emphasizing this point, programs have been developed throughout the world. One of these was begun by Zoica Bakirtzief, a Kellogg Fellow in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The Sorri-Sorocaba program provides vocational training to children with disabilities.
“We started out identifying at-risk youth at the greatest risk from exclusion of the means of supporting a family,” Bakirtzief said. “To address the needs of this population, we set up an organization that would teach these people to deal with lack of employment, resources and discrimination.”
Not only has the knowledge provided by the Kellogg Research Fellows program benefited children with disabilities, but it has also served their teachers well.
“It’s not just that the child with special needs is being helped, but they are also the helper as well,” McKenzie said.
This important benefit of the program has been an integral part of the change in the way the field of youth education deals with disabled children.
“They’re not just resource takers and users, but they’re also resource providers,” said Margaret Spencer of the University of Pennsylvania school of education. “It’s important to see the glass as half full, not as half empty — and not as half full of something that needs resources from society.”