Regular Lives for Families with Children with Disabilities
Interview with Kathie Snow
Produced by Minnesota Governor's Council on Developmental Disabilities
Kathie Snow: So the Benjamins left school at age 18, we know that… Back to K-12, we know that kids can stay in public school until they're 22. Why? Who would want to? I mean, would any of us want to stay in the high school until we're 22…? Of course not, we want to get out of there and so, I know that, yeah, kids can receive services, well, you know, if services were all the greatest things they were, then I'd say let's go get more services.
But services are not everything they're cracked up to be. I think that the service system, personally, ought to be the last resort and never the first choice, but we make it the first choice. And so Benjamin went on to community college when he was 18, and his last semester at community college, he discovered online classes, which he loved because Benjamin also has a low vision diagnosis, and he learned… He actually learns best on the computer. He has a great big computer screen and he enlarges everything.
But he also liked to, like a lot of young people, he liked to stay up until 2 or 3 in the morning and sleep till noon. Which you can't do if you have an 8 a.m. college class. And so he discovered online classes, so his last semester at community college, he did the online courses and he really liked that, and he could do it at his own time. Didn't have to get up at 6 in the morning. And so he finished his community college, earned his associate's degree. He was in Phi Theta Kappa, which is the National Honor Society for community colleges. Decided to go on for his bachelor's degree, and he enrolled in Arizona State University and he graduated May 2012 magna cum laude in communications and social change and stuff.
And now he's working on his master's degree at University of Illinois, Springfield, and he, again, is doing it online. And he does everything on the computer, and I tell people my son does not write with a pencil. I said, you know, did you know you can go to college and you don't have to write with a pencil?
But, again, we always made sure that Benjamin had the assistive technology he needed and that he learned…that he got the academic foundation he needed to get a job or go on to postsecondary education. And there's no reason that that can't be true for any child with a disability.
My best friend's son… My best friend Charmaine, their son Dylan has Down Syndrome. He went to college, not to get a degree. He went to college to learn how to be a 20-year-old. Because how do you learn how to be a 20-year-old if you're still in high school? I mean, there are no 20-year-olds in high school except children with disabilities. And by 20, they're not children, they're young adults.
And so he went to college and he audited the class. Having said that, we had to be very, very careful, and I think stay away from the "new college programs" that are segregated programs on campus for students with disabilities. It's like, are you kidding me? We are going backwards. We are trying to eliminate segregation. And now we are creating these special college programs that we've never… we've never had segregation on our college campuses, and now all of a sudden we do.
And people say but, Kathie, that's the only way that my child can go to college. No, it's not. I mean they can go to college the same way that their brothers and sisters do. And maybe they go for a degree like my son or maybe they go to learn how to be a 20-year-old. But you don't learn how to be a 20-year-old on a college campus if you're in a segregated classroom with other students with disabilities. I mean, that… We've replicated high school life skill stuff that doesn't work, and we have now put them on college campuses. And so I hope that we tell parents like, run the other way. Don't, don't embrace that.
But our children have got to have a quality education and we need to hold educators accountable. But I think we also have to recognize that an educator's job is to help our children be successful, and there is absolutely no way you're helping a child be successful by segregating them. That is the antithesis of success, to be segregated.