Stories from the Field
Edited By David J. Connor and Beth A. Ferri
9. Humanizing “Special” Educational Practices
CATHERINE KRAMARCZUK VOULGARIDES
Walter. That is all I knew him as. He was, and is, Walter. Walter loved to read. He loved records. He was like a living encyclopedia. He could talk your ear off. He would laugh at his own jokes. If you listened to him, he was joyful and appreciative. Walter always went out on the town. He would put on huge black galoshes. He would leave for the day, rocking back and forth as he headed out to the bus stop on his way to a café, a museum, or any place in town that he wanted to explore. That was Walter. Independent and dependent. My whole life, I knew him and saw him as Walter. The world, though, I am pretty sure saw him differently. Walter had a disability. I don’t know what his label was, or if he was ever given one. He went to school in rural North Dakota in the 1950s. He wasn’t institutionalized and he wasn’t given a label because he graduated from school before the passage of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EAHCA 1975 or Public Law (PL) 94–142), which later became the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). I never had to understand him through a label and frankly, neither did my family. He existed as Walter. And to me, Walter was “normal.”
To receive special education services in the United States a student must first and foremost be conferred with a label...
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