school is about ability – lakay roberts

If you believe that school is about fostering ability, stick around.

A five-year-old girl with Cerebral Palsy and her mother are in a battle with the New Caney Independent School District in Texas to allow LaKay to use her walker in school instead of her wheelchair.

Read a full article here, and then make your way back here.

I have sent the following e-mail to both Kenn Franklin and Angie Lee of the New Caney ISD regarding LaKay’s battle to be allowed to use her walker while at school.

Good morning, Mr. Franklin

At this point, I believe the e-mails should be about pouring in in response to the discrimination towards five-year-old LaKay Roberts whose walker is being deemed “dangerous” to her safety.  Here is another to add to the folder.

My name is Kerri. I am a Kinesiology and Applied Health student from Canada.  A great deal of what I learn in school is about making school and ALL components of education accessible to ALL children, regardless of ability level. To make all components of education accessible to all children, modifications have to be made. And play is pivotal to the learning process and the socialization process. Please reference Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talk on the subject if you are not familiar with the view that formal education kills creativity. As an educator, I am sure you can agree that creativity is crucial to the experiential learning process that is so important, especially for young children.

By forcing LaKay to use her wheelchair at all times during school, you are binding her creativity into tighter spaces. You are not allowing her to interact with her world in the most fundamental way possible: through movement and play.

Mr. Franklin, the young woman writing to you right now has spent time in a wheelchair herself. I am now in school learning how to make recreation and play accessible to ALL individuals regardless of their skill level, functional ability, or motor skills. Because the time I spent in a wheelchair and using a walker was enough. It was enough to make me realize that it is easier to be able to move around with a walker even if my movements were awkward or clumsy, than it was to make my wheelchair flow gracefully into small spaces. It was easier to pick objects up from the ground when using my walker than it was to even try to reach the floor when using my wheelchair.  It was considerably easier to explore my environment using the walker, but the wheelchair was available for when distances were too long or when I got too tired . . . as is LaKay’s option.

To force LaKay to use her wheelchair at all times is depriving her of that choice. To children, we both know how important it is in giving them choice in dealing with all life situations. This may be an inconvenience to you as an educator for the years LaKay spends in your school or school district, but LaKay is in this for life. LaKay will recollect this experience for years to come, even though she is only five years old, just as I remember all of the kids asking me why I was wearing “two different shoes”.  Furthermore, LaKay is in a crucial learning period for development of fundamental movement skills. And for her, learning how to most effectively walk, run, jump and hop while using mobility aides like her walker is crucial to her desire and interest in living an active healthy life and being integrated as fully as possible into physical education classes further down the road.  Exploration of movement, such as recess time, is crucial to this skill development. And as an educator, you cannot deprive a child of a chance to learn.

Mr. Franklin, it’s your call. Restrict a child’s access to her mobility aide that she is competent in using with minimal assistance and leave her “safer”, but more dependent. Or, allow the child and her parent to make the choice–who better to know their child’s abilities and limitations, and care more for his or her child than her parent?–and grow, flourish, and thrive.  All children get scrapes and bruises.  All children fall. And all children make choices.  Let LaKay and Kristi make this one.

With respect,

Kerri [last name withheld]

Riled up yet? Please send your own letter to the hotshots at the NC ISD who believe that they are NOT restricting LaKay’s development with their choices to decrease her ability to move while she’s at school. Join the fight to allow LaKay and her mother Kristi make the choice to allow LaKay to experience her equivalent of increased freedom in mobility as the other children in her community.

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