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paras in the art classroom


From: Jean Womack (jeaneger_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Sun May 19 2002 - 11:11:38 PDT

I subbed in a ceramics classroom last week. The paraprofessional came in
with a girl in a wheelchair, probably a cerebral palsy patient. The para
said the girl was at a 2-year old level, but she appeared to me to be more
intelligent than that. The para had removed the controls on her wheelchair
so she could not spin herself around. She showed me where she had taped up
the armrest of the wheelchair. On Tuesday, the para was brushing the girl's
arm with a small plastic brush. She said it relaxed her. But the girl
started screaming and did not stop until the para took her out of the
classroom. On Friday I went over to see what was going on. The para
directed my attention to her body which was somewhat slouched in the
wheelchair. She seemed to have a sock stuffed in her crotch so that there
was a bulge in her pants--diapers perhaps? She was wearing tight red velvet
pants. The para brushed her on her thigh and then looked up at me
inquiringly to see my reaction. I said no, don't do that. Then the para
asked me if she was doing something wrong. I said no, when I meant to say
yes. I asked her to please do some ceramics work with the girl. She said
she had tried, but the girl ate the clay. I said you can make something
right in front of her, so at least she will understand how it is made. She
didn't want to do that. She didn't want to read to the girl the list of
student resources that I had passed out to the rest of the students.
Finally I told her she could not brush the girl on the leg in my classroom
and she should leave. What I said was, "not here." After she left, I called
the Special Ed department head and complained about it. I am still upset
about it. Child Protective Services said there wasn't enough to even make a
report about it. My husband is tired of listening to me talk about it.
What is your experience with the arm and leg brushing of disabled students
by paraprofessionals? Is this part of being a teenager or is this some kind
of taking advantage of disabled people? It did not seem to have anything to
do with ceramics. Thanks.
Jean Womack
San Francisco