Here’s hoping everybody had a relaxing Labor Day weekend whether or not you have a traditional 9-5 job. If you’ve seen any of my previous posts on Labor Day and the kind of work PWDs can do vs. what they’re often made to do, you know what I’m talking about.
My friend galacticexplorer and I recently spoke about my last post. He and I talked about the fact that often, PWDs are not allowed to experience life. Thankfully, that’s not true for every PWD. Because of inclusion and a shift away from the medical model, society has gotten better at including persons with disabilities in school, college, work, relationships, and so forth. But so many PWDs are still left with gaps in their social and real world knowledge. That is, they may be taught to fold laundry because it’s a life skill, but do they know how to hold an authentic conversation with the person at the next Laundromat machine? They may know table manners, but do they know it’s okay to speak up and pick the restaurant when their friends and family go out? To order their own food and send it back to the kitchen if the order is mixed up? (Or is that considered being “noncompliant” to the wait staff)?
But even though PWDs have gaps in their social knowledge, even though they’re often barred from experiencing life, I see the able-bodied community trying to make people with disabilities’ lives more convenient for itself. That is, the (temporarily) able-bodied community is constantly trying to come up with ways they can keep tabs on PWDs so the PWDs won’t “disrupt” what is considered “normal” life.
Some of these methods we already know about. An IEP is a method. A behavior plan is one. A group home is one. Therapy is, at its worst and in its own way, a way of controlling the PWD and his or her life. Now granted, some of these methods may be necessary. For example, IEPs help ensure educators obey the law and do right by students with disabilities–in the best-case scenario. But some of these methods are questionable and even frightening.
One such method that recently came to my attention is tracking. That’s right, folks–there is currently a push to outfit children with autism with “tracking devices.” Yeah, like those collars they stick on wildebeests in the Serengeti. Probably not quite that primitive, but you get the idea.
The justification for this push is, “Autistic children ‘wander.'” And don’t get me wrong. I have heard plenty of horror stories wherein a child or teen with autism, or even an adult with the intellectual age of a child, wandered away and was hurt or killed. But I’m going to raise a question. Hands up if you know what it is.
Right: would you place a tracking device on someone without autism? And, which disability (ies) are next?
Some people are already talking about doing exactly this. News outlets have reported that as early as 2017 (let that sink in folks; that’s a little over TWO YEARS), everyone might receive a microchip to prevent identity theft, kidnapping, and various other tragedies. Of course, the people spearheading this movement say the chip implantation would be by personal choice. But for how long? The fear of mandatory chip implantation already runs rampant, thanks in part to certain interpretations of Revelation like the Left Behind series. (Not coming down on a side of that issue here, though you’re welcome to ask me about it in the comments section).
So here’s the deal. When it comes to chip implantation for everybody, including the able-bodied, there’s a lot of fear and decrying of the idea. But specify that the person has a disability? Boom–suddenly that person needs to be tracked because otherwise they’ll wander. In other words–horror–they might go somewhere you disapprove of! They might not be under constant control!
Think about it. These days, what do most of us do when we’re out at Wal-Mart or Costco or wherever and see parents with their kids on leashes? We think it’s nuts. What do parents do with able-bodied kids to teach them not to wander? They say firmly, “Stay with Mommy and Daddy or there will be consequences.” They say, “You may go play, but only where I can see you.” They may give an age-appropriate talk about strangers. If they lose a kid in public, they page the kid, who they’ve probably already taught, “Go to the front and ask for help, or find a policeman/security guard.”
Now, I get that those rules are different when you’re dealing with severe disabilities. If your grown child with autism functions mentally at age five, he or she should probably be taught to stick close. But really, guys, what is UP with the tracking devices?
Many parents and loved ones of PWDs prize independence. Whether they should or not is another discussion. But consider this. If you teach people that they must be on a leash, they will never learn to function without one.