Dr. Zach Rossetti, Associate Professor of Special Education, served as Guest Editor for the current edition of Connections, the official publication of TASH (The Association for the Severely Handicapped), a nonprofit organization dedicated to disability advocacy.
Highlighting the voices and perspectives of parents, guardians, siblings, and researchers – some of whom are family members themselves – this issue of Connections focuses on the experiences of families of individuals with severe disabilities in the context of school and community inclusion. It also offers research about and practical strategies for supporting family involvement within schools and communities for their loved ones with disabilities. In addition to authoring the introduction, Dr. Rossetti requested, reviewed, and edited all articles for the issue.
In his introduction, Dr. Rossetti writes:
“I was a sibling first. Before I worked as a special education teacher, inclusion facilitator, and currently as an associate professor and researcher, I was a sibling. I am the oldest of six in my family; my brother Todd, who has a disability, is the fourth of the six. Todd is a huge Boston Red Sox and Boston Bruins fan, loves chocolate cake, and is very social.
That he is so outgoing is even more impressive because he does not speak, uses a wheelchair, and needs support throughout his day due to his cerebral palsy. Communicating and connecting with others without speaking is one of many lessons he has taught me. We have spent countless hours together laughing, watching Red Sox games (on TV and at Fenway Park), sometimes arguing or getting annoyed with each other, and mostly just hanging out together.
I learned early on that others did not always view Todd as I did. When I was younger, I noticed others staring at him when we were in a public space (grocery store, amusement park, hockey rink). I remember wondering why he was not invited to birthday parties when he was in school and why so many adults (teachers especially) spoke in a childish, sing-song voice to him, even as a teenager.
When I was older, I attended a couple of IEP meetings with our mother, experiencing what it felt like to be outnumbered and finally understanding why she described that she had to fight with the school to get Todd what he needed. Until then, I assumed others would get to know Todd and treat him as we did in our family.
The reality included low expectations and surface level greetings rather than rigorous academics and authentic relationships. Too many people missed out on the privilege of knowing Todd. Moreover, all of it – the difficult meetings, the lack of phone calls from friends, the expectation of advocacy, and the feeling that we were on our own – was exceedingly difficult within our family.”
Connections “is the online magazine written exclusively for, and by, TASH members. Each issue contains provocative articles on breakthroughs in the disability field, and challenges readers to rethink some of the toughest issues affecting people with disabilities, their families and advocates.” TASH – formerly, The Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps – is the primary professional organization focusing on school and community inclusion for individuals with severe disabilities.