Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Percussion Ensemble by Joy Caldwell

So I went to my daughter Jessica's "percussion ensemble" performance at her High School band concert tonight... It was very sweet and I loved seeing Jessica's beautiful smiling face on the stage with her peers (some with similar needs, others who were there to support them). (Jessica has Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, and autism). She and her classmates seemed to really enjoy "performing" their music for us! And they did a great job!

BUT... maybe it's just me... but it left me with a bittersweet taste in my mouth. Here's why. We were at a HIGH SCHOOL CONCERT with TEENAGERS! but the 3 songs that the "special ed percussion ensemble" played were: "Mary Had a Little Lamb", "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" and "Down at the Station" - all 3 PRESCHOOL songs! Does anyone else see a problem with this or am I the only one?!

Please don't misunderstand. I honestly don't think that the teacher or any of the other staff thought twice about it and they were all patting themselves on the back for the wonderful way that they "included" our kids with special needs in their concert - having them open it up.

I know that their motives were right but the thing that bothers me the most is that they didn't really realize the message that they were sending everyone there (including the teen percussionists). "It's okay to treat TEENAGERS with disabilities like pre-schoolers because of their disabilities..." Am I just being hyper-sensitive or does anyone else hear the message of "condescension" in this? After all, they seemed to enjoy it!

Personally, I find this disrespectful. My daughter is FIFTEEN years old now - she's not FIVE anymore. In fact, we are working very hard for her to learn how to act like a young lady - like a FIFTEEN year old - NOT A FIVE year old!! Truth be told, Jessica especially enjoyed the faster, more upbeat toe-tapping music that succeeded their toddler-esque performance and I really truly believe that our kids would be much better served by truly being included [even if playing smaller bit parts in the "regular" bands] than being made to look like preschoolers with the bodies of teenagers. Jessica and some of her peers may have some significant differences but she/they have FIFTEEN + years of life experience and deserve to be respected as such. What do you think?


  1. There are several issues - no, I do not think this is condescending if this is the music that these individuals like - yes, they are teens but there are some things that are not "teen like" - my son who is 20 has an eclectic taste in music - he loves Barney, Raffi and The Donut Man but also loves The Rolling Stones, Earth Wind and Fire, Lady Gaga, Blink 182, The Beatles - the list goes on and on - he just plain loves music!

    Did your daughter enjoy this? Did she complain that it was "below" her? If not, then why complain and get offended?

    What is age appropriate anyhow? Personally, I do not want my son doing "age appropriate" things for a 20 year old for lots of reasons - health and safety to be most important plus he has NO interest in what a typical 20 year would be doing so why would I force those activities on him - just so I could pretend he's like a typical 20 year old? It's more important to him to do things he understands and enjoys and if that is playing "preschool" games, well at least he is playing a game - something that is extremely difficult for him to do - but he can do it and enjoys it and I enjoy playing them with him, interacting and laughing at what he thinks is funny.

    I obviously see inclusion differently and I consider my son "truly included" because he is able to be accommodated in the activities that he chooses and enjoys and is respected for that.

  2. Rachel and Joy- I agree-- very disrespectful. And why can't they be included in the regular band? My daughter did in middle school and high school. She wasn't good-- but she participated by tooting her clarinet enthusiastically, sometimes on the right note, sometimes not. School bands should be about learning not perfection.