School personnel charged with teaching students with exceptional needs at times reduce their expectations in seemingly benevolent ways. The author introduces a term, “benevolent ableism”, adapted from “benevolent racism” that assumes that so called “caring” behavior actually leads to repression, dependence, and reduced expectation about one’s true potential based on race, along with “ablesim” which leads to “devaluation of disability” resulting in unfair assessment of one’s potential based on disability. Hehir (2002) defines “ableism” as the “devaluation of disability” that “results in societal attitudes that uncritically assert that it is better for a child to walk than roll, speak than sign, read print than read Braille, spell independently than use a spell-check, and hang out with nondisabled kids as opposed to other disabled kids”. The author offers teacher comments such as “this is my low (academic) group, but they try so hard” or “they may not know much, but they will know how to respect others from this class” as indicative of “benevolent ablesim”. This construct inadvertently creates tension for those who love or work with students with disabilities, because it fosters diminished expectation and denies the varied humanity inherent in us all.
|Keywords:||Benevolent Ableism, Difference|
Associate Professor, Special Education, Rhode Island College, Providence, RI, USA