Future Reflections March/April/May 1984, Vol. 3 No. 2
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REFLECTIONS ON GROWING UP DISABLED
AND "PROFESSIONAL' LITERATURE -- AN EPITHET SLIGHTLY MODIFIED
by Duane Gerstenberger Reprinted from the August/September, 1983 BRAILLE MONITOR
"Professional" literature. Federationists respond to this phrase with the emotions reserved for the most noxious of epithets. We often laugh and loathe in the same breath when we hear it.
As the Federation's energy, commitment, and resources have multiplied over the years, so has our reputation as a source of accurate, tested, and intelligible information about blindness. We have recognized the damage done by so-called "professional" literature so we have written, edited, published, and distributed materials which reflect the real problems of blindness. Now the blind and those who touch their lives study our books, speeches, brochures, and articles. The Braille Monitor -- always a source of information and inspiration for Federationists -- has expanded its circulation significantly in recent years, and it is read regularly and enthusiastically throughout the field of work with the blind. The Federation has raised its voice, set it in type, and the blind of the nation have responded affirmatively.
Reflections On Growing Up Disabled, edited by Reginald. I. Jones, was published in early 1983 by the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC). It was prepared by the ERIC Clearinghouse on Handicapped and Gifted Children pursuant to a contract with the National Institute of Education, U.S. Department of Education. CEC is a "professional association committed to advancing the education of exceptional children, both gifted and handicapped." It was founded in 1922. With a membership of 50,000, it supports and influences programs and legislation affecting gifted children. It houses the ERIC Clearinghouse on Handicapped and Gifted Children, which is one of sixteen such centers in a nationwide information system supported by the National Institute of Education, U.S. Department of Education.
Reflections On Growing Up Disabled is "designed to fill a void in the [education and rehabilitation] attitudinal literature by presenting firsthand accounts of the experiences and perceptions of disabled persons themselves, as well as the views of parents of disabled children," according to Mr. Jones, Professor, Afro-American Studies, University of California, Berkley. To accomplish this purpose, Mr. Jones uses material from fourteen contributors -- seven individually written accounts and three co-authored accounts. Seven of the ten chapters are written by disabled persons from their own experiences and perspective. The other three chapters are the dual author pieces; one is intended as a general, introductory chapter and the other two present parent's views. The complete text is eighty nine pages, and there are fourteen pages of bibliography.
Federationists will be pleased to know that Dr. Jernigan wrote the only chapter of this book dealing with blindness: "Blindness: Disability or Nuisance?" Five other specific disabilities are represented: learning disabled, orthopedically handicapped, cerebral palsy, deafness, and mental retardation. Federationists will be surprised at the general tone and style of the other chapters. We are not accustomed to the kind of precision, directness, and intelligibility from "professional" literature which this book exhibits. Its substance is valid, logical, and tested; but for one exception (Chapter 9, "Parents and Professionals: Irrational Assumptions in Their Communications"), its style, vocabulary, and tone are not the standard educational journal ilk. (Only in Chapter 9 do we read the ubiquitous "it must be pointed out here ..." phrase, which permeates the standard "professional" books and magazines. And only here do we see the standard call for research and demonstration: "In a much larger sense, attitudes of all types are most clearly seen in the study of nonverbal communications. Research and demonstration projects are vitally needed in this area not only to pinpoint specific behaviors impeding rapport and communication but, also, to identify ways of changing such behaviors and their underlying attitudes. That is the next frontier for attitudinal research." Even with these stylistic blemishes, Chapter 9 is a valuable addition to the book.) The book's style is primarily anecdotal and conversational. It surveys a diversity of disabilities without the "lumping" effect so often apparent in literature that attempts to deal with the disabled. This one small volume provides a great deal of information about several disabilities in a readable fashion.
A significant weakness of the book is Chapter 1, "Reflections of Disabled Children." It is an excerpt from another article or paper and only serves to get m the way of the succeeding chapters. It does not excite the reader or render anticipation for the material which follows. If used at all, it would have been better used in an even more abridged fashion as part of the preface. Unlike the text itself, the bibliography is standard "professional" journal fare. Skip it. Also, the very brief lines about the contributors probably would have been better placed at the start of each chapter rather than as a list at the beginning of the book.
Reflections On Growing Up Disabled is a good book. It accomplishes its purpose, and that purpose serves the needs of disabled persons. Blind persons are well served by Dr. Jernigan's contribution of this volume. The National Federation of the Blind is well served by being represented in the book. This term "professional" literature takes on a slightly less tainted connotation because of this book.
Print copies of Reflections On Growing Up Disabled may be purchased from the Council for Exceptional Children, 1920 Association Drive, Reston, Virginia 22091 at a cost of $6.38 for members and $7.50 for nonmembers. Neither CEC nor the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped have yet produced a Braille or recorded version of this book. Both indicated that they would consider recording it as a result of our inquiry as to its availability.
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