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Critical Issues in the Lives of People with Severe Disabilities.

Critical Issues in the Lives of People with Severe Disabilities. L. Meyer, C. Peck, & L. Brown (Eds.). Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes, 1990. 752 pp. $87.

This is a large and very special book. It provides an analysis of contemporary values, research and practice as these affect the lives of people with severe intellectual disabilities" (p. xxi). It was written by some 70 people who helped lead the way in recent years and who now set out the continuing challenge. The book was sponsored by The Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps, (TASH). All royalties from sales go to TASH.

The book is divided into six sections plus an introductory statement and a final chapter on "Policy and Practices." Each of the major sections begins with a series of value statements in the form of TASH resolutions. Since its founding in 1974, TASH has passed about two dozen resolutions, or major statements of values. For example, in a section on "A Redefinition of the Continuum of Services-Zero Exclusion Models and Supports," a TASH resolution is cited which, in part, suggests the "merger of special and regular education ... into one service delivery system, evidenced by the integration of both professional staff and students" (p. 24 1). This is followed by an excellent review of the related research literature by Michael F. Giangreco and Joanne W. Putnam.

Other sections are: "Definitions and Diagnosis," "Deinstitutionalization and Community Services," "Extensions of the Public Law and Educational Services," "Adult Services and Omnibus Legislation Issues," and "Life and Death Issues." In addition to reviews of the state of the art and of practice, each section includes essay and dialogue chapters, which vary widely in format and style.

Each section includes recommendations for future research and practices. In one broadly framed statement, for example, Steven J. Taylor and Julie Ann Racino list a set of concepts "that should be able to move us beyond where we are today" (p. 238). This is their list:
 Community integration, informal supports,
 friendship, self-determination, nonaversives,
 own homes, personal assistance,
 circle of friends, bridge building, supported
 jobs, building community, choices,
 community participation, permanency
 planning, housing and supports, individualized
 and flexible supports, life sharing.


The book is tough in spirit and uncompromising in its criticisms. In an introductory statement, for example, Lou Brown refers to the "horrible institution wards that were justified and evidenced by AAMD"; to children "excluded and rejected from public schools by too many of the continuum tolerators of CEC"; to "segregated activity centers and workshops that were owned and operated by ARCS"; and to unnatural living environments that were certified as acceptable by the ruling professionals" (p. xxvii). The book as a whole may be the most challenging statement available anywhere on policies and practices in special education and in broader aspects of programs for people with severe disabilities.

By the quality of most parts of this book, one is impressed that this "low incidence" disability area has been particularly successful in drawing career commitments by scholars and professional workers of very high talent and dedication. The research reviews, for example, are provided by first-rate scholars who have committed themselves to work with people with severe disabilities. Donald Baer predicts for the field that "we shall continue to attract extraordinarily good people" (p. 615). It is important to try to understand why this may be so and to try for similar enrichments of talent across all disability areas.

Because the book is sponsored by and reflects so much about the history of TASH, one is caused to reflect on the nature and history of that organization. TASH has become a large organization, with committees, an editorial advisory board, a budget, and other weighty bureaucratic proclivities-a far cry from the small band of creative pioneers who linked themselves together several decades ago to press the case for improved programs. Persons with severe disabilities are the "most vulnerable people of all" and "still waiting" to be thoroughly understood and served well. Whether TASH can avoid the drag of size and complexity and sustain its remarkable record of leadership in advancing understanding and services in its field will be interesting to observe. I'm optimistic, but foresee a great need for strong leadership.

This book deserves a central place in discussions of the 1990s about policies and practices in special education and related fields. It ranks with the most important books of recent decades in special education and will be of interest to parents, physicians, public policy leaders, and others. Reviewed by MAYNARD C. REYNOLDS, Professor Emeritus Special Education Programs, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Council for Exceptional Children
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Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Reynolds, Maynard C.
Publication:Exceptional Children
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Feb 1, 1991
Words:760
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