Defining the Surrogate Parent
CASE STUDY: JIM A concerned brother shared... Jim is my brother. He is a 58-year-old man with Down's syndrome. We grew up in New Jersey. As we approached school age, my sisters and I went off to elementary School, and Jim stayed home. There were no educational opportunities for him. When we moved to Ohio in the early '60s, again my sisters and I went off to our new school, but this time Jim went to "school" also. It was an abandoned church on Second Avenue in Columbus. It wasn't much, but it was a school. He did learn a few things like how to print his first and last name, count to 10, and later he could recite his phone number. Looking back, it was not much more than a place for him to be during the day. As the County Boards of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities (now called County Boards of Developmental Disabilities), were becoming established in Ohio, Jim was almost ready for their adult service program, the sheltered workshop. He "graduated" from school in 1970 at the age of 18 and spent the next 35 years doing piecework at the Franklin County sheltered workshop program called ARC Industries. Jim retired a few years ago and now spends much of his time home watching his favorite shows on TV. He also attends a program for elderly persons with disabilities a few days a month where he works on a number of crafts. He has an eye for photography and painting. Jim missed the 1975 landmark legislation PL94-142 that would have ensured his right to a free and appropriate public education despite his disability. His schooling was not developed to meet his individual needs as it would have been after the law was passed. Today parents of children with disabilities can look forward to their child attending their neighborhood school, having access to the general education curriculum, and having an educational program developed to specifically address his/her individualized educational needs. That's what the IEP insures. Expectations for children with disabilities are much, much higher than the expectations for children with disabilities born in the '50s, '60s and even into the '70s, and 80's. It is encouraging to see how far education for students with disabilities has come. I often wonder how different my brother's life would have been if he was afforded the educational opportunities available today. He certainly would have had more options.