November 22, 2013

Glee goes to college (with Alex!)

For those of you who are not Gleeks, last night's episode (November 21, 2013) on Fox TV shared Becky's (a character with Down syndrome) desire to go to college. And not only does Becky want to go to college she wants to go to college with Alex at the University of Cincinnati in the TAP program. College for people with intellectual disabilities is being embraced by colleges and universities across the country. It is certainly a personal choice, but it was Alex's choice and one which Becky portrays so well on last nights' episode.

I have written extensively about Alex and her desire to go to college, including her rejection from her first choice college and her acceptance to the University of Cincinnati's TAP program. Alex is in her first year and assuming she wants to continue will graduate in three and a half years ready for a job, just like tens of thousands of college students across the country.

Thanks to Lisa for the picture
On the show last night, Sue (Becky's mentor) did not want Becky to go to college because she thought she could not handle it. I see this played out in schools and families all the time. I know it is hard for people (mostly our seniors) who never knew a person with a disability to overcome perceived stereotypes and even prejudices. I can not speak for all educators, but certainly we have run across a few old school teachers who never believed in Alex.

In our family and community Alex has changed this thinking, but that's just a baby step. In the end Sue realized this was Becky's dream and took that baby step of believing in Becky. Sometimes it just seems so simple, but understanding the complexities of power, privilege and oppression and the impact of this on people with disabilities is very complex.

From an excerpt from a previous post - And maybe she will struggle – but it will be her struggle and if she asks for help she will get it. Maybe she will not like college and maybe it is the wrong choice for her – but it was her choice not one artificially imposed by our current systems. It is her life, not mine and not one predetermined by others expectations of what people with down syndrome can or can not accomplish.

TAP is in its second year - and is evolving. Change does not happen overnight, and bringing students of all abilities together in a college setting is not easy. It's not just about designing the program, it's about selling the idea of students who learn differently to the administrators, the professors and even the student body. It's about funding, recruiting and most importantly it is about the passion of a handful of people who believe. The Program Director is working her hardest to make this happen.

As happens in college dorms across the country a "Glee" viewing party was held. The students ate popcorn and watched as their school and their program were highlighted on National TV. The students were proud and the work that went in to this was hard and well orchestrated by the Director of TAP. This included a day of student and staff interviews by Fox and the local stations before the show. Alex is one of these students.

One note, in the TV interview afterwards the news reports referred to this as Special Education - It is NOT about SpEd it is about honoring dreams and preparing ALL students to succeed. We need to look at education differently to truly move to a place where all students are welcomed, included and valued.

Watch this and meet a little bit more of Alex.

Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

If you have not liked our page, it is a good way to stay on top of the ups and downs of college for a person with a development/intellectual disability. I have no idea what is going to happen....but I will share the good and the bad. Please click on "The Ordinary Life of an Extraordinary Girl" now.

And please consider purchasing our book, the story of how we worked to advocate with Alex to honor her dreams.  I know you will enjoy it. It is only $4.99 on kindle or $12.50 if you order through this blog. After all, college is expensive!


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