Posted on July 13, 2018
Adults and children protest recent family separations of arriving immigrants at an outdoor demonstration.
Last month, federal immigration agents separated a 10-year-old girl with Down syndrome from her mother at the border. Nine months before that, agents did the same to a 16-year-old boy with autism, taking him from his caregiver grandmother.
Unimaginably unconscionable, their separations and those of some 2,300 other children at the border from their parents and other caregivers came in the wake of president Trump’s zero tolerance policy against immigrants allegedly entering the country illegally. Though the president eventually signed an executive order June 20 calling for children to instead be detained with their families through the duration of immigration proceedings, the damage is done.
“Decades of psychological research show that children separated from their parents can suffer severe psychological distress, resulting in anxiety, loss of appetite, sleep disturbances, withdrawal, aggressive behavior and decline in educational achievement,” noted The American Psychological Association the day of the president’s executive order.
Children’s development can be further impacted. Other health experts note that when children are separated from their parents, their stress hormones become over-activated. This can lead to slower development of speech and motor skills. Or problems with memory, attention and the capacity to regulate emotions. For some children, these unfortunate circumstances could lead to the development of such impairments as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and conduct disorder.
As a budding school psychologist, I soon will be tasked with the responsibility of supporting the emotional, social and academic needs of children, both with and without disabilities, in educational settings. I wonder how my responsibilities – and the responsibilities of other support professionals in our nation’s schools – will become more complex – more intense – should we connect with some of these children down the road. Will they be able to attend school regularly or will they experience feelings of fear and anxiety from being away from their family for an entire school day? Will they act out in class because they don’t trust the adult in the room? Will they drop their head, sullen and withdrawn, if I and other mental health professionals attempt to talk with them about how they’re feeling? The answers aren’t known.
What is known is that these children already have experienced trauma that will likely have lifelong implications. And for thousands, the ordeal is far from over. About a week after the signing of the president’s executive order, a federal judge in California ordered immigration authorities to reunite separated families within 30 days. For children younger than five, they were to be reunited before 14 days. The government missed the first two-week deadline. It since has shared that it has reunited half the children younger than five with their parents following criminal background checks and DNA tests on the remaining parents to ensure the safety of the children upon reunification.
Enough already. To enhance the well-being of children separated from their parents and other caregivers at the border – to give them a fair or a fighting chance at healing – reunite them with their families without delay.
Posted on May 4, 2018
Steve Slotkin and volunteer Anna Mellos work together on his marble painting project at Artfest 2018.
I can’t shake the memory of Artfest. Don’t want to, really. The creative workshop and community celebration that the Center for Disabilities Studies and Art Therapy Express hosted a couple Saturdays ago lasted just two hours, but the wall-to-wall smiles, the camaraderie, the incredible artwork left an indelible mark.
Opportunities for Artfest participants – individuals of all ages, backgrounds and types of disabilities – to express their artistic sides appeared endless, thanks in no small part to the encouragement they received from UD student volunteers.
- Steve Slotkin carefully tilted a box to roll painted marbles around a canvas, which allowed him to create an image bursting with blue, yellow and orange paint.
- Haley Shiber added pops of orange paint to an event favorite, the floor mural, while moving across it in her powerchair with wheels covered in purple tape.
- Brittney Graves adorned a plaster mask with red sparkly pipe cleaners.
- Roger Yeager squirted a bottle onto a spinning canvas powered by a fan to create an eye-catching purple and blue spin art painting.
- Kelly Bonner experimented with green, gooey slime wrapped around her fingers.
- Edward Edwards (on his birthday, no less!) donned a colorful jesters hat and play-microphone while making silly faces at the photo booth station.
As a graduate assistant with CDS’s Communications and Advocacy unit, I took on the role of Artfest coordinator, which in the weeks leading up to event made me focus on its logistics. But the event’s inclusiveness and accessibility, the friendships and self-expression that were so vividly on display – the sheer joy of the day – are what I see and think about now.
Along with the people who, most of all, made Artfest a success. Lisa Bartoli, the creative director of Artfest and the lead artist of Art Therapy Express, has been Artfest’s guiding spirit since the beginning. This year marked her 11th Artfest, and she and her team of outstanding interns wowed participants and volunteers alike with their adaptive art tools, inspired art stations and drive to make the event innovative on the one hand and fun on the other.
Artfest stallwarts like Shiber, who this time around attended her 10th Artfest, and the wonderful student volunteers – several of whom have volunteered at multiple Artfests – also ensured its success.
Made it extraordinary.
And, for me, made Artfest an absolute pleasure.
Posted on March 6, 2018
It’s 2018. I have to remind myself each time someone I know uses the R word. They – no – society should know better than to use such degrading, insensitive language. My jaw shouldn’t have to drop because my professor used the R word in class, even if he did apologize and admit he was adjusting to the “new” term, intellectual disability. I shouldn’t be disappointed when a classmate uses the word to describe the “stupidity” of her significant other.
What really gets me is that the R word affects not only me and perhaps like-minded people who cringe when they hear it escape a supposedly sophisticated colleague’s mouth, but more importantly, individuals with disabilities. It feeds into and reinforces the stigma that they are less than competent, unworthy of support, simply “in the way”.
It’s a word that shouldn’t be used at all. Fortunately, it’s one that advocates here at the University of Delaware and elsewhere will ask others to permanently stamp out. Wednesday marks the annual Spread the Word to End the Word awareness day, established nationally nine years ago to encourage people to stop using the R word. Supporters of the movement organize campaigns and host signings, where people pledge tolerance.
Best Buddies and Career and Life Studies Certificate program staff and students had planned Wednesday to ask other students and staff to sign a supportive banner. Because of the expected snowstorm, they will reschedule their event for sometime next week. Join them in their efforts! Additional initiatives that promote inclusion and diversity will no doubt be on display, if not tomorrow, on other days. Previously on Spread the Word to End the Word awareness day, Newark High School students attempted to button their shirts while wearing rubber gloves and read stories while holding marshmallows in their mouths to give them a sense of what life can be like for individuals with disabilities who struggle with social and practical skills. Elsewhere, from the Northeast to the Sun Belt, bands made up of individuals with intellectual disabilities have performed while local community news channels hosted advocates who championed another R word: respect.
It’s all encouraging. But more – far more – is needed. We need to carry our efforts beyond a designated day to speak up whenever we hear someone use the R word. We need to volunteer with organizations, such as Best Buddies and Special Olympics, that are dedicated to ending prejudice toward individuals with intellectual disabilities. We need to educate others about cultural sensitivity, promote positive school climate initiatives, and so much more.
By promoting ability, encouraging understanding and fostering engagement, tomorrow and every day, we can eliminate use of the R word and come closer to bringing about a society that empowers and respects all its members.
Posted on October 20, 2017
A “classic” student and his coach: Ian Snitch and Jasmina Chatani.
Let’s begin with SWEET:
“Have a good day, sir!” Ian Snitch said enthusiastically to a guest exiting the Courtyard by Marriot – a courteous and attentive act that Ian executed even before his supervisor, a front-desk specialist, had gotten the chance.
It would be just one of many things Ian said and did on Disability Mentoring Day (DMD) that impressed and amazed me. A first-year student in the University of Delaware’s Career and Life Studies Certificate (CLSC) program, Ian, along with 12 other CLSC students, spent the day getting hands-on experience in a preferred work setting and connecting with business partners. The other CLSC students job-shadowed at area sites that included U.S. Sen. Chris Coons’ office, UD Student Financial Services, WMPH Radio, the Newark Senior Center, Unique Impressions and Pet Kare.
I was Ian’s coach for the day. And it was one of the most enriching experiences I’ve ever had. My first thought upon meeting Ian was — he’s a SWEETheart! Ian introduced himself, asked what year I was (I’m a first-year graduate student at UD) and talked about his favorite band, One Direction. He was undeniably friendly and kind. Later, at the Courtyard by Marriott, he learned how to manage the front desk. He listened intently as the front desk supervisor, Michael Bandy-Pistory, explained the guest check-in experience. Ian then asked lots of clarifying questions. He learned how to enter guest information into the hotel system and how to print copies of keys. In no time at all, Ian, by himself, was making copies and putting them in the small room envelopes for future guests! Ian even learned how to upgrade someone’s room in the system and was able to get a guest into a suite.
Michael noted that Ian was a fast learner. Was he ever!
At the DMD afternoon lunch reception, convened at the Courtyard and attended by the CLSC students and their coaches, all students were invited up, one at a time, to discuss what job site they had visited, what they did there and if they’d like to work in that field in the future. As the first and then the other students went up to speak, my senses were slammed by an outpouring of support. Cheers, claps and compliments were thrown up in the air like confetti. I was thrilled to see how happy and proud everyone was. This experience-sharing lasted about half an hour. By the end of it, I realized I had been smiling the entire time.
After Disability Mentoring Day, I reflected on my experience. The positive energy throughout the day was tangible. DMD was wholesome, inviting, inspirational and memorable. Who wouldn’t want to be part of that?
Here comes the bitter:
The sad fact is that a large majority are not a part of it. According to the Office of Disability Employment Policy, the unemployment rate of people with disabilities is nearly double the rate of those without disabilities (7.5 percent vs. 3.9 percent).
Why? Why do individuals with disabilities face employment discrimination when they just want what everyone else wants? They want jobs they enjoy and jobs that allow them to make a living.
The 13 students I had the privilege of meeting and hearing from on Disability Mentoring Day were eager, kind-hearted and competent. If they’re given a chance to prove how much they’re capable of doing in a job of their choice, employers would see what I saw yesterday. It’s painful and upsetting to think that young adults with disabilities who miss events such as Disability Mentoring Day or similar opportunities may acquire fewer resources and connections, making finding a job that much more difficult.
When employers are looking at the applications of two job candidates, one with a disability and one without, they should base their hiring decision on the applicants’ ability to perform the job and the applicants’ potential to grow.
Ian says he “really wants to be a bell hop.” When given the chance, he impressed staff and guests alike. Who wouldn’t want to hire him?
This entry was posted in Center for Disability Studies, community living, developmental disabilities, diversity, Education, employment, inclusion, independent living, intellectual Disabilities, people with disabilities, Uncategorized, University of Delaware and tagged Courtyard by Marriott, Disability Mentoring Day, Office of Disability Employment Policy, Senator Chris Coons, University of Delaware.