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Since Owen: A Parent-to-Parent Guide for Care of the Disabled Child.

Since Owen: A Parent-to-parent Guide for Care of the Disabled Child. C. R. Callanan. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990. 466 pp. $39.95.

My review of this book began with disapproval of the title's discriminatory language (i.e., why not "Children with Disabilities"?), concern that 466 pages would intimidate many parents, and doubt that one parent's perspective could suffice on so broad a topic. Person-first language would have enhanced the book's human-rights dimension, and some prospective readers may avoid Since Owen because of its size. On the other hand, my negative first impressions have been tempered by respect and appreciation for the author's candor about his family's experiences with Owen and evidence of research extending far beyond those experiences.

Since Owen is rich with advice, decision rules, and resources useful to parents, people with disabilities, and professionals concerned with members of both groups. "Dos and Don'ts" summarizing key points conclude each of five major sections. Appendixes include a practical recordkeeping model, aids to basic parent competency, an extensive resource list, and a subject index. The book's organization promotes easy location of useful information pertinent to diverse situations.

Each section abounds with practical tips for working with professionals without being intimidated by them or their jargon, acquiring information, making decisions, and planning thoughtfully from preconception to adulthood. Part 1, "Before: From Family Planning to Birth," includes chapters on causes of birth defects, genetic counseling, and prenatal testing. Part 2, "The Hospital: Sometimes It's the Best Place to Be," provides tips on selecting doctors and hospitals (i.e., whether for a child's delivery or later treatments), preparing for admission, the hospital stay, and asking the right questions when preparing for discharge. Part 3, "It's a New World: Coping with the First Few Years at Home" encompasses a wide array of critical topics: transitions from hospital to home, diagnosis, postdiagnosis, emotions, support resources, nutrition and dental health, home safety, and financial resources. Part 4, The Promise of Education for All Handicapped Children," includes chapters on children's rights to appropriate education, special education law in operation, individualized educational programs (IEPS), the special education system, and postsecondary education for persons with disabilities. Part 5, "Life in the Adult World," covers a range of topics: transition from school to the adult world, living arrangements, institutions, advocates, sexuality and sex education, recreation/leisure, transportation, and planning for the future.

Despite its usefulness, Since Owen is flawed by redundancy and by disregard for single parents. More important, its highly informative content is interspersed with misinformation that may guide readers toward acceptance of an unacceptable status quo and low expectations, especially for persons with severe disabilities.

Persons with disabilities are depicted as always needing pediatric care. Pediatric wards often are staffed by professionals better able to communicate with and understand the needs of people with developmental disabilities. Rather than accept this situation, however, persons concerned with such services should challenge the medical community to augment inservice and preservice training with strategies for treating and interacting with patients who have diverse abilities.

Though Callanan depicts Owen partially participating in nonsexist mealtime routines (e.g., setting the table and doing dishes), apparently he devalues partial participation in favor of holding "independent life" as the criterion for community inclusion. The author emphasizes the importance of individualization but uses discriminatory language (e.g., "Down syndrome patient," p. 193). He accepts that some diagnoses make institutionalization inevitable and repeatedly reinforces misperceptions of persons with severe disabilities as perpetual children.

The author provides excellent advice for preparation and participation in IEP development and implementation as well as positive ways of setting related problems (Chapter 18). However, he implies that students with severe disabilities cannot participate in mainstream homerooms and that each step of a task analysis must be taught in isolation. Callanan acknowledges the need for prudent risk-taking and states, "Community access is vital" (p. 349). He also provides guidelines for parents establishing community living arrangements for their offspring with disabilities and makes helpful suggestions for transition planning. However, he implies that sheltered workshops and institutions are the best alternatives for adults with severe disabilities. Recent literature is replete with values-based and data-based evidence to the contrary (e.g., Bruininks & Lakin, 1985; Ludlow, Turnbull, & Luckasson, 1988; Rusch, 1986).

Callanan has met an extraordinary challenge in compiling much-needed information for parents at all stages of rearing children with disabilities. Evidently, his extensive research did not include the many sources showing that people with severe disabilities benefit from learning, living, playing, and working in integrated school, community, work, and home environments (e.g., Brown et al., 1983; Rusch, Rose, & Greenwood, 1988; Sailor, Wilcox, & Brown, 1980; Stainback, Stainback, & Forest, 1989). Negligence of special educators is evidenced further in Part 2, regarding the controversial issue of withholding medical treatment from infants with disabilities. In an otherwise evenhanded discussion, the author's list of professionals from whom new parents might seek advice excludes special educators, potentially valuable sources of information on possible outcomes for the newborn child.

In conclusion, my criticisms are intended not to judge Owen's parents for past decisions, but to emphasize related gains made during the past decade of special education services. Since Owen is a valuable resource; but-as the author suggest-should be used only in conjunction with other sources of current knowledge. In particular, its value is diminished for parents and professionals concerned with people with severe disabilities.


Brown, L., Nisbet, J., Ford, A., Sweet, M., Shiraga, B., York, J., & Loomis, R. (1983). The critical need for nonschool instruction in educational programs for severely handicapped students. The Journal of the Association, for the Severely, Handicapped, 8, 71-77.

Bruininks, R. H., & Lakin, K. C. (Eds.). (1985). Living and learning in the least restrictive environment. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes.

Ludlow, B. L., Turnbull, A. P., & Luckasson, R. (Eds.). (1988). Transition to adult life for people with mental retat-datio"riii(-iples and practices. Baltimore: Paul H. Brooks.

Rusch, R. R. (Ed.). (1986). Competitive employment issues and strategies. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes.

Rusch, R. R., Rose, T., & Greenwood, C. R. (1988). Introduction to behavior analysis in special education. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Sailor, W., Wilcox, B., & Brown, L. (Eds.). 1980). Methods of instruction for severly handicapped students. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes.

Stainback, S., Stainback, W., & Forest, M. (Eds.). (1989). Educating all students in the mainstream of regular education. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes.

Reviewed by SUSAN M. ST. PETER, Assistant Professor, Department of Special Education, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania.

The reviewer wishes to acknowledge consultation with Marjory L. St. Peter, mother of a young man with moderate to severe mental retardation.
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Author:St. Peter, Susan M.
Publication:Exceptional Children
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Feb 1, 1991
Previous Article:The Learning Mystique: A Critical Look at "Learning Disabilities."
Next Article:Critical Issues in the Lives of People with Severe Disabilities.

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