Friday, February 6, 2015

Special Proms for Special Needs - Good Intentions but a Bad Idea

I have a bunch of pieces I'm writing this morning, but didn't want this story to go un-blogged.

Tim Tebow is organizing proms for people with disabilities on Valentine's Day. [my emphasis]
The events — which are expected to draw some 7,000 people with disabilities — will each come complete with a red-carpet entrance, paparazzi, limousine rides, hair and makeup stations, shoe shines and, of course, a dance floor and food.
“It’s not just me, it’s not just our foundation, but it is all 45 churches and volunteers in 26 states, three countries, coming together to show love and make a difference in more than 7,000 lives,” Tebow said in a statement. “The special needs community will shine on this night.”
The Tim Tebow Foundation is providing $600,000 in funding for the “Night to Shine” proms, which are open to individuals ages 16 and older. Additionally, the nonprofit said it worked with groups serving those with special needs to put together a manual for organizations hosting the events.
For one night, the special needs community will shine! And then the day after, they will go back to being ignored by much of their communities.

Here's the real problem for me - why put this money behind isolated, segregated, events? I know Tebow et al. think they are doing good here, and I'm sure the people who go will have a good time. But it accomplishes nothing other than a brief moment of fake normality. 

"Prom" didn't matter to me, but to many people prom = normal highschool experience. So if people with disabilities are being excluded from such activities, if that's something they want, then the solution is to put time and money behind making such events more inclusive and more accessible.

A segregated special event for special needs, no matter how well intentions, just reinforces the idea that people with disabilities cannot function in "normal" society.

1 comment:

Penny L. Richards said...

Teen son likes to dance, so we go to the "special" teen dances, but we also go to community swing dances, punk shows, concerts in the park, and anywhere else we're welcome, to be honest. But we'll never be welcome at the local high school dances, because he was never enrolled as a student at any of those schools. He's always been in county programs that aren't part of the district (even if they meet in district classrooms). I imagine that's the situation for a lot of the teens these events are meant to serve.