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Guest post: Are there enough disabled role models in schools?

CerebralPersonCerebralPerson Posts: 4Member Listener
edited November 2016 in Guest blogs

Scope recently launched ‘Scope Role Models’ – UK-wide school workshops, led by a disabled role model who shares their story and takes part in an ‘Ask Me Anything’ Q&A session. To explore further why initiatives like this are needed, we asked freelance journalist Sarah Ismail to share her thoughts on representations of disability in schools, past and present. 

Are you a disabled young person of school age, or the sibling of one? If so, how often have you been taught at school about a disabled person doing something positive, something that you can look up to? Are you the parent of a disabled child? If so, how often have they come home and told you that today, at school, they learnt about a disabled young person doing something positive, something that they want to do?

Class of pupils with figure at front

I was once a disabled child of school age.

I attended two mainstream schools in the 1990s. I only remember having that experience once, in 13 years of school and college.

That was when my Year 6 class watched My Left Foot. My teacher was trying to teach them about my disability, Cerebral Palsy. She chose the story of a man much older and much more severely affected than me. I wasn’t insulted – Christy Brown is a role model to everyone of a certain age with Cerebral Palsy. He provided hope to generations of our parents.

My point here is that if I hadn’t been in their class, my class would never have watched My Left Foot at school. They would never have needed to. They may never have been taught, at school, about any disabled person doing anything positive. They may have grown up to believe that disabled people didn’t and couldn’t do positive things.

Are perceptions shifting?

When I was a child of school age, I was made to participate in PE lessons, with Learning Support teachers and lowered nets of course. Yet no one ever told me that the Paralympics existed. If my teachers had told me that the Paralympics existed, I could have been a Paralympic swimmer today. In fact, I found out about Paralympic sport and the Paralympic Games much later. Thank goodness Ellie Simmonds didn’t, but she’s a lot younger than me.

I hope things have changed in schools these days, though. I hope that PE teachers in all schools celebrate the achievements of Dame Sarah Storey and Hannah Cockroft and Ellie Simmonds just as much as they celebrate the achievements of Andy Murray, Mo Farah and Chris Froome.

I hope that more English teachers teach Richard III as well as Macbeth, and I hope that they try to explain scoliosis to their pupils. After all, you couldn’t get a more important job for a disabled person than King of England!

The importance of positive role models

I would like to see all children, in all schools, reading and watching and learning stories in which disabled people do important, positive things. Any child’s first role models are their teachers. Disabled children want their teachers to tell them that when they grow up, they can do anything they find interesting. Disabled children want to learn about people like themselves doing interesting things, so that when they leave school, they know that they can look for interesting things to do with their own lives.

Children without disabilities, of course, also need to be taught about disabled people doing positive things. Children who are taught about differences in a positive light from an early age grow into sensitive, understanding adults who learn to show empathy, not unnecessary sympathy or pity.

The non-disabled children of today may grow up to become the parent carers of tomorrow. They may become disabled as adults themselves. I think it would be great if, should they be in either of those situations, they could look back on their schooldays and remember being taught about the positive things disabled people can do. Maybe, just maybe, those early lessons might help them to realise that their child’s disability, or their own disability, doesn’t have to be a negative thing.

Sarah is a freelance journalist and blogs frequently on disability issues at Same Difference.

Do you remember a time at school when you felt inspired by a disabled role model? Do you feel that school’s today are doing enough to emphasise the positive things that people with disabilities can do? Let us know in the comments below. And do get in touch if you're interested in being a Scope role model.

Replies

  • quinrahquinrah Posts: 24Member Talkative
    Thanks for the post @CerebralPerson I couldn't agree more about the importance of positive role models.
  • [Deleted User][Deleted User] Posts: 692 Listener
    The user and all related content has been deleted.
  • daz1daz1 Posts: 11Member Talkative

    I have hemiplegic cp down my left side. I was at school from 78 - 91. This was during the time that, thanks to Blue Peter and Joey Deacon, remember him anyone?, the word spastic became a swear word. I was called spastic or Joey every day. TV has a lot to answer for when it comes to the portrayal of disabled people as we know. The only help that teachers provided me back then was when I was removed from one school & placed in another. I wasn't allowed into my class until morning break. I found out later it was because my teachers was explaining to the rest of the class what CP & hemiplegia is. The use of the words spastic and Joey went down but the bullying didn't stop.

    Although children today will have no idea who Joey Deacon is it is a very good idea to have school mentors to go in especially as this will be the time in their life where their perception of disabled people will be forming. I wish they had a similar scheme in the 1980's.

  • CerebralPersonCerebralPerson Posts: 4Member Listener
    Who is Joey Deacon?!
  • daz1daz1 Posts: 11Member Talkative
    edited December 2016

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joey_Deacon

    Way before your time. Going back to 1981. Not sure links work on this thread but here's his Wikipedia page. Have a look at the section on Blue Peter. A lot of children & some adults started calling other people Joey and Spastic because they saw Joey on TV and laughed at his disability. The words spastic & Joey soon became  insulting words to use against someone else. Children would shout phrases such as "You're a Joey" or "Go away spaz" or "hey you're just a spastic" If the link opens have a look at this article from the BBC News website in 2006.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/4902432.stm



  • foxukfoxuk Posts: 81Member Talkative
    The negative side of this is that we will all be expected to be 'Disabled Heroes'.

    My wife and I have both lived most of our lives with those self imposed and externally enforced expectations and live with the over-working injuries that are the consequence

    It is only when we are allowed to work within our capabilities alongside 'norms' that things will start to change.

    Jon

    P.S. Spas was a common insult in the 1960s and 70s and then was dropped from use for a while as it was seen as inappropriate as using the 'N' word. Its return to common use has paralleled the change in attitudes to Disabled People since the 90s.


  • JGMJGM Posts: 27Member Listener
    When I was at school the only disabled person I think we learned about was Douglass Bader,not surpriseing realy,I mean,there's not much heroic you can do if you're disabled.
  • CerebralPersonCerebralPerson Posts: 4Member Listener
    JGM- Are you being sarcastic when you say
    JGM said:
    When I was at school the only disabled person I think we learned about was Douglass Bader,not surpriseing realy,I mean,there's not much heroic you can do if you're disabled.
    ?
  • JGMJGM Posts: 27Member Listener
    I broke the screen and had to send it away to have a new screen fired,this newsf screen didn't seem to be as sensitive as the old one,sometimes it works,sometimes it down,'t.I've never had a girlfriend so I don't have children or grandchildren so I don't know what they teach in schools these days,I would've imagined things have changed quite a bit¿
  • JGMJGM Posts: 27Member Listener
    I say ban "role models", role models are successful people,99.999% of us at destined to be misseriable failures,my mistake was to grow up beliveing my existence wasn't futile,that I could be a success,if only I'd realised at an early age that my life was going nowhere,people need to expected t to get less out of life,the less you h9e0
  • JGMJGM Posts: 27Member Listener
    The stupid screen froze up again,I was saying,the less you expect to get out of life,the less disappointment you'll feel with the life you end up with,I hate seeing other people being better off than me.When I was a kid there was no central heating,in winter we'd all sit hurled round a coal fire and watch telly,my father was obsessed with the news,as soon as he got back from work no matter what we were watching he'd swap to the news,the R.A.F. were on the news quite often,no,not thevBrylcream Boys,the German R.A.F.,Die Rote Armee Fraktion,I hate this spell checker,it "directs to the nearest English word so I have to go back and retype,anyway,that's German for The Red Army Faction,they used to kill rich people,my family were devout Capitalists,I was bought up to worship wealth,poor people were scum,the rich were better than us,but,I had a jealous streak,I liked it when the Baader-Meinhof Gang,as the newscasters used to call them,killed someone with more money than us.My father did a lot of work for millionaires,so,I grew up surrounded by wealth,I was always bitter I'd been born the son of the man who designed homes for millionaires,I felt I deserved to be the son of one of his millionaire clients,I was bitter I hadn't been born into the " right" family,so I was happy when the R.A.F. shot someone with more money than me.Rich people were my role models,but it's :
  • JGMJGM Posts: 27Member Listener
    Bloody stupid thing went wrong again,as I was saying,being rich isn't a realistic goal,if a rich person is defined as someone with one hundred times as much money as the average person then it stands to reason that only 1% of us can be rich,99% of us are destined to be miserable failures,I hate my life,I wish I'd never been born,unless your name's David Beckham or Roman Abramavitch tell your sons and daughters they're destined to have misseriable pointless lives,don't show them role models and get their hopes up,better yet,don't have kids in the first place,what's the point of being born if you're destined to be poor and misseriable till the day you die?
  • Sam_ScopeSam_Scope Posts: 6,932Administrator Scope community team
    @JGM I'm sorry to hear you are feeling like this, Mind could be able to offer you some advice and support regarding your situation - their helpline number is 0300 123 3393.
    Scope
    Senior online community officer
  • JGMJGM Posts: 27Member Listener
    I'm seeing my psychiatrist on the 6th of January,he says I've tried every drug going,he found 2 new drugs in the D.S.M. but she he looked in the book of drugs available on the N.H.S.only one was approved,if I were rich and could go private I could try this new drug,why should rich people have access to better health care than the proletariat?Due to Tory health cuts I can only see my psychiatrist once every 3 months no matter how I'll I feel between appointments,but,what's the point in even having an appointment if he's run out of new drugs to try?I don't know what'll happen on January the 6th,probably nothing good.
  • Sam_ScopeSam_Scope Posts: 6,932Administrator Scope community team
    edited December 2016
    That sounds really frustrating @JGM

    There are lots of lovely people in this community who care and who have lots of experience, information and support to offer so please do keep talking.  
    Scope
    Senior online community officer
  • Chris_ScopeChris_Scope Posts: 695Member Chatterbox
    Hi JGM, as Sam says, the community is here for you as and when you need it. I also wonder if you've come across 'cognitive behavioural therapy' (CBT) at all? There's a bit of an explanation of CBT here, and there are lots of books and information on the internet about it.
  • JGMJGM Posts: 27Member Listener
    I'm seeing my psychiatrist on the 6th of January,
  • Sam_ScopeSam_Scope Posts: 6,932Administrator Scope community team
    If you need help before the 6th January @JGM do reach out, you can speak to the Samaritans on 116 123.
    Scope
    Senior online community officer
  • JGMJGM Posts: 27Member Listener
    That was part of my old post,why was that still there?Anyway,I I know about C.B.T.,it can't work for someone in my position,part of the therapy is changing your behaviour so you can achieve your goals,I know what I need to do to get what I want,the problem is I can't afford to do it,there's no way I can succeed because I don't have enough money,so thete',s no point me even trying.The part I really don't like the sound of is "Cognitive", they try to brainwash you into accepting your situation,when we play Monopoly all players start on Go with £200 and no property,if,when I played with you zI insisted I start with not £200 but £2,000 and hotels on May fare and Park Avenue you'd call me a cheat and refuse to play against me,the Duke of Westminster owns Mayfare and Belgravia not in Monopoly but in real life,he's done nothing to deserve this wealth,he inherited it,then they say he's a philanthropist because he,'s given one of his many houses to an injured soldiers charity,he's given nothing,it was paid for out of surplus labour he stole from his employees,and,the soldiers he's helping were injured fighting for 
  • JGMJGM Posts: 27Member Listener
    For some reason it wouldn't let me write any more,anyway,as I was saying,they were injured fighting for Capitalism,a system of governance that masivly favours his class over ours.I hate the idea of C.B.T. because the Cognitive bit will involve me accepting the society zI was born into,I hate Capitalism,it's so unfair,when we play football we change ends at half time so if you have the advantage of playing with your back to the wind in the first half you have to play against the wind in the 2nd half,a chess match must consist of an even number of games so each player has the advantage of moving first the same number of times,in tennis we take it in turns to serve would you want to play against me if I insisted only I were allowed to serve
  • JGMJGM Posts: 27Member Listener
    edited December 2016
    Stupid thing froze again....if only I were allowed to serve?Why is it all sports have to o be so scrupulously fair but life can be so unfair? I won't undergo therapy that seeks to convince me Capitalism's fair because it isn't.It makes sense that people like the Indians and the Chinese accept it because they believe in reincarnation,so,it's like footballers changing ends at half time,or a chess master using black,he'll have the advantage of playing with the white pieces next time,but,for those of us who don't believe on an immortal soul it's very annoying to see other people born better off than you.

  • JGMJGM Posts: 27Member Listener
    I know what'll happen,the same as happens every time,on January the6th I 'all feel a little better,Dr Okolo won't believe me when I tell him how bad I was feeling in December,he'll tell me to keep on taking the same old meds,then on January the 7th I'll start feeling worse again and zI'll have to wait until April before I can see him again and get another chance to convince him how lousey I feel.
  • Sam_ScopeSam_Scope Posts: 6,932Administrator Scope community team
    It can be really difficult in getting your symptoms across to doctors, have you tried writing your symptoms down as you feel them and then taking that list with you to the doctor? 
    Scope
    Senior online community officer
  • JGMJGM Posts: 27Member Listener
    I saw a G.P. he asked about my C.P.N. I told him I didn't have one so he told me to phone the hospital,I said it was pointless as they never had any appointments,but he said they'd see me in an emergency,so I phoned,the and we machine just said "4", I assumed it was the last word of a message either telling me to call before or after 4pm,when I finally got through the receptionist told Mr they'd been having problems with the computer,she said they'd call me back tomorrow,the next day she called me back I was right,no appointments,I hate life,I feel lousey and I can't see a doctor,if I'd been born into a rich family and could afford to go private I,'d be seen within 24 hours,but,I'm just a grotfy little pleb,so if I feel lousey,tough luck,what's the point in being born if you're going to be born onto the proletariat?
  • JGMJGM Posts: 27Member Listener
    Stupid spell checker,"the receptionist told me.." not "..told Mr.."
  • Sam_ScopeSam_Scope Posts: 6,932Administrator Scope community team
    Im sorry you are feeling so down @JGM did they tell you when an appointment was available?
    Scope
    Senior online community officer
  • JGMJGM Posts: 27Member Listener
    edited December 2016
    I had an appointment for the 6th of January,they can't see me before then,they never have any spare appointments,the G.P. thought they might squeeze me in,but no,that's why I didn't phone the hospital,they never have a spare appointment,I thought if I saw my G.P. he'd see how ill I was and persuade my psychiatrist to see me,buy the N.H.S is stretched to breaking point,I saw my local A&E on the regional news a week ago,they said we're not allowed to get ill or have accidents because there's a huge backlog at A&E and they need us to stay away till they can clear the backlog,they're deliberately tuning down the N.H.S. so they can sell it to their friends in the private sector and we'll be left with an insurance based system like they have in America.I got through to the Duty Professional,his advice,apparently I'll feel better if I stop worrying,I wake up worried,I can't control it,he says I need to east breakfast,in the mornings I'm worried sick,if I tried to eat I'd puke,anyway,I weigh over 18 stone,missing my brekie isn't going to give me malnutrition, the days I need to go out and met people and make friends,if The Sir Henry Doulton School Of Sculpture hadn't gone bust I'd've met people with the same interests as me,maybe I'd even have had a girlfriend,who knows,but,the government chose to bail the bankers out and let the legitimate economy go bust.Why did the bankers get a bailout? If I put my life savings on Fancyboy and he fell at the 5th so I wrote to The Chancellor Of The Exchequer asking him if I could have my steak money back do you think he'd give me any money?Would he heck as like!So,why did the bankers get their money back?I want the friends and the life I would've had if The Sir Henry Doulton School Of Sculpture hadn't folded.
  • JGMJGM Posts: 27Member Listener
    Get I'll,I meant to type "get..." I meant the word for unwell that looks a bit like I'll,bloody auto correct spell checker!
  • Sam_ScopeSam_Scope Posts: 6,932Administrator Scope community team
    I have edited that for you.
    Scope
    Senior online community officer
  • mossycowmossycow Posts: 436Member, Community champion Chatterbox
    Hey @JGM   How did your appointment go?

    "I'm trying to live like a random poem I read that ended 'to bloom where we are planted"

  • mossycowmossycow Posts: 436Member, Community champion Chatterbox
    As if telling you not to worry is going to help...they obviously dont have a clue.   How are you doing @JGM? You sounds really interesting  :)

    "I'm trying to live like a random poem I read that ended 'to bloom where we are planted"

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