Children of a Lesser God
A Study on the Factors Determining Placement Environment for Disabled Kids
Appropriate placement for children with disabilities in the least restrictive environment is a provision of the IDEA of 1997, and 2004. IEP and IFSP teams must determine placement for these children under the guidelines imbedded within the law. Families of children with disabilities sometimes disagree with the recommendations of the school districts, and seek rulings on how best to serve their children’s educational and special needs. This journal article looks at the administrative and judicial decisions and found four themes regarding placement decisions: The potential for academic and nonacademic benefits, readiness for inclusion, instructional approaches, and the consideration of a full continuum of options. The article also provided specific guidelines for the promotion of inclusive settings for children with disabilities.
The author, Susan Etscheidt, researched published decisions from administrative hearings, district courts, and appellate courts between 1997-2004, which provided child-specific data about age and disability, regarding inclusive placement or the least restrictive environment (LRE). She utilized a qualitative content methodology, which identified key words and phrases regarding LRE in researching databases for her study. The four themes that were mentioned previously all are represented in her findings.
The first theme, decisions based on potential benefits, looked at cases brought in the matter of appropriate placements of children with disabilities including children with hearing impairments and cochlear implants , based on the academic and social benefits to the child. Etscheidt found ten cases where placement was disputed. The decisions regarding LREs for children with disabilities primarily supported inclusive environments, with the exception of Foothill Special Educational Local Plan Area (SELPA; 2002). That decision was made by an administrative law judge who determined that the home-based setting being sought for a child with a cochlear implant, could not provide services by credentialed teachers and therapists; the ruling necessitated private center-based placement. Inclusive and natural settings provided benefits including, language and social modeling from non-disabled peers. Decisions regarding students requiring specialized intensive services, recommended programs that secured those benefits in combination with inclusive settings.
Next, Etscheidt looked at decisions based on readiness for inclusive placements, for children with disabilities. Decisions made on inclusive placements judged academic and social readiness, non-age related determinations for kindergarten readiness, development delays, and disruptive behaviors. The list of cases was inclusive, but I am going to review just one of these important cases, Board of Education of the Oceanside Union Free District (2004). The parents of a preschooler with multiple disabilities requested a more restrictive setting, as they felt their child was not ready for an integrated kindergarten program. The state review officer reviewed the IEP teams testimony stating the benefits of placing the child with mainstream peers, and decided with the school district to place the child in the LRE. It is important to note that some students may not be ready for inclusive placements, and IEP teams must decide this on a case-by-case basis.
Decisions based on instructional approaches for children with autism were related to instructional methodologies and the availability for those to be provided in the LRE. Some of these decisions showed that a child’s home may be the LRE to receive instructional methodology, and other decisions placed children in school program if those program had the methodologies in place to meet the children’s needs. The deciding factor in placement of the child was therefore, the IEPs choice of methodology, and the availability of those in a school-based setting. A case in this category was In the Matter of Andrew Steinmetz v. Richmond County School Corporation, (2002). The courts found that a 5-year old with autism, should be placed in the school setting which offered an eclectic program, rather than the home-based setting that incorporated a discrete trial method.
The final theme the article discussed was decisions based on a full continuum of options. These cases were in correlation to the recommendations of the IFSP and IEP teams, and the full consideration of different placement options. The teams were ordered to show a range of placement options, including placement in private preschool settings to ensure the provisions of a free appropriate public education (FAPE) was made in the LRE. In the case of Ray M. and all other persons similarly situated v. Board of Education of the City school District of the City of New York, (1999), a district court in New York ruled that the state education department needed to increase the number of available integrated preschools in order to provide service to children with disabilities in the LRE.
In addition to the legal analysis, Etscheidt offered up several guidelines to promote inclusive placement decisions. In brief, she encouraged the professional development of inclusive providers, the use of behavioral supports to improve how a child functions in the classroom and the expansion of community-based programs that offers integrated programs for children with disabilities. These guidelines, along with an understanding of legalities in special education, are vital pieces of knowledge for special educators. I found that the legal cases and the decisions that were rendered helped me to understand the importance developing IEPs that provide services to students within the LRE. Several of the disputes were in regards to a parents disagreement with the recommendations made by the IEP team, further strengthening the importance for appropriate IEPs.
The Life Experience of Families with Disabled Kids
The article “Children Born with Disabilities: How Families Respond,” by Marlene Ritchie tells about two different families who have children with disabilities. The article tells about how both families realized that their children had disabilities and what they felt and went through after finding out about these disabilities. Throughout this critique, I will tell different coping mechanisms that families may have. I will also talk about both of the children from my article and how their families coped with their disabilities.
Many families have different ways of coping or responding to a disability. Some families will give up their child being unable to care for a baby with disabilities or defects, while other parents try to get their child all the care that they need to survive with their disability. There are usually different responses that are common with families, these are four that are believed to be common. The first one is giving up the child because the families cannot or will not care for a baby with disabilities. Now most of the time it is because the family does not have the funds to care for the child. The second one is that the parents will try to do whatever possible to care for their child and will support them with whatever needs they may have. The third is accepting the child, but being unable to cope with their disabilities. This usually leads to the child being neglected or rejected by the family. The fourth is that the parents accept the child and learn to cope with the child’s disability and are able to understand how to help their child with whatever they need.
The first child is Jessica who was born 6 weeks premature. When a baby is born this early, their lungs have not fully developed so oxygen is needed until the lungs develop properly. Unfortunately, due to the incompetence of the attending doctor the oxygen was not prepared and Jessica was unable to get the proper care she needed being a new born. Jessica’s parents do not know if it was because of this that Jessica has a cerebral palsy and aphasia (A cerebral palsy is a disorder that affects muscle tone, movement, and motor skills. Aphasia is a communication disorder that affects the brain’s ability to use and understand language.) Because of this, Jessica was unable to sit or stand at the usual age. At the age of eighteen months, Jessica’s parents went to the Ontario Crippled Children Center to meet with another doctor. The doctor stated that they should put Jessica into an institution so that they would not have to deal with a child with so many disabilities. Despite Jessica have disabilities, Jessica’s parents kept her and cared for her as best as they could. Even after Jessica’s mother was diagnosed colon cancer and Jessica’s father having serious heart attack, both her parents still do everything possible to care for her.
In Jessica’s case study, both her mother and father did everything they could to keep her happy and healthy. Before or after her father’s heart attack and mother’s diagnoses (it does not really state), they moved to Toronto so that Jessica had accessible use of the Wheel Transportation so that she could become more independent. They also put her into a group home which she stays at half of the week so that way when the time comes, she is used to being there and won’t miss her family as much. Despite her disability, her parents still love her with all their hearts and never gave up that she would be able to prosper and live a “normal” live.
The second child is Wanda who was born with pale skin, white hair and poor eyesight. Wanda is Albino, though to her family that is a word that cannot be used. She was born with all the traits of an Albino, white hair, pale skin, poor eyesight. To most people being albino is not a disability, but because of her poor eyesight, it is. Like most children with disabilities, Wanda grew up as normal as she could. She made friends who did not label her, graduated second in her high school, attended university and eventually became a dietitian. Wanda also got married, had three children, and taught Kinder Music and Piano. She had a good life, but like most children with disabilities, she faced many struggles. She got called names like “tow-head and blondie” and people thinking that she was unable to do anything herself just because she has a disability. Growing up, she has people doing things for her and because of this, she was able to grow as a person. She didn’t have many friends because she was unable to walk by herself of do things without someone helping her, but the friends she did have always helped her when she needed it. The one handicaps her the most from her disabilities is her eyes. She has always wanted to play ball or be able to see what other people see, but other than that she has lived with her disability without many problems.
In Wanda’s case study, her mother and father could not accept her disability. They lived with it, but were always trying to find ways to “fix” her. He mother would strap her down and leave her in the sun, her mother thinking that all she needed was a tan. Her mother although she knew that she could not see, would ask her if she saw that bird or object hoping that her child’s eyesight would suddenly get better. Her parents would look though their ancestors and try to find one with pale skin to prove that she didn’t have a disability and that it just ran in the family. As she got older and married, the doctors that would test her, would only speak to her husband about the results. Her mother would never let her walk alone, always getting someone to take her to and from places because she thought she was unable to do things on her own.
After reading the article and both case studies from both girls, we see two different sides of a families coping. One family accepted their child and did everything to help them grow. They loved and protected their child and made sure that they would always be taken care of. The other family accepted their child, but could not cope with the disability that they had. They would constantly try to “fix” their child even when it was something that could not be fixed and would keep them from doing things on their own and becoming independent. Many families have different coping mechanisms, some families do everything in their power to help their child, while others cannot accept the disability and tried to fix something that was not broken. Each family has their own way of dealing with a disability, no family is the same and will never be the same.
Personal Experience of Parenting Disabled Kids
TEN POINTS ON RAISING CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES
You’re scared of your child’s future.
On July 2nd, 1985, I would always remember that day. I left for work my daughter six months old and doing things that six month old babies do. She was sitting up by herself. She was crawling and meeting her goals. While I was at work I received a dreadful call. The person told me that my baby was in a accident and at the hospital. I immediately left work and didn’t know what to expect. My heart was beating fast and when I got to see her I immediately broke down. I was so hurt and angry that my child had been hurt. Later on the Doctor broke the news to me. He told me my child would never be able to walk and would be in the wheel chair for the rest of her life. He said her spinal cord was severed and couldn’t be repaired through surgery. I left for work with a healthy baby and came back and saw that she couldn’t sit up by herself and she wasn’t moving her legs. That hurt me so bad and I cried and cried. I didn’t know how I was going to take care of her but I knew I loved her and I would do whatever it takes to help her survive in this world. I knew God gave her to me and she had a purpose in this world. Later on years later I was pregnant with another child. The Doctor noticed on my ultrasound that there was something wrong with my baby. This time I was more prepared because the Doctor told me while I was pregnant with her. But I was still shocked and sad it was happening again. They told me she will be severely developmentally disabled and did I want to abort her. Of course I said no. This child could not do anything for herself. She couldn’t walk. She couldn’t talk but she could communicate to you with her voice. I was sad but I knew God wouldn’t put too much on you than you can bear. I felt like God gave this child to me for a reason and she too has a purpose. I would love her and accept her and take care of her. I was her eyes ears hands legs everything. She required a great deal of care, so I was her nurse. I had to learn a lot of things to take care of her. I didn’t mind though because she was a very happy joyous child that would burst out in laughter all the time. She was very funny and always made me laugh. I didn’t look at her as a burden because she was so strong in her sickness. When she got sick she would bounce back every time. She lived to see 17 years old. The Doctors said that because of my love she lived longer than they expected her to live. Most kids like her don’t live that long. She outlived a lot of children that had the same thing she had.
Advice: First you’re shocked when you hear that your child is disabled. You’re afraid because you don’t know what the future holds for your child so you have to let it soak in. You find out what their limitations will be and you do your best to see that they reach and go as far as they can go according to their limitations.
Also remember that it’s not your fault
A lot of times parents feel guilty like they did something wrong for their child to end up disabled. I felt like it was my fault because of the car accident because I was working at the time. I felt like if I wasn’t working and would not had left her with this other person that caused her to be in the accident that this would have never happened to her. When I got pregnant with my other daughter and she was born with a severe disability I started wondering what was wrong with me. Why do I have two children with disabilities. Was I being punished for something. Did I do something wrong to catch the cold in my womb that caused my daughter to get CMV. As parents we often blame ourselves when our children are disabled. We think it’s our fault and sometimes people even get angry with God. I asked God why. What I know is that life happens.
Advice: Different people take different paths in life. Life is not fair. I know there is a God and he won’t put too much on you than you can bear. I know he loves you and your special children that he gave you and it doesn’t do you or your children any good to walk around feeling guilty. Just give it to God. We don’t understand why some things happen but God knows why.
Accept your Child as he/she is
Once I got the diagnosis on both of my children I was at first shocked. But then I realized I had to accept reality. I had to face that. But realize the way they walk is with a wheelchair, or walker, or braces. I played with my children in the wheelchair. I danced with them and had them dancing to music. I played games with them. I took them to the store. To the mall.
Advice:You accept your child for who they are and face reality. You have to face that your child might not be able to run or walk like other children. But you can play with your children too in your own little way no matter what their diagnosis is. Special needs children can bring you a lot of joy. I’m not saying its not hard work taking care of them sometimes. Yes sometimes you have to do more than other parents but that’s your reality. Yes. Sometimes you get tired and weary. It’s not easy all of the time. What you do is pray and ask God to give you the strength to take care of them. It is not easy going to doctors all of the time. It is not easy seeing physical therapist and speech therapist and occupational therapist every week. But that was my reality and you have to face it and hit it head on.
Faith will brighten your child’s future
I hugged them and showed them love. I was there for them all of the time. I took my kids to church. I let them get prayer by a pastor. I had hope that they would do good in life. When I took my children to church he taught that everybody has a purpose in life and that God loves everyone. That gave me and my child faith and hope and my daughter believed that she had a purpose in life too. There is a reason why she was born. That is how I laid the foundation for my kids by giving them faith and hope.
Advice: You love your child with all your might and have faith that they will be alright. You have to have faith that your child will be alright. Faith is hope. Faith is the substance of things hope for and the evidence of things not seen. Everybody has something wrong with them. Its just that you can see people that are disabled better. Remember God gave you that child and he doesn’t make mistakes. There are all kinds of people in this world. All of us are God’s children. Special needs children are special in God’s eye. I believe that. And if he gave them to you that means that you are a special parent that can handle taking care of a special child. Mention parents love and hope plays a critical role in their child success in life.
Work with your Child’s Doctors, Physical Therapist, and other professionals
I took my children to their Doctors appointments. I took them to physical therapy. With physical therapy they work on their legs. I learned how to do the exercises myself to do the therapy on them at home. The occupational therapy work with their hands. The speech therapy work on their speech. I learned what they were doing and I did it at home. Sometimes Doctor’s will tell you that your child needs to wear back braces or leg braces or hand splints. Whatever the Doctor said my children needed I made sure that they had it. If it was a certain kind of medicine I made sure that they got it. I listened to the Doctor and asked questions if I didn’t understand.
It is a lot to take in with special needs children, but if you don’t understand the Doctor, or Therapist ask questions. Learn as much as possible about your child’s condition. You need to know. You are their parent. Learn how to do the therapy at home. I had to do a lot of things a nurse do. I had to learn how to use a catheter. My younger daughter couldn’t eat by mouth so I had to feed her through a j tube in her stomach. I had to be mom and nurse. You have to do what you have to do to keep your child going.
Be your child’s advocate
When the Doctors told me that one of my children that I had wouldn’t live long I didn’t just give up on her. She was blessed to make it to 17 years old. I kept on taking care of her. I kept taking her to church. I kept taking her out. I fought for her. A physical therapist told me that my other daughter had a closed head injury. I didn’t accept that. I knew my daughter was smart. She didn’t accept that either. She worked herself out of special Ed and later graduated from Oakland University with a Bachelors Degree. Later she went on to become Miss Wheelchair. She is married now with two children. I raised a successful daughter.
Advice: Fight for them. Everything the professionals say does not have to be true. Have faith in God. Help your child be the best they can be with their disability. You don’t have to accept everything a professional says. Sometime they can be wrong. You know your child better than the Doctors or professionals. You are their parent. You can voice your opinion also. 22
People will stare and make judgments
Some people asked how did my child end up in a wheelchair. I told them she was in a car accident. I once had a Doctor say by all means please use a car seat. My daughter was in a car seat when she got hurt and I wasn’t there. I was at work. When I left her that morning she was in a car seat. That’s what I mean when I say people might judge us as parents. I didn’t like the stares. But so what. That didn’t stop me from taking my children in public. I ignored them and didn’t pay attention to them. Like I said before. Everybody has something wrong with them. Some people you can see theirs better. I held my head up high and pushed them on through the mall or to church or whatever. Some people ask questions. I didn’t mind answering the questions.
Advice: Realize that when you go out in public with your child, especially if they’re in the wheel chair or braces or look or act different. You will get stares. I didn’t like the stares. But so what. That didn’t stop me from taking my children in public. I ignored them and didn’t pay attention to them. Like I said before.
Never be ashamed of your disabled child
Is there any stories about you not being ashamed?
Do not lock them in the house and say I’m trying to protect them from the world or trying to keep them from being hurt. I was never ashamed because those were my children and I didn’t have any reason to feel ashamed. They are people too. There are all kinds of people in this world. Everyone is different in their own way. You should not feel ashamed or embarrassed. Special needs children are special and you are a special parent. You should hold your head up high and be strong. If you are ashamed you shouldn’t be. That is the child that God gave you and you should be proud of your child and realize everybody has something wrong with them.
Advice: If your child feels bullied or get stares at school go to the school and talk to the teacher. Tell your child that they are just as good as other kids. Those kids are no better than they are in Gods eyes and in your eyes. Children can feel off your vibe, so if you’re ashamed, they may become ashamed of themselves too.
Treat your child as normal as possible and Never put limitations on your child
As Tameka and Deanna grow up I treated them as normal as possible by taking them everywhere. I threw birthday parties for both of my children. And the neighborhood kids came to those parties especially for my oldest one. I went to my younger childs school and had a birthday party in her classroom with her classmates and she enjoyed that. Have fun with your children. My children went to Cedar Pointe, Six Flags, Kings Island, Sea World. I just didn’t push them in their wheel chairs through the park either. We put them on the rides and they had fun just like other children. I didn’t tell my oldest daughter you can’t drive because she had good upper body strength. She learned how to drive with hand controls. I didn’t tell her don’t go to a university that might be too hard for you. I didn’t tell her you can’t have kids or get married ever. I treated her just like a normal young lady and didn’t put limitations on her and she has done good because of that. Don’t always say what they can’t do say what they can do. You should conscetrate on what your child can do and work with that. And what they can’t do work on that so that they can do it.
Advice: Do not talk negative to them. Always speak positive words over them and to them. Whether they can understand you or not. You treat them normal by taking them out in public. Taking them to the store, to the mall, to the circus, to sesame street. Take them in their wheelchairs or braces or whatever. If you put limitations on your child they will never become independent. If something should happen to you they won’t be able to function on their own. You want them to be independent when they grow up and be able to function in this world when you leave. Of course it depends on the childs’ disability, but you want to make that child as independent as possible. I’ve seen other parents say oh he can’t drive a car when all he needs is hand controls and he could drive. I’ve seen other parents keep their kids locked up in the house because they didn’t want them to get hurt. Don’t be too overprotective over your child or they will be very limited when they grow up.
Love that child with all that is within you
Love is patient, love is kind, Love suffers long and is kind; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. I tried to live this scripture every day God would not have given you that special child to take care of if he didn’t think you could not handle it. Special children are also a gift from God. They have so much love to give.
Advice:Take them to the mall, out to eat at restaurants, to the zoo, to the circus. To church. To as many places as you can take them. Don’t lock them in the house and don’t pay attention to the stares of people. Don’t put your child in a box and don’t let anybody else put them in a box. Sometimes some Doctors or ignorant people will say things that might hurt your feelings, but always let your child know that you love them and they are a gift from God.
Interpretation of the Beginning and the Silence in the Genesis
“In the beginning, there was only silence,” James Leeds says at the very beginning of Children of a Lesser God, “and out of that silence there could come only one thing: Speech. That’s right. Human speech. So, speak!”’ he could not have been more wrong. In this opening speech, James appears to establish silence, and by extension deafness, as “bad,” and speech and sound (and hearing) as “good.” This is the distinction which most deaf people learn at a young age. Sarah learned this distinction from her mother and her teachers, but chose as an adult to reject this explanation and establish a definition of her own: “Deafness [is] a silence full of sounds … the sound of spring breaking up through the death of winter.” The words that make this phrase are beautiful; the signs that give this phrase life are deeply moving.
The struggle, then, throughout the play becomes one of making those who have ears, however residual their hearing might be, able to hear. Orin and Lydia have some hearing – not enough to allow them to function in the hearing world without assistance but some hearing nonetheless. Lydia has a crush on James and refuses to listen to anything but her own heart strings. She is oblivious to how her behavior affects Sarah and she will not listen to James’s voice or Sarah’s signs when they not so indirectly talk to her about watching television. Orin is deaf to anything that does not fit his vision of protecting the deaf. As a deaf man who speaks relatively clearly and reads lips, Orin is a good candidate for one to bridge the deaf and hearing worlds. But, he is entirely wrapped up in his “cause”: deaf teachers for deaf children. When James takes Sarah out to dinner for the first time, Orin becomes jealous and begins to refuse to listen to James. What had once been a vibrant student-teacher relationship disintegrates into posturing and jockeying for position. Orin is so consumed with his “cause” that he turns a deaf ear (pun intended) to Sarah as she tries to explain what it is that she wants to say.
Mr. Franklin, the supervising teacher, is one of the hearing people whose job it should be to hear what his charges have to say about issues that affect them, but none of the deaf people in this play have any respect for the man. Franklin does nothing to earn that respect, either. He is a skilled signer; he reads Sarah’s signing at the bridge party. But throughout the play he refuses to sign in the presence of any of the deaf people, particularly Sarah, always forcing someone else to sign for him. His patronizing attitude will not allow him to hear what Sarah or anyone else (including the Commission) has to say. Poor Ms. Klein walks into what she thinks is a routine appearance before the Equal Opportunity Commission and finds herself in the middle of a four-way argument about who doesn’t listen to whom and who will do the talking for whom. She means well and has none of the mean-spiritedness that seems to come from Franklin, but for all practical purposes in this situation, she is utterly clueless. She fails to hear Orin and Sarah as they try to assert their position. Granted, Klein has limited experience with the deaf population compared to the rest of the characters, but it takes Sarah calling her speech the “same old shit” and threatening to walk away from the Commission hearing to get Klein to hear what she and Orin have to say.
Mrs. Norman has struggled for 26 years with Sarah and her deafness. Her early attempts at “normalcy” for Sarah were pathetic. She wrote on a pin-up photo of singer Ricky Nelson in her own handwriting: “To Sarah. Good Luck. From Ricky.” She demanded that Sarah’s sister, Ruth, ask her boyfriends to find companions for Sarah. To Mrs. Norman, the steady stream of male companions meant that Sarah appeared “normal.” In reality, the boys came for sex, which Sarah was willing to provide. When Sarah and James decide to marry, Mrs. Norman and Sarah attempt a reconciliation. Each appears to accept the other at face value, and, at the end of the play when Sarah leaves James, she goes to her mother’s house.
Mrs. Norman has stopped trying to make Sarah into something she is not and relates to her on a more human level. James is the most complex character of the drama. He is the detached intellectual who falls in love. He cannot shape this woman into an image that suits him. He cannot make her accept speech and sound. As a speech teacher, James’s professional responsibility is to work diligently with the population of the State School for the Deaf. He has achieved outstanding success with both Orin and Lydia; even Mr. Franklin recognizes that Orin never worked that hard for him. But with Sarah, James faces a challenge that he cannot overcome. That is because Sarah is a human being with dignity and integrity and individuality who refuses to play the “dearie” game. James falls in love with Sarah, in some part because of her feisty nature.
In a kind of role reversal, it is the man who thinks he can change the woman into the prize, the perfect middle-class housewife. Sarah’s success at the bridge party appears to prove James right. It is when Sarah decides that she will “speak” for herself at the Commission hearing that James’s vision of the perfect housewife begins to crumble. In frustration, he clamps her arms to her side and demands that she speak: “Shut up!You want to talk to me, then you learn my language! .. . Now come on! I want you to speak to me. Let me hear it. Speak! Speak! Speak!” James’s call for speech from Sarah’s silence destroys the relationship he had built with Sarah. The insistence that she speak creates a rift so deep that not even love can mend it. Sarah realizes that even though she loves him, she cannot stay with him. Maybe, she muses, they will be able to meet somewhere “not in silence or in sound but somewhere else. I don’t know where that is now.” Out of that silence came speech, but it was forced and pained. Out of that silence also came love, strength, self-knowledge, and beauty. James’s demand that Sarah be “normal” refuses to acknowledge the idea that normalcy is in the mind and eye of the beholder.
Mark Medoff’s Children of a Lesser God Analysis
An Analysis of Children Of A Lesser God
The play, Children Of A Lesser God, written by Mark Medoff, was the winner Tony Award winner for Best Play in 1980, and also won the Laurence Olivier Award and the Drama Desk Award. In essence, the play is about a deaf girl named Sarah and her relationship with a hearing man named James. The play is told from the perspective of James’ memory.
According to Fuchs, the first step in analyzing a play is to envision the world on which the play resides. Children Of A Lesser God, takes place in a world where scenes can meld into one another and space is relative to the memory James is focusing on at the moment. There is no defined space because all the scenes can meld together. The given circumstances the describes the stage as “bare,” so the characters can appear and exit quickly and because of this the passage of time is also unlike that of reality. Time in this world is not linear. There are no flashbacks, there are simply stories told in the present that describe the past. This is contrasted by the fact that the entire play happens in the past and is therefore simply a memory, a story in the present about times that are past. There are some scenes from his memory that the audience can detect a light-hearted and bright mood. For example, in the beginning of Act One, James decided to climb a window outside Sarah’s room in order to get her attention and he makes jokes while he attempts to woo her from the tree. Yet throughout most of the play, that light-hearted mood seems to be infected by a more serious, dark mood that surrounds the character of Sarah. Music has an especially strange role in this play because one character can hear it and the other cannot, which also infects the mood and brings a new light to the subject. In the second Act, Sarah and James are in their home, and James simply wants to relax his hands from signing and listen to his music. Sarah lets him, but still wishes to be near him and participate in this with him. Their conversation grows bleaker when James tries to explain music, with no success, and thus creates another divide between them. However, mainly the tone of this play is created through silence.
The social world of this play is an important one. There is a division between the deaf community and the hearing community. While they can communicate, sometimes communication is not enough because of the difficultly in understanding the other side’s perspective. Despite the play’s awareness that this social issue goes beyond the deaf school, the world of the play is still a private one. It touches on these social issues a great deal; however, the play looks very closely about how this social issue affects the relationship of Sarah and James. At the beginning of the play, many characters seemed small and insignificant, eager to please, but by the end of the play, they have thought, ideas, and ambitions of their own. This follows James’ understanding of who these people in the deaf community are. As he gets to know the community better, he begins to see how strong and fierce and determined they are. He begins to see them as real people instead of projects. The last part of the social world in this play is that of language. Language is the fundamental issue in this play. There are three different languages: English, ASL, and Signed English. All of these languages have their own inherent value; however, all of these languages also makes communication difficult. Many times when the characters are speaking, or signing, to one another, the person listening repeats back what the first person said to make sure they understood the meaning correctly. This is something different from what the hearing reality is like and it accurately portrays the speech of those who use signing as a way of communication.
Change is a reality in life, and because theater reflects qualities of life, there is change in theatrical productions. There are many changes in Children Of A Lesser God. There are two major changes in the play. The first major change is in Act One, when Sarah decides she wants to move out of the deaf school to go live with James. The significance of this change is due to Sarah’s history. The deaf school had been her only home since she was five. She chose to leave the only home she had ever known, living among the deaf community, to go live with a man outside the deaf community. The second major change was in Act Two, when Sarah decided she wanted to fight for her rights as a deaf woman on her own. She wanted to write her own speech and use her own words, thoughts, and feelings. She decided she was tired of having people speak for her when she had the ability to communicate on her own. Her decision on this caused a rift between her and James. As mentioned before with the music, they tried to communicate about it but James could not understand her choices and her defiance because he himself has never had to walk in her shoes. Sarah ends up leaving their home and running to her mother. She no longer has her friends, or the deaf school, or James. For the first time since the beginning of the play, they are no longer together. However, the one thing that does not change throughout the whole play which is exemplified excellently at the end, is that both characters continue to work to help the other see each different perspective.
Throughout the change in the play and the difficulties each character has faced, the world makes demands of the audience. The biggest demand the play makes is that the audience should be aware of the social issues between the hearing and the deaf. People must acknowledge that there is an issue with the way the world is currently working when it comes to people who are different from the status quo. The second thing the play asks of it’s audience is that we try to learn. The end of the play is clear when James asks Sarah to teach him. Throughout the play, he had been trying to teach Sarah the ways of hearing people, but in the end, he asked her to teach him because the effort to learn needs to go both ways. Those how can hear need to learn about those who cannot and those who are deaf must learn about those who can hear because that’s how things can start to get better. People attempt to make themselves into “lesser gods” and shape people into their own image, as suggested by the title of the play, people tend to do this because they do not understand the other person, and that is why the play is demanding that people make that attempt to learn, because otherwise, people run around trying to fix things that aren’t broken simply because it is different from what they know.