"Your Speaking is Disruptive
Philip Garber's "profound stutter" is not the only thing that makes him unique in his 2 classes per semester at the County College of Morris. At 16, he's in college when most of his peers are still in high school. Philip Garber's education has been home-schooling and charter schools, and he says that he's not experienced any discrimination because of his stuttering. In light of that, his History teacher's suggestion that he not ask or answer questions in class so that he not "infringe on other students'
time" and the more blunt, "Your speaking is disruptive" surprised him.
Shocked, my original comment on the article was: "If I'd been his support worker, she would have been toast."
Then a dear friend who is a college professor weighed in. She said that she wondered why he was focusing on college so early instead of continuing with the speech therapy that he'd decided to leave a while ago. I said that I could see her point - why would Philip Garber put himself in such a high-pressure setting, that presumably would make his study worse, when there was plenty of time for college?
Another friend who knew better than both of us came along and pointed out that speech therapy doesn't work for everybody, and that stress or nerves don't always affect stuttering. And another friend that I totally wouldn't have expected to be on Philip's side posted in emphatic support of disciplining the teacher for how she'd handled the situation.
Philip Garber and Person-Centred Support
I thought about Philip Garber and that article a lot last Friday. While I could see my professor friend's points, something about the way I'd responded was really bothering me, and it took me a while to figure out what it was. While Philip wouldn't be a person that I'd normally support in my line of work, I've certainly worked with teens with intellectual disabilities that have *wanted* to go to college or university. One young man with a mild disability had his heart set on Bible college. I had my doubts about whether he could handle it, as did the high school that he attended. But we used the brief time that I was available to support him to go through the application process, and I heard later that they'd accepted him. I assume that they did so expecting that they'd be able to meet his needs, as we'd made them clear in the application.
And that's when I figured out what was bothering me. I'd forgotten about being person-centred, as a support worker. If I'd been a support worker for this 16-year-old young man (for anyone, really), being person-centred always makes it very simple: "You don't want to do speech therapy anymore? Let's talk to your parents about why you don't want to do it and see if we can come to some sort of compromise. And if you want to take college courses...let's see what it would take for you to get in. It's up to you."
And I'd forgotten about good advocacy. Philip Garber obviously has the academic credentials to be at County College of Morris, or the school wouldn't be letting him take courses there. Whether he's paying to go himself or there on some sort of scholarship, his tuition is being paid. He's a student at the school, and as a student at the school with a disability, he's entitled to accommodation - not an attitude of "I'd rather not deal with your disability, so don't talk."
She *would* have been toast. As his support worker, I'd have made sure of it.
What Do You Think?
I don't think I'm really forgetting these things...maybe just need to get back into the swing of things. More volunteering, perhaps, now that school's over.
By the way, here's a link to Philip Garber talking on YouTube...decide for yourself how "disruptive" his speaking would be if he answered questions in a school environment.