Kenneth Kelty is a writer, speaker, disability advocacy writer, graduate of West Carolina University, and adult with autism. He has worked to help more college campuses become inclusive for students with disabilities, and he spoke with me below about his beliefs on inclusion.
In an article for Autism Speaks, you mention that you conducted a research study on how to make a college campus more inclusive for students with intellectual disabilities. Can you explain your results?
Part of what I realized when I was doing my research study is that typical college students don’t always plan all activities two weeks in advance, and that is how I helped The UP Program realize that most college students don’t live real structured lives. Now in the program, participants are more self-determined and can plan their own activities.
What discrimination have you faced as an individual on the spectrum with an intellectual disability?
Yes, growing up there would be summer camps that did not want me to be around their children due to my autism or differences. There were times when I was not treated fairly due to my disability. When I was in the 5th grade and was a safety patrol in the school year of 2000-2001 and I wanted to participate with my typically developing friends, my family had to negotiate so I could be allowed to go, and I was.
What ways can people be more inclusive to individuals on the spectrum?
They can spread more positive knowledge about autism and acceptance of all abilities.
What are some of the benefits of inclusive classrooms, campuses, or societies in general?
What I myself and others who have benefited from inclusion have gained is more self-determination and a confidence boost with being included in the classroom, campus, and community.
What are some suggestions you offered to your audience at the National Early Childhood Inclusion Institute in North Carolina regarding inclusion for adolescents and young adults with special needs?
When I spoke at this conference, I talked about my story and how people can gain self-determination by being in inclusive settings. I also spoke about the doctors who thought I would never talk and about my post-secondary education experience.
What specifically can parents do to help their children on the spectrum feel more included in society? What things can they teach their children, and how can they become advocates in communities beyond their own families?
What helped make me a better advocate is by attending my own IEP Meetings, which led me to take control of my Person Centered Planning Meetings. PCP Meetings are what I had at Western Carolina University. Ways to help a child on the spectrum are to share with their peers about Autism and help them find a friend with their same interest.