Leo’s Letter: Great Expectations

Expectations drive us. They should be set high or we can feel that people don’t value us or what we do. And all of us want to feel valued.

Parent Carol Glazer and her adult son Jacob both knew that he could achieve. They didn’t allow the fact that he was born with intellectual and physical disabilities stop them from setting high expectations. Carol explains that doctors “also told us not to expect much of Jacob in terms of his ability to participate in civic life, community life and in work.” She calls this “the tyranny of low expectations.”

In a study for the Department of Education, it was reported that a high percentage of students with intellectual disabilities felt “not very” or “not at all” useful, and students with autism tended not to be involved in school activities. These should not be outcomes that we, along with our school officials, accept as inevitable.

As David Johnson from the University of Minnesota states, “If there’s one thing that my experience in working with students with disabilities has taught me, it’s the power of high expectations we hold for them as professionals, family members and the general public.”

In order to maintain and achieve high expectations, having a supportive network around you is vital. The network hopefully includes family, teachers, other support staff or professionals, other families, members of a church or synagogue, and so on. If those working with you or your loved ones are not supportive, they should not be on the team.

As you set high expectations, you will be pleased and sometimes surprised with the results. A parent once shared with me her surprise at how many people knew her son in the neighborhood because of the volunteer work he had been doing.

People with disabilities want the same opportunities as anyone else. We need to expect them and ask for them. A booklet produced by the MA21 alliance shares some ideas about this topic, including community connections and choice-making. You can find the booklet here. You can read Carol Glazer’s op-ed about her son Jacob here, and as you can see, he’s doing pretty well!

When expectations are great, it’s only a matter of time before greatness follows.






Leo V. Sarkissian

Executive Director

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