Why Not Ask?

In my 47th ranked state (in services provided to people with disabilities), it seems that most children and adults with developmental disabilities love going bowling and to the mall.

The love of those two places starts early – grade school ‘community based instruction’ almost always involves a trip to either a bowling alley or a local mall. As children grow into adulthood, the pattern is the same. Go to a local mall almost any day of the week around lunchtime, and you will see groups of adults with developmental disabilities seated in a special section of the mall food court. Their ‘staff’ will be with them but usually seated at another table. Since these two trips got their start as ‘community based instruction’, in what subjects are the children being instructed, and why do the adults still need instruction?

Bowling is not something my family does for recreation. I have no problem with people who do like to bowl, but it seems a little strange to require my child with developmental disabilities to engage in a pastime that she will more than likely never do outside the school day. And, my oldest child, who has no developmental disabilities, wonders why his sister gets to go bowling frequently on school time and he has to study and take tests. I don’t have a good answer for him.

Trips to the mall are very similar to the bowling trips for my school-aged child. I’m really not sure in what subjects she will be instructed during the trip, but I do know that the teachers usually have time to get their errands done. Perhaps they are teaching my child how to be helpful and carry shopping bags. Or perhaps, they are instructing her on how to make unhealthy lunch choices from the mall food court.

Since there are no tests administered at the end of the day or week on subjects taught while bowling or malling, I’m not sure whether or not my daughter is making progress in this area. My cynical, sarcastic side thinks maybe that is why the practice needs to continue into adulthood for people with developmental disabilities.

What about visiting a museum? What about a trip to a zoo or a local radio or television station? How about discovering the life cycle of plants and perhaps preparing my child for future employment by visiting a nursery? Or, another good choice for future employment could be encouraged by touring a local manufacturing plant? A meal at a nice restaurant would be a good place to practice manners, or a trip to a local park or playground would be a great way to work off some extra energy. For the adults, how about a concert, a trip to a retirement community or the library or local bookstore?

Or better yet, why not ask the children and the adults what they would like to do? I think we might find that people with developmental disabilities do not love bowling and malling as much as some people may believe.

Ahh, but maybe that’s the reason they will never be asked.

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