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Last Updated: 04/12/2018

 Inspirational Stories


by Terry Boisot,, 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 children.

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 everywhere.

It's not about money; it's about human beings and success.

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 'Hey!'

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 him.

He knows a lot of things and he does everything.

He teaches me things by working with him. He helps us understand him.

It's fun playing with Ben. It is cool when he knows it's me.

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 a wheelchair.

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.'

One of Ben's friends and fellow classmates only had a comment and asked a teacher to make it on her behalf.

'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 tears.

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 


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