Review: Essential Insights from a leading thinker of the Inclusion Movement
By Richard Rieser, World of Inclusion
*Available from Amazon Books UK for orders under 10. Bulk orders directly from Micheline Mason via email@example.com where you can order books at a discounted rate. The books will be available at the launch.
“In this age of ephemeral social media, outrageous inequalities and damaging recycled oppressions, real wisdom is in short supply.”
I thoroughly recommend both of these books from Micheline to give insight into the human condition. In particular, ‘An Ordinary Baby‘ demonstrates how systematic segregation and disablism can shape the intellect of a rebel and a leader if, as in Micheline’s case, one has the inner strength and joy of life to listen and persist. ‘The Phenomenon of the Human Distress Pattern’ is about a method Micheline helped develop that has given thousands of people a way of re-evaluating their received life experiences and emotional hurt and turning it into a positive way of living.
For those who don’t know, Micheline Mason founded the Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE) in 1990. Following her own experience of segregated education, Micheline determined to get her daughter, Lucy, included in a mainstream school in a way she never was. During her pregnancy in 1982, Micheline was under considerable pressure from ‘the white coats’ to have a termination as, giving birth for a 3’ 2’’ woman with Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI) was deemed dangerous for both her and the baby. There was a eugenicist intention of preventing the birth of another child with OI, but as Micheline said, why would she want to terminate someone like herself?
Having played a key role in developing the Disabled Peoples Movement in the 1970s/80s with the ‘In from the Cold Collective’ and the London Boroughs’ Disability Equality Training Initiative, Micheline joined up with a group of parents who wanted to have their Disabled children included in mainstream. This group, which became ‘Parents for Inclusion’, were open to Micheline’s thoughts on the oppression disabled people face and how they need allies in the struggle against segregation and medical model thinking.
If you have ever wondered how Micheline developed her clarity of thought, ‘An Ordinary Baby’ gives great insight into how if a child is loved by her family, even if isolated and segregated by the system, she will develop creativity, reflection and the capacity to question the adult world. Having been home educated by Local Authority tutors, eventually an Inspector suggested Micheline should go to the newly opening Florence Treloar’s Boarding school for Disabled Girls, as she had earlier passed her 11+ exam. Despite many misgivings from her family, at age 14 Micheline started 3 years of study to get her O and A levels so she could attend Art College.
Throughout many lonely years at home Micheline had perfected her painting and illustration talent, as well as being a prodigious reader. While the academic progress was necessary to achieve her goals; far more important was friendship, solidarity and high jinks with her newly found ‘sisters’ with a whole range of impairments from across the UK.
Increasingly as Micheline progressed to Croydon Art College and was studying illustration, she began to realise she would have to draw other people’s largely commercial ideas, rather than her own thinking and she gave up to pursue a life as an activist.
This is where the ‘Phenomenon of the Human Distress Pattern’ comes in. In her early 20s searching for meaning and to explain the irrationality she had often experienced from Professionals in dealing with her and her impairment Micheline came across a working-class activist and thinker ‘Mr Frank’ (an alias), and his lectures on how to ‘reclaim our minds for ourselves and each other’.
Recognising this approach coincided with what she had been thinking just below the surface for many years, Micheline wanted to learn all she could about releasing people from the ‘compressing forces’ she had earlier envisaged. She joined Mr Frank’s organisation and found out many ways of dealing with the human distress pattern, formed in response to the multiple hurts we experience and became an international trainer working with thousands of people around the world. This little book recounts the essential methods used and is of great value, whatever perspective one is coming from.
There is no doubt in my mind that what Micheline learned from Mr Frank and his colleagues was a fundamental part of the method and experience of building the Alliance for Inclusive Education. As the Founder and Chair for the first 12 years, Micheline created the Alliance as a unique force amongst Disabled People’s Organisations. Whilst a majority of its Committee were Disabled people, the Alliance valued allies amongst non-disabled professionals, parents and children in providing time and space to understand how the oppression of disablism blighted all our lives and how to meaningfully respond.’’
Thursday 30th March 2023 6.00-8.00 pm at NEU’s Mander Hall, Hamilton House, Mabledon Place, London WC1 1H 9BD Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to book a place streamed or face to face.
Essential Insights from a leading thinker of the Inclusion Movement: ‘An Ordinary Baby: Tales of Childhood Resistance‘ by Micheline Mason, 2022 & ‘The Phenomenon of the Human Distress Pattern: Our Only Real Enemy‘ by Micheline Mason, 2022. Both available online and at the launch. As an introduction to UKDHM 2023 on the theme of ‘Disability Childhood and Youth’, we will be holding a face-to-face launch of these books with Micheline and several other Disabled speakers to recount their experiences and the need for change. Event will also be streamed.
Launch of Exploration 2023 Disabled and Young in UK
A collaboration to get the creative views of Young Disabled people: UKDHM looking for each contributor to express the good, the bad and the changes they would like as young Disabled people. The most insightful, interesting and powerful contributions in each category will be celebrated. There will be 4 age groups. Entries can be written essays, poems, posters, artwork, films, signing, acting, audio or any combination. They will be short listed then go to a judging panel. www.ukdhm.org/exploration2023
The Alliance resource ‘How was School’ is very valuable, recounting Disabled children’s experiences over the last century.