Silly rabbit, disabilities are for kids

So I'm thinking that I want to do Yoga for the Special Child training. The training program that appeals to me currently only has a schedule up for a session this September, which I wouldn't be able to do in terms of money and vacation time, but it looks like they do it a couple times a year.

Yoga for the Special Child does kind of make me wonder something I've been wondering a lot lately: why are so many theories and articles and organizations relating to people with special needs geared mostly toward children? The children with more significant disabilties eventually become adults with disabilities, but a lot of people would have you think these people just disappear.

Yesterday I made some edits to the Down syndrome article on Wikipedia, changing "child with Down syndrome" to "individual with Down syndrome" in the instances when the reference wasn't specific to children, such as discussion of characteristic facial features or typical IQ ranges. I also noticed when poking around on the links that most of the Down syndrome websites feature pictures and stories mainly of children with Down's, as do most of the disability association websites.

Why is this? Is it that we only value people with Down's or other disabilities while they still have the "cute" poster-child thing going for them? Is it that we're more comfortable with these folks when they're at the age that their "correct" role in society is one of being dependent, but then become less comfortable with them when they don't "fit" because they're older and are still dependent to an extent?

I've looked through the information for the Yoga for the Special Child program, and I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be just as useful with adults with special needs. I would want to use it with my current clients with severe/profound multiple disabilities as well as offer it to more "typical" adults who need physically adapted yoga. A couple friends (one who's blind and one who has physical disabilities) have asked me if I know anywhere in the area that offers yoga, and short of working one-on-one with a physical therapist, I don't. I know of plenty of places with extensive movement and exercise classes for kids with disabilities.

It's the same with every other activity. I can find sports and social groups and just about everything else for my clients who are under about 20, but not a whole lot for anyone older. The programs for kids are usually well done and really normalizing, while the programs for adults can be downright patronizing and offensive.

So why the focus on kids? Is it some sort of heroism thing? That we might have some hope of "fixing" kids through these offerings, but we've given up on folks once they become adults? And/or do people have less interest working with people who aren't cute kids anymore?


5 comments:

Jodie said...

I was looking at that training a few months back, but I can't afford it unless I hit the lottery. Since I don't play, that might be hard...

That training does have circulum specific to the infant/toddler age, where there is a definite difference in body structure. In children, bones don't get ossified until about age 13, so there are special concerns particular to the child population. That said, if they're dealing with issues that are also appliciable to adolescents and adults, they should change the name or offer another training for that population.

I would imagine that part of the problem is that years ago when these ideas started coming to fruition, there were not many parents of adult children that were willing to shell money out-of-pocket for services for their adult children, so the marketing was aimed at parents with young children. At the time, those parents who were willing to pay were of the sort that were overly parentified with their adult children, so using their word "child" appealed to them as a marketing technique.

The other stuff? I think your theory is a good one.

eeka said...

Right, the physical stuff is different with super-little ones, but yoga teacher training doesn't generally differentiate between adults and school-age children except for in terms of how you explain things to people in a class. Places will usually offer a teacher training for doing yoga with kids under about 3 and then will cover child and adult yoga all together. I'm thinking the social implications are the bigger part of it than the actual physical differences. (Plus, in this training, you're learning to work with people who might be fragile or prone to injury regardless of age, so you learn how to do a physical readiness anyway).

Yeah, you're totally right on the button regarding the stuff that involves out-of-pocket expenses. Even now, most of my parents who are involved and want to spend lots of money are the ones who refer to their adult children as "boys and girls" and have them sitting on their laps and stuff.

I wonder though about things like the community socialization programs that are free and have been around forever. The youth programs are often great and very respectful, while the adult programs don't offer anything that any self-respecting adult would voluntarily choose to do.

Jodie said...

You know, I'm also thinking now how the training of child and adult dancers would be different, an dthen I realize, there are very few begining adult dancers out there (in ballet at least. In all my years of dancing, I saw exactly one adult beginer, and she had to take private lessons until she was ready to be part of the intermediate/advanced class, which was full of 13-year-olds like me). I think a lot of stuff in general just isn't aimed at adults that might be really good for them. As if adults aren't allowed to take classes and do activities like kids. What's that about? Yes, there are adult commity education classes, but they can be such a crap shoot- many of them are so beginnger-oriented that anyone with a little experience is going to be bored. Fortunately, yoga is popular enough that in most places you'll be able to find a variety of levels for adults and children alike, but maybe "for the special child" ones are looked at more like taking little suzie to her ballet lesson (the name of them not withstanding)? And in our age-appropriate culture with developmental disabilities, there's almost a fear to market yoga that way? This probabaly all makes more sense in my head than it does in this comment...

eeka said...

Oh, definitely true. When we encourage our DMH folks (who are mostly able to participate in typical offerings of hobbies in the community) to take up a hobby, they'll often take a super-beginner class in something, then find that the only options for adults to take further lessons are things like college classes or individual lessons for people who are really serious about it, and these things are usually too expensive and/or aren't appropriate for someone who does after all have a bit of chronic dysfunction in being super-committed to stuff.

I think the aim of the yoga method is a bit different, because most people who teach it aren't looking as an end goal to have yoga be something the individual is necessarily talented in or can participate in as a social thing, but rather are looking to use yoga as a means of improving attention or self-awareness or whatever so that folks can better participate in other stuff.

There's definitely an American trend lately to only have children have hobbies if they're teaching them a specific skill set in a certain order. Even if this isn't really feasible. I was talking to someone the other day who told me that her daughter is learning viola at school and has it once a week in a class with 30-something kids. She isn't learning a whole lot, nor is she enjoying it. The person I was talking to was telling me about how the school hypes up that learning a string instrument at a young age is good for social/emotional/cognitive development, based on schools where this is part of the curriculum (except that the kids have private lessons once a week and small-group lessons once a week, so they're actually learning their instrument well). So she was like, since they don't have the resources to really teach them an instrument, why don't they instead teach them movement or drumming or singing around the campfire or something they can actually get them to do with some level of skill in a large group with infrequent classes and have it actually be something they might be able to use elsewhere in life? I thought she had a really good point and agreed that they should try to teach them something they can actually somewhat master instead of teaching them to be shitty string players and then bragging about how they teach strings to the kids.

Penny L. Richards said...

I think Jodie is onto something--it does somewhat reflect the general social attitude, that lessons are for kids. I watch my kids take music or art classes and think "wow, that would be fun." But you don't really see the equivalent for adults offered.

But sure, there's also the recent historical issue--for kids with many disabilities, it's only been since 1975 that public schooling was a right; so now the first kids to benefit fully from that are in their late 20s. Maybe as the first cohorts of post-IDEA kids get older, they'll carry into adulthood the expectations and interests that earlier generations didn't dare hope to fulfill.