By Samantha Kutcher
Special education has always been something I have been passionate about. My sister, Trista, has down syndrome. In the 20 years I have known her, she has won multiple medals at the Special Olympics World Games, lived independently, become a major influencer, and started her own business. I spent my whole life watching Trista excel. However, her friends did not have it as easy. They often struggled to keep jobs, live independently, or even maintain relationships. I believe that this is based off of the limitations that are set at a young age. Parents often have previous expectations of what their children can be capable of. This is one of the most common obstacles for these children. Parents of children with intellectual or developmental disabilities must work very hard when the children are young because their brains slow developing at a young age. If they fail to do so, their child suffers later down the line. My parents were incredibly involved in Trista’s education. They believed she was capable of being the person she is today. Unfortunately, this is fairly uncommon. After many disabled children struggle through school, they are expected to become “couch potatoes” because those around them do not think they can be anything more. But why should anyone’s presumed ability limit them?
In my senior year of high school, I created a non-profit organization, Prepare4Work, that provided job education to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. This idea stemmed off of creative self-efficacy, the belief one has the ability to produce creative outcomes. This is the idea I used to help others understand the goal of my business. I believe that everyone is able to form creative solutions, but some may need some guidance. My idea was to provide job training with room for creativity. The training consisted of instructors leading students to proper workplace responses, but not telling them exactly how to get there. This allows students to learn and find solutions creatively on their own. After fully developing my plan, I quickly gained grants and sponsors. The idea had sold itself. People had believed in it. Paul M. Capobianco and Thomas Vogel believe that “The first step to recognizing and cultivating a personal relationship with creativity is to believe that the relationship is possible.” I know that the relationship is possible.
I created this business because I believe that anyone has the ability to produce creative outcomes if given the opportunity to. With this company, these presumed “couch potatoes” could seek additional guidance on how to obtain a normal life, even if their parents do not think they can. At a young age, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are incredibly influenced by the people around them. If they are taught that they will never amount to anything, then they won't. Capobianco and Vogel stated that “self-efficacy completely mediates the effects of individual factors such as personality, ability, and motivation”. This is the belief that special education is based off of. The belief that, despite obstacles and presumed limitations, anyone can produce creative outcomes. This belief is what these children need to be influenced by instead of negativity and hopelessness.
However, there is cause for inevitable delusion. Like the idea of creative self-efficacy, my training had to follow a straight path while knowing some students would not end up successful quickly enough. While creation leaves room for an exceptional amount of possibilities, positive results do not come out of thin air. I believe everyone is able to solve a problem creatively, but I think it comes easier to some more than others. My training was designed to be only 8 weeks long. To see how effective Prepare4Work was, I offered my services to 5 of my sister’s friends. 4 out of 5 of the students were successful and had a job by the end of the class. However, 1 did not end successfully. I believe if he were given another few chances to find his skills, he would have ended well. This proves that the idea of creative self-efficacy always rings true, just at different paces.
Creative self-efficacy grew special education and I hope it is an idea that continues to drive special education further. So much improvement could be made if limitations on people with intellectual and developmental disabilities vanished. The growth and independence that could form at a young age would change the outcome of their lives. The possibilities for innovation are endless, but the world continues to put a hold on it. Even today’s society fails to believe that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are as capable as any and deserve the same opportunities. The idea of creative self-efficacy needs to spread like wild wildfire because creativity can lead to all types of problem solving. Special education needs this creativity to gain effectiveness.
Work Cited Capobianco, P. M., & Vogel, T. (2019). Intro to Self-Efficacy & Creativity Tests.