Yesterday I read an article about the benefits of inclusion for children. The benefits of inclusion are well documented. Disabled students in inclusive classrooms have higher math and reading scores than those in segregated settings. They also have higher self-esteem, more social interactions and friendships, and better communication and social skills.
Thomas Hehir and his colleagues assessed the performance of almost 68,000 disabled students in Massachusetts in 2012. Using state test data, they discovered numerous factors that influence students’ academic achievement. Family income, school quality, and English proficiency were all related to a child’s academic success. After accounting for these factors, they discovered that students with disabilities who spent more of their school day with their non-disabled peers fared much better on language and mathematics tests than students with identical disabilities who spent a smaller proportion of their school day with their non-disabled peers.
I was fully included as a child. I attended public school from preschool to 12th grade. I went on field trips, narrated a play, and was invited to birthday parties. Inclusion is talked about a lot in school. Outside of school, I played sports and attended summer camps. I played baseball and sled hockey. I also took martial arts for several years. I participated in various summer camps. At camp, I built robots, launched rockets, and learned how to code.
I graduated from high school in 2018. Since then, inclusion hasn’t been talked about much. It’s as if society forgets about disabled people once they are no longer kids. For me, adulthood has been a lonely, isolating experience. According to a 2018 study, in the U.S., an estimated 17.4 million disabled people experience frequent stress and anxiety 4.6 times more frequently than non-disabled adults in the United States. Disabled adults living below the federal poverty line experience stress 70% more often than adults in higher-income households.
Disabled adults often struggle to find employment. In the United States, those who do not have disabilities are three times more likely to be employed than those who do. I have been looking for a job since 2019, and I am still unemployed. Over the past three years, I have filled out hundreds of job applications and have received no offers. Merely the mention of my disability makes employers uninterested in hiring me. The manager of a local restaurant rescinded my interview once I told her I have Cerebral Palsy. I was unable to get a job at Stop and Shop because my disability prevented me from being able to climb stairs.
Like most adults, I knew I wanted to move out in the future. However, most people in their twenties don’t wonder if they will move into a long-term care facility. I didn’t want to be stuck there. In 2013, the most recent year of released statistics, nearly 17% of individuals who utilized Medicaid LTSS were between the ages of 21 and 64, and 1% of those younger than 21 lived in a nursing facility. The proportion of younger nursing home residents with disabilities (those under 65) increased from 10.6% in 2000 to 16.2% in 2017.
I moved out shortly before my 21st birthday. Living in my own apartment is a dream come true. I enjoy having more freedom and independence. I like going grocery shopping, having movie nights, and listening to music. It was difficult to find accessible housing, but I eventually found an apartment that worked for me.
Disabled children grow up. Adulthood should not mean that these same children are forgotten. All adults with disabilities should be able to participate in their communities. We are no longer children, yet we deserve to be included in everyday life.
Bader, Eleanor J. “Segregating Disabled Children from Their Peers Doesn’t Help Them, Advocates Say.” Truthout, Truthout, 13 Dec. 2022, https://truthout.org/articles/segregating-disabled-children-from-their-peers-doesnt-help-them-advocates-say/?fbclid=IwAR3xmPmBNgJh0HQwbDSeMtd_-2Cc-hr4EDXQ3Zbkyj41xRyhLW30OrP-caM.
Cree RA, Okoro CA, Zack MM, Carbone E. Frequent Mental Distress Among Adults, by Disability Status, Disability Type, and Selected Characteristics — United States, 2018. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2020;69:1238–1243. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6936a2
Hehir, Thomas, et al. “A Summary of the Evidence on Inclusive Education.” Abt Associates (2016).
Ne’eman, Ari, et al. ‘Nursing Home Residents Younger Than Age Sixty-Five Are Unique And Would Benefit From Targeted Policy Making’. Health Affairs, vol. 41, no. 10, 2022, pp. 1449–1459, https://doi.org10.1377/hlthaff.2022.00548.
Roberts, Lily, et al. “Removing Obstacles for Disabled Workers Would Strengthen the U.S. Labor Market.” Center for American Progress, Center for American Progress, 23 May 2022, https://www.americanprogress.org/article/removing-obstacles-for-disabled-workers-would-strengthen-the-u-s-labor-market/.