by Terry Boisot,
www.TheArcLink.org, October 30, 2002
Economic times are tough. Budgets are getting cut,
money has been diverted away from social service
programs and special education to
balance state deficits at the expense of
people with disabilities, mental illness,
the aging, babies and the future of
It's important to find hope, and every day I enter
the campus of Goleta Valley Junior High, I am surrounded
by it. The culture there is
symptomatic of what acceptance and valuing
differences in appearance, ability,
lifestyle, culture and race really means.
This culture transcends social circles,
learning and teaching styles. It's
an amazing community, one that should be a
demonstration site for a national effort to
build futures for children
It's not about money; it's about human beings and
I want to memorialize it here, a place to be reminded
that hope cannot be lost despite the forces of darkness
that try as hard as they may to surround us by the land of
no hope. We just can't go there.
Every morning at 8:00 am Ben and I arrive on the
school campus. I transfer Ben into his wheelchair and for
some reason we often have more to carry than physically
possible. Help always arrives in the form of a
student or a teacher. The faces are
never the same. We head down the hall toward
Ben's homeroom and groups of kids in black
clothes, with their pants half way down their butt, hanging
out on the lunch benches, step over
to say 'Hi, Ben's mom,' 'Hey Ben!' or just
Ben is loved there and by association, I get to be
loved too. They will never know how much I love them
back. Only God knows.
Recently, a number of kids who attend school and
learn alongside Ben were asked what it is like to know
He knows a lot of things and he does everything.
He teaches me things by working with him. He helps us
It's fun playing with Ben. It is cool when he knows
He is a kid that needs everyone to treat him as one.
He is so full of life.
You can tell him almost anything.
He'll play with us in his wheelchair and does the
same things that we do but only cooler.
He's a normal kid and I like him.
Ben is deaf-blind, developmentally disabled and uses
Last week I was asked to participate in Diversity
Day, a day devoted to furthering the acceptance of all
people. There were hundreds of teenagers in the segment in
which I spoke, and I shared a short story of life
with Ben in our family. I paused for
just a moment to take a look around and
realized that the audience likely had in it
a future politician whose campaign platform
might be 'Schools for All Kids,' future
teachers, and a principal or two. For
sure there were future architects and builders, bus
drivers, and grocery store managers,
and parents of the future whose children
might have disabilities too.
The students Ben learns alongside won't need the laws
we work so hard to enforce today with the finest
minds in jurisprudence, the most
ardent advocates, and experienced lobbyists.
They have attitude ' an attitude that
emanates from their very soul that inclusion
in school, community living, and work is a
natural part of the human experience.
They will just know what to do.
At the end of my story of life with Ben, the students
were given an opportunity to ask me questions that
burned in their minds. Like what does
Ben like to do for fun? ' 'The Thunder
Mountain Roller Coast Ride at Disneyland for
One of Ben's friends and fellow classmates only had a
comment and asked a teacher to make it on her
'Please tell Ben's mom how thankful we are
he goes to school here.' I think I heard it
right. I was working so hard to control the
When I am dead and gone, I will leave Ben in some
mighty good hands. Thank God.
Terry Boisot is Ben's mom. She is President of the
California Alliance for Inclusive Communities, Director of
the Leadership Project, serves on the board of directors of
Alpha Resource Center of Santa Barbara and The
Arc of the United States, and is
concerned about all disability matters.
Terry welcomes comments. Please address them
to her at