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

CerebralPerson
CerebralPerson Member Posts: 4 Listener

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.

[Update 03/12/2019: this service is currently not in operation.]

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Comments

  • quinrah
    quinrah Member Posts: 22 Courageous
    Thanks for the post @CerebralPerson I couldn't agree more about the importance of positive role models.
  • [Deleted User]
    [Deleted User] Posts: 740 Listener
    The user and all related content has been deleted.
  • daz1
    daz1 Member Posts: 14 Courageous

    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.

  • CerebralPerson
    CerebralPerson Member Posts: 4 Listener
    Who is Joey Deacon?!
  • daz1
    daz1 Member Posts: 14 Courageous
    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



  • foxuk
    foxuk Member Posts: 102 Pioneering
    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.


  • JGM
    JGM Member Posts: 27 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.
  • CerebralPerson
    CerebralPerson Member Posts: 4 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.
    ?
  • JGM
    JGM Member Posts: 27 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¿
  • JGM
    JGM Member Posts: 27 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
  • JGM
    JGM Member Posts: 27 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 :
  • JGM
    JGM Member Posts: 27 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_Alumni
    Sam_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 7,676 Disability Gamechanger
    @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
  • JGM
    JGM Member Posts: 27 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_Alumni
    Sam_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 7,676 Disability Gamechanger
    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_Alumni
    Chris_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 689 Pioneering
    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.
  • JGM
    JGM Member Posts: 27 Listener
    I'm seeing my psychiatrist on the 6th of January,
  • Sam_Alumni
    Sam_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 7,676 Disability Gamechanger
    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
  • JGM
    JGM Member Posts: 27 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 
  • JGM
    JGM Member Posts: 27 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

Brightness

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