I came across a book called “Everybody Belongs: Changing Negative Attitudes toward Classmates with Disabilities.” by: Arthur Shapiro. The book was written several years ago and yet the themes from the book apply easily in 2019. Mr. Shapiro’s book offers in-depth perspectives and strategies about how to change negative attitudes and biases about disabilities.
Mr. Shapiro’s book cites studies that show that the concept of disability is generally viewed negatively. [i] Research shows that children develop misperceptions about disabilities by the age of 5. [ii] Mr. Shapiro writes about how we integrate attitudes, perceptions, and prejudices about disabilities very early from books, media, and through interactions in community settings like schools. Research shows that developed prejudices tend to increase and become more set as children progress through school. [iii]
The research highlighted by Mr. Shapiro gave me pause, misperceptions about disabilities form by the age of five. I am bothered about the negativity that can and does exist about disabilities. When I read that misperceptions become more fixed as children age, I become increasingly bothered.
I am bothered by an observation that I keep encountering, the idea that expectations for people with disabilities are generally lower. I read an article which cited research that said “people with disabilities are still habitually regarded as people to be pitied because of disability or admired based on minimal efforts and achievements.” [iv]
Based upon my review of this literature, I started to consider the idea of expectation in the context of my fitness regimen. When I started my fitness journey in 2006, I was originally driven by a notion that I would attempt to walk without the aid of crutches, canes, or any support device, in all environments, full-time.
In the 13 years that have passed, my walking and fitness goals have shifted and changed from walking device free to improving and maintaining movement and ability. However, the notions of effort, progression, performance, and the “can and try” principle created a standard of expectation and achievement in my program and goals.
I always make an attempt or a repeated sequence of attempts in a fitness task even if I do not achieve the intended result. The team of Fitness Professionals I work with expects 100% of my effort regardless of the nature of the task.
Expectations of my achievement have also increased over time. The goals are always to improve, expand, and create ability compared to setting a standard of minimal achievement.
The team of Fitness Professionals working with me are helping me to learn new movement patterns, modify existing ones, and lessen compensatory movement patterns that I have developed from Spastic Cerebral Palsy.
The Fitness Professionals provide feedback based on the performance I deliver or based upon the needs that they see. The feedback that I receive is skill-specific and not disability-specific. I am taught skills at a pace and frequency that support me to improve upon or achieve a specific task.
The “Can and Try Principle”
My team employs the “Can and Try Principle”.
Can I perform the task?
Will I try to perform the task?
From this principle, my team of Fitness Professionals has supported a dynamic process and approach that determines the level and intensity of the support that I may need to learn or re-learn discrete skills to improve existing movement patterns or to learn new ones.
Mr. Shapiro’s notion of “Everybody Belongs” is an ideal that we have not yet reached, but is an end that we need to continue to work towards. The concept of combining effort, progression, performance, and the “Can and Try Principle” has the potential of significantly raising individual expectations and general standards of achievement for people with disabilities in health, fitness, and many other settings.
Tell me Wiley’s Walk Readers, what other principles or approaches support increasing expectations and standards of achievement for people with disabilities?
[i] Shapiro, A. (2000). Everybody Belongs: Changing Negative Attitudes toward Classmates with Disabilities. New York: Routledge Falmer.
[ii] Shapiro, A. (2000). Everybody Belongs: Changing Negative Attitudes toward Classmates with Disabilities. New York: Routledge Falmer.
[iii] Shapiro, A. (2000). Everybody Belongs: Changing Negative Attitudes toward Classmates with Disabilities. New York: Routledge Falmer.
[iv] Harris, L. (1991). Public attitudes toward people with disabilities. New York: Louis Harris and Associates.
This article were originally published in the “Endless CapABILITIES Blog”, and National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability, sponsored by The National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (www.nchpad.org). NCHPAD is part of the UAB/Lakeshore Research Collaborative and supported by Grant/Cooperative Agreement Number U59DD000906 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).