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clarepayton
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Early Chapters Discussion: Changing Times?

The novel begins in 1964. Do you think our attitudes toward people with disabilities have changed since then? Are we more enlightened or accepting now?

Note: This discussion topic is particularly suitable for readers who have only read the first part of The Memory Keeper's Daughter, through p. 105. If your comment reveals an important plot twist from later in the book, consider posting in a separate thread.

Click on "Reply" to post your thoughts about this discussion topic, or click "New Message" on the main page to start a new topic thread.
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IBIS
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: Changing Times?

Current attitudes to the handicapped has changed tremendously since the 60s. And in part because of the activism of people like Caroline in the book. There is still a lot of work to be done for our society to be more accepting. One of the strengths of the Memory Keeper's Daughter is the sympathetic, and realistic, creation of Phoebe who has Down Syndrome. I commend the author for being observant, and unsentimental, in her descriptions.

I work with patients who have Down Syndrome, and I found myself nodding in agreement, and smiling with recognition, whenever Phoebe took center stage.
IBIS

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Blueaccord
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: Changing Times?

I agree. I have also worked with young adults with Down Syndrome and found Phoebe to be a very recognizable person. I saw so many of my patients in her. I also believe that our views toward individuals with special needs have changed drastically. There has been an overwhelming push away from institutionaliztion to toward community involvement. People no longer think that Down Syndrome is contagious or shameful but the general public still seems to have great difficulty interacting with anyone "different". I think we are more accepting of individuals with a disability but still feel that people often pity them rather than actually understand.
~~Kristen~~
Will power is easy, it’s the won’t power that gets most of us!
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IBIS
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: Changing Times?

Although Kim Edwards may have initially been intrigued by the storyline (how a secret can undo many lives), it was the convincing characters, especially Phoebe that makes the book successful. As I continued to read the maturing of Phoebe as a person, I was fascinated by how much work and research about Down Syndrome is reflected in Kim Edward's writing. It can be easy to stereotype and patronize a character like Phoebe.

What resonated with me was the author's understanding and sympathy for parents like Caroline, and all the other parents in the book, who fight daily to make their children accepted. It's clear that the author listened to, and sympathized with parents who constantly battle for the basic rights of their disabled children.
IBIS

"I am a part of everything that I have read."
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txbusymomma
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: Changing Times?

I guess I didn't realize how badly people with disabilities have been treated. I had heard stories of people sending their children away, but I guess I hadn't thought about it being the "normal" thing to do. Sometimes we grow up with blinders on which don't allow us to see the truth for what it is.
I think in some ways the view of people with disabilities by others has changed, but there will always be people in the world who view them as outcasts. It is very sad that they are often not given the respect or opportunities they deserve.

I enjoyed reading as the split second decisions had to be made. As a parent I can't imagine having to make that choice...or not being able to make the choice for myself.
"Let my teaching fall like rain and my words descend like dew"

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maxcat
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: Changing Times?

I think things have changed for the better concerning handicapped people. There are more jobs open to them and there are designated spaces for them now. I think, back in the 60's, people didn't understand what was wrong with these people and shunned them in ignorance. For them to be shuttled off to an institution sounds horrifying. I lived next door to a boy that has Down Syndrome and he grew up to win a lot of medals in Special Olympics and got married. He lives a somewhat normal life. I never heard of any problems that he had healthwise but I'm sure they existed.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep - Robert Frost
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mrsd
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: Changing Times?

Through my extensive Psychological studies and my current work with the Easter Seals, I think that yes, things in society have changed (access, institutions, etc.) however, there are still too many people in our society that believe that this community is not able to live, work or play alongside them or their children. I get infuriated when I hear some people talk or make comments. My husband has had to drag me out of stores for walking up to people and counter their negative attitudes. In the end, yes we have come a long way from institutions but we still have a very long way to go with people and their attitudes.
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mitchiko
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: Changing Times?

I think attitudes toward the developmentally challenged have changed significantly. My sister is an elementary school principal. She has a spectrum of children mainstreamed, ranging from mild to severe. Now an developmentally challenged student may require one on one attention. Often these students are disruptive to the class. As a lay person's observation, it seems that the "average" student is more or less ignored due to all of the attention required for the severely developmentally challenged child. Why should one child's right to education subtract from an educational opportunity of another child? Don't get me wrong, I think all students are entitled to an education, but we need to have a balance.
My sister had one student who was not potty trained and would sit and scream all day (not related to soiled pants), and was physically violent with the other children. Behavior modification techniques were initiated, but behavior changes do not happen overnight.
I had the opportunity to observe a class. Children are not required to sit in their seats due to te current teaching models. It all seemed so chaotic. I applaud the teachers that have to face the classroom on a daily basis.
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mauradore
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: Changing Times?

Agree with many of the comments here, a lot of progress has been made in terms of attitudes towards anything different, including people with disabilities. A lot more work needs to be done though. There are areas of the country that still have narrow views but with the work outlined in some of the posts here and people willing to be open to all sorts of differences we all have, the changes already noted will continue to make a difference.
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laura8539
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: Changing Times?

[ Edited ]
I definately think that times have changed in peoples thinking about children or adults with disabilities especially children with Downs Syndrome. No longer are they put in sanitoriums but instead go to school. Sometimes this schooling is not like a "normal" school but instead an alternative school. To think that David could give up his daughter because she was not "normal" had to be a pretty difficult decision to make. But then again how could he give her up? Down Syndrome children are terribly affectionate and although he thought he was giving her a better life, was he really?

Message Edited by laura8539 on 02-04-200708:12 PM

Laura DeMichele
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searora
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: Changing Times?

I was very fortunate to be exposed to the mentally challenged at a young age. My godmother's daughter has a disability and I also went to a high school that integrated. We had student that ranged from minor to severe. It was great exposure to all of us. Our student council had a program called K'Nex and we would buddy-up with a student from the program on Friday nights and escort them to basketball and football games. It was a great program for both of us. After high school I was stationed in Japan (1998) and was involved in the Special Olympics program and was shocked to find out that most of the kids were in a group home. It is very common for the parents not to raise disabled children themselves. Based on what I saw I would say we are significantly more accepting now.
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Kailmoss
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: Changing Times?

I totally agree that the times have changed. Institutionalization is not the norm anymore. This change, I believe is due to a lot of people, in particular parents, raising their disabled children in the local community and pushing for their rights. I have a fifteen yearold daughter with Downs and she is the joy of our life. In general people that just ignore her or look at her with pity is mostly a lack of understanding or education. They don't know how to react or what to say to her(or us). We usually help with that since we are so outgoing when we are out and about.

People are most accepting because they are in the communities and schools now.

Loretta
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snownone
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: Changing Times?

Children with disabilities are treated differently today, than they were in 1964. As a child in school, I do not remember having peers in the room with disabilities. However, throughout my teaching career, children with disabilities are "included" within the regular classroom. Through the advocacy of parents who have children with disabilities (such as Caroline & Phoebe), their rights are being recognized in the educational system and throughout the real world.
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Review
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: Changing Times?

Hopefully, as time and people grow, their attitudes and understanding of life grow as well. Doesn't all of this boil down to valuing life, and seeing each individual as a unique being, with value and worth to contribute. Hopefully we are getting past the point of thinking that we are/have the standard of what is "valuable and of worth" and can seek to appreciate/embrace the uniqueness of each life.
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leehy
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: Changing Times?

Attitudes today are very different from 1964 - probably because most of us never had contact with a Downs Syndrome child These babies were hidden away and not discussed. A baby born with a hare lip or a deformity was kept in the house as something shameful. Today we see these children on television, in schools, theaters, public libraries,etc. As we are better educated we are more accepting. And that is a good thing.

Leehy
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kiakar
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: Changing Times?

Of course times have changed since the 60's. It wasn't until the 70's that so much emphsis was put on the public to treat the mentally challenged as any other child. Giving them the advantages of any other child. They can learn but on a slower scale so teachers and assistants were hired in institutions and alot of higher functioning clients were released into foster homes and group homes. They get to go to movies, in malls to browse, play games and so forth. So many of these children respond to this envirnment if they are expose to it.There are also advances in heart research that helps the Downs's child with heart ailments if and when they have them.
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mommaof4
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: Changing Times?

As the mother of 4, I have first hand experience with disabilities. My oldest child has a rare disease, but no cognitive delays. My third child has severe developmental delays in several areas. I know the laws that protect them and enable them to have services were not around in the early 1960's. Laws, however, do not always change societial perceptions of those with "obvious" differences. I chalk up alot of responses that we get to ignorance and an uncomfortableness with so-called "imperfection". I think there was a huge stigma associated with having a disabled child in the 1960's. There were not the support systems that parents have now through one another and social service agencies. David justifies his decision as sparing his wife the pain, when really he lacks the strength himself to face what lies ahead.
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zandyr83
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: Changing Times?

I agree. I really saw Caroline as the "hero" character. When she was working with Phoebe for hours at a time just for the "simpliest" task was amazing. She was a real, developed character. You saw her frustration and how she was torn between her husband and her daughter at times. Yet at the same time, despite the fact that she was not her birth mother, you could see that fierce protection of her young. It was amazing.
Zandyr
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Jenicagirl
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: Changing Times?



clarepayton wrote:
The novel begins in 1964. Do you think our attitudes toward people with disabilities have changed since then? Are we more enlightened or accepting now?

Note: This discussion topic is particularly suitable for readers who have only read the first part of The Memory Keeper's Daughter, through p. 105. If your comment reveals an important plot twist from later in the book, consider posting in a separate thread.

Click on "Reply" to post your thoughts about this discussion topic, or click "New Message" on the main page to start a new topic thread.




Like anything, I think that some people have a better attitude and others don't. I think it is less accepted to show you are not accepting of people with disabilities, whether that means people are actually more accepting or not, I'm not sure. People still worry about what others think, just in different ways than they used to.
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kimedwards
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: Changing Times?



clarepayton wrote:
The novel begins in 1964. Do you think our attitudes toward people with disabilities have changed since then? Are we more enlightened or accepting now?

Note: This discussion topic is particularly suitable for readers who have only read the first part of The Memory Keeper's Daughter, through p. 105. If your comment reveals an important plot twist from later in the book, consider posting in a separate thread.

Click on "Reply" to post your thoughts about this discussion topic, or click "New Message" on the main page to start a new topic thread.




This is such a good question, and I really appreciate all the comments you all have posted in response. When I started thinking about writing The Memory Keeper's Daughter, I didn't know anything at all about Down syndrome, and to be honest, I didn't know where to begin. So I started reading, and once I felt I'd learned enough to know what questions to ask, I started talking to people I knew who had some connection with Down syndrome. I really nervous--I didn't know how my interest would be received. But time and time again, I was welcomed by people with Down syndrome and those who love them. They answered my questions candidly and with patience, and shared the joys and challenges of their journeys. I didn't use any of their stories, of course, but I did learn about the landscape they encounter every day. I learned so much and met many, many wonderful people through writing The Memory Keeper's Daughter. I think attitudes and circumstances have changed since the 1960s, certainly, and much of that change was inspired by the families, who refused to accept the conventional understanding of what a child with Down syndrome could accomplish. But social change tends to be a slow and ongoing process, and my sense is that there's much more to be done.
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