Removing ‘dis’ from abilitiesNorthwestern High School Principal Steven High was presented with a rare opportunity; to blend lessons of life with the discovery that limitations can be overcome.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
Northwestern High School Principal Steven High was presented with a rare opportunity; to blend lessons of life with the discovery that limitations can be overcome.
High said if he were to ask seniors what they want to do when they grow up, most would give a blank stare and make something up.
Hearing about opportunity and focusing on abilities, rather than disabilities, seemed an appropriate message to share with the Class of 2010, he said.
But it’s more than that – it’s a new way of thinking that Deanna Yost hopes to bring lessons learned in Michigan about people with disabilities to northern Wisconsin.
In Michigan, the approach is to promote independent living and self-reliance for people with disabilities through a variety of rehabilitative services and assistive technologies. It’s the direction the northland is moving with the development of Family Care, said Yost, of New Horizons Northwoods in Ashland.
“That is one of the strong messages we want to leave you with today – opportunity isn’t something that you stumble upon; it’s something we choose when we’re open to it,” she said.
Yost said it is the stigma and barriers having disabilities present that speakers overcame.
“There’s thinking from other people that people with disabilities should take a prescribed path after high school and there are places that would be in their best interest – where they’re taken care of and where they’re safe,” Yost said.
She said over time, the thinking has changed from sheltered workshop programs, to give people with disabilities the opportunity to receive services and work in the community.
“We’re doing really great things for people with disabilities,” Yost said. “I was one of those people.”
However, she said, people like Daniel Perry, David Taylor and Kim Rosario really want to control their own destiny, in spite of the challenges they face.
“They said no to sheltered workshops; no to service delivery, to supports for jobs that other people created for them,” Yost said. “They also learned the power of the word yes. They said yes to help – real, authentic help that redefined their lives. They built networks of people around them, including family members … including people that have high expectations for them … they also said yes to risk and possible failure.”
“It’s a lesson anyone entering the adult world should hear,” Yost said.