“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Monday, October 27, 2008

Lessons from Dr. Marc Gold

Thanks to one of my students, Lilian, I rediscovered a video by one of my professional heroes, Dr. Marc Gold.  Dr. Gold was known for his "Try Another Way" approach to educating students with severe disabilities.  I have linked the video here .  This video was so powerful at the time it was made.  People with severe disabilities were just beginning to exit institutions, and Dr. Gold comes along and teaches them a complex assembly task to illustrate just how wrong people were about who people with intellectual disabilities were.

Or should I say are...

Gold approaches his students in the video with such high expectations, you would think the students would improve and excel through the sheer power of his will.  But actually it is combination if his high expectations and the early stages of training procedures which have been shown to be so powerful. 

But there is at least one aspect of the video which is so sad.  Dr. Gold was at the start of a boom in understanding the education of people with severe disabilities.  He saw tremendous potential which he was able to realize via the instructional techniques he developed.  He saw a future of people with intellectual disabilities having real jobs because they were being well trained.  He decried the "Mickey Mouse garbage" that passes for work in sheltered workshops, once again seeing a future where people were doing real work.  

So fast forward 30 years...

The strategies advocated by Dr. Gold and shown as being successful in educating these students, are not being sufficiently implemented in classrooms.   Students with severe disabilities are too often babysat, independent of their age.  Expectations are so low and students are meeting those expectations. See Great Expectations.

Dr. Marc Gold died at an early age, but his love, his respect, the dignity he brought for and to persons with intellectual disabilities continues as his legacy.  It is my prayer that his legacy will be rediscovered by those in education and that his high expectations will find their way into special education classrooms today.  I am afraid he would be disappointed to see where special education is today, 35 years after he pioneered strategies that truly work for students with severe to profound disabilities.


1 comment:

Julie said...

This reminds me of a man I knew.

My friend and I were working for an agancy that had both residential homes and a sheltered workshop for men and women with dev disabilities. We usually worked the evening shift at the houses. One day we were working the day shift at the workshop instead. The residents were working on clock parts, and my friend and I were unfamiliar witht the task.

My friend tried to put a clock part together, which was very complicated, for it had a lot of pieces, and she couldn't figure it out. A man named K who had profound MR actually took the pieces out of her hand and completed the task.

My friend and I were shocked. This was a man who needed hand over hand assistance for almost every daily living task he performed. While we were very pleased to discover his skills, my friend and I were both so humbled. We had really sold this man short.

I've never heard of Marc Gold. I wonder how much of an influence he's had, and wish he'd had more. The above mentioned workshop was a real joke. Most of the ones I've worked in or visited have severely lacked.

There is one very successful workshop in my city that I'm aware of, but they do not serve people with severe behavioral problems and they only serve a handful of people with severe and profound MR, compared to the hundreds of people with a mild to moderate diagnosis.

Well, looks like I've written my own little blog post instead of a comment. :)