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Closer Look attila the mom shirt image see text description below ORDER IT

DESCRIPTION: Black and Brick Red Art on the front and back of white shirt. Front says "Attila the Mom" with a little Hun hat hanging on the last letter in Attila. Back says "The Martin Luther King, Jr.s of Motherhood, We Also have a dream".

COMMENTS: Why, for God's sake, does it so often take an adversarial line? And why does the burden fall squarely on the shoulders of the parent to prove their child worthy of the opportunity for an equal education? (an entitlement by law, I might add ...). Not to take away from the efforts of dads, I did this for all the moms who, because its the right thing to do, continue to fight the uphill battle with school administrations, etc. to have their kids included. Usually the antagonists refer to mom as an "Attila the Mom", mistaking it for a negative moniker instead of a positive one of which every mother can be proud. And with the shirt back, mom gets the last poignant word while walking away.


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DESCRIPTION: Black artwork on a gray shirt. Child's drawing of a schoolhouse with steps. Out front a child in a wheelchair cannot get in. Through the windows many children are seen smiling, none see the injustice out front, except one in the last window who is looking out with a sad face. Caption reads: Any number minus one is still discrimination.

COMMENTS: When I was first developing this shirt idea I was sharing my desire for the artwork to be done by a child with a parent advocate friend of mine from Indiana. Pat told me of her daughter, Tiffany, who had a significant cognitive disability. She did not like to do much but she did like to draw. I said go for it. A month later I got this drawing. That's Tiffany in the right hand corner. She is the only one recognizing the injustice outside. Some might say "pretty deep for a cognitive disability." I say "Go Tiffany!"

*An addendum: Tiffany, last I heard, was in the Veterinary Program at Purdue University. Ah, the power of Supportive Families and Inclusive Thinking. Support Big Dreams!


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DESCRIPTION: Black shirt with a yellow street sign on the front saying "Caution: Empowered Parent". Back says, in white letters: "Fluent in IDEA, 504 IEP, ADA.

COMMENTS: This really cool design idea comes from a friend I met along the way. Lost touch with her in a big computer crash last year but did the shirt in her honor. I truly believe parents need to realize their power. Their knowledge, especially if they understand the laws which affect their children, is invaluable and may, no, will, make all the difference. It isn't something one learns in college but from experience 24/7.


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DESCRIPTION: White shirt with seven color design on front depicting children of different ethic and cultural backgrounds playing together. A wagon holding a child and a dog is pulled by a boy using his wheelchair. Another child holds balloons. Colorful caption reads “I Believe in Kids”.

COMMENTS: This really cool design comes from a friend of mine, Chris Parmeter in Illinois. I helped her with a few changes and threw it on shirts for their fundraiser. A portion of the proceeds go to B-CSF in Illinois. It is also available on very nice canvas grocery totes.


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DESCRIPTION: White shirt with black artwork depicting a child's drawing of a kid in a wheelchair pulling roller skaters and a dog. The texts reads, "Let's let kids be kids. Let's not handicap them simply because they have a disability".

COMMENTS: This shirt was drawn by a little friend of mine, born with under-developed fingers on one hand, who was seven at the time. I had asked Mandy what she wanted to be when she grew up. She said that she wanted to be a graphic artist like her mom but that she didn't think she could because of her hand. I had her climb on my lap and I tuned her in about abilities. Then I commissioned her to do this drawing of roller skaters being pulled by a friend in a chair. She did and threw in the floating dog for free. Now she wants to be a graphic artist. A side note: Her girl scout troop got wind of her work on the shirt and wrote a nice article about in the national newsletter, referring to her as a "little entrepreneur". Cool.


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DESCRIPTION: Jade shirt with white artwork on front. Artwork depicts rolling hills with road going off into a sunset. Within the frame of the artwork are the words: "As far as the mind can see". Beneath the artwork are the words: "Take me to my least restrictive environment."

COMMENTS: This shirt is for anyone caught up in an ugly system of boxes, pigeon holes and continuums. I was especially thinking of kids.


Closer Look Giangreco's Mishap Number 9 Shirt Image ORDER IT

DESCRIPTION: White shirt with a cartoon of a teacher doing her best to hide around a corner as a student using a wheelchair comes down the hall. The caption reads: "Inclusion Mishap Number 9: Due to a faulty intercom, Mrs. Snippett thought the principal said, "You have a new student coming to your classroom. Do your best to elude him."

COMMENTS: If you don't know author, teacher, visionary and all around nice guy, Michael Giangreco, you need to meet him. And you can. This design is one of about 100 witty, thought-prevoking cartoons in his first collection called "Ant in His Pants". You will laugh. You might even wince. But you will likely go "Hmmm" most of all. There are now three books, each with about 100 cartoons. "Flying by the Seat of Your Pants" and "Teachin Old Logs New Tricks" join "Ants..." in our library of Giangreco offerings. You will enjoy these "absurdities of Special and Regular Education." They also have a nice list of other great reads in the back of each book.


Closer Look No Boxes Shirt Image Large ORDER IT

DESCRIPTION: Black shirt with a red circle and line through a box On the box are stickers that say "Fragile" and "One Kid Only." There are also little "check" boxes with various disabilities listed. On the back it says "See the Whole Kid."

COMMENTS: One of the problems I have with the Special" and "Regular" education dicotomy is that its very existence forces us to label every kid just so we know which box to put him/her in. It gets worse. Then we take all the kids in one of the boxes and we put each of them in their own box and slap another label on it....perhaps two...or ten. After a while we forget about the kid in each box and just see the box (and all its labels). It gets worse. Inside the box, the kid, misjudges the edge of the box for the horizon and comes to believe 'that's all there is...' In the eyes of everyone, including the child, the kid and the box become one. So much for dreams...the chase is over before it begins.

It doesn't have to be this way. Everyone! SEE THE WHOLE KID! See the "infinite potential", the possibility. Encourage kids to dream BIG! And who's to say that by denying any single child the opportunity to dream “BIG”, to grow to his or her full and true potential, we are not robbing the world of a Mandella, a Dr. King, or an F. D. Roosevelt.

So I ask you, as educators, how important is the work that you do? How can someone grow up to become a great leader when, from the very beginning, they are not expected to; when they are put in boxes for the convenience of treatment and documentation.

We need to take responsibility as teachers, as parents, as human beings. We need to see the importance of our efforts; to see the invisible and the possible. We must find a way to make it work for every child. I am not saying that it will always be easy, or difficult, only necessary.


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DESCRIPTION: White shirt with a many color design on front depicting a child with a garden growing from her head. Each flower head is something different: a rainbow, a sun, a bluebird, a treasure chest, a teddybear, a heart and flowers. The caption reads "Sow and Nurture the Garden of a Child's Imagination, for There All Things are Possible”.

COMMENTS: At a conference in Illinois, I was speaking with my good friend, Nancy Weiss, from National TASH. We were talking about this shirt idea. I mentioned I wanted to have a child draw the image. Her daughter, Kelsey, standing nearby, overheard and said to me, "Mr. Wilkins, I think I know what a Garden of a Child's Imagination looks like." Twenty minutes later this shirt was born.


Closer Look Visiting Shirt Large ImageORDER IT

DESCRIPTION: Black Shirt with white lettering on the front saying ”Mainstreaming is like visiting. Inclusion is belonging".

COMMENTS: It's like, you know when you leave home to go to one of those parties where you don't really know anybody. I mean, you've seen them, perhaps often, but you've never really had the chance to interact, or share thoughts and feelings and ideas, and you're not genuinely encouraged to do any of those things, until, after a while, you're expected to leave; to return to your own home. Mainstreaming is kind of like that.


Speaking of Nancy and TASH, the following shirts were designed for our friends at TASH. This is an organization that has been fighting for social change and human rights for years. Each of these shirts come with the TASH logo on the sleeve.


Closer Look Berger Shirt Large ImageORDER IT

DESCRIPTION: Wine colored shirt with an Alan Berger quote in white ink saying "Inclusion: Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere”.

COMMENTS: Alan is a wonderful man who has done and continues to do great things in the peace movement. A Board Member and mainstay at TASH conferences, I always find it a joy to run into and share energy with him.


Closer Look Cultivate Diversity Shirt ImageORDER IT

DESCRIPTION: This ash colored shirt has a cartoon of a woman on a soapbox saying to a crowd ”This is what I think, Blah, blah, blah...." Everyone in the crowd finds themselves agreeing. The caption below reads "If all minds thought alike, How great would that be? Cultivate Diversity".

COMMENTS: Pretty self-explanatory. If you want to live in a homogenous world, try reading Orwell's "1984". If we continue to stick our heads in the sand, or worse, lash out (physically, verbally, psychologically) whenever our lives touch on unfamiliar territory, we'll never expand our universe. Frank Zappa (one of my favorite philosophers) reminded us that "Without deviation, there can be no progress."


Closer Look Highly Regarded Shirt ImageORDER IT

DESCRIPTION: White shirt with a black and white image on the front of a person saying "You do not know what I see, what I believe, what I dream, what I know. You do not live my life! You cannot be my voice” It is signed "Voice of the Highly Regarded" Below, in tiny letters, it says "(If I ever do want you to speak for me, I'll give you a call)". On the back is a powerful e. e. cummings quote "to be nobody but yourself in a world that is doing its best to make you everyone else is to fight the hardest battle anyone can fight."

COMMENTS: Even within disability culture there are factions who do not want people with disabilities to have quality and independent lives. Interesting that these people do not have disabilities themselves but are parents of kids and adults living with disabilities whom they do not seem to want to go a little out of their way to support. Rather they have dumped them into the system, into institutional settings on every level and, free of responsibility, the "Voice of the Retarded" have time to claim they speak for THE Retarded, and tht THE retarded happily wish to stay put. See, they can't even get importance of not generalizing right. This shirt, representing the Voice of the "Highly REGARDED" is a direct response to the support of Institutional and Long Term Care. Yeah, this means nursing homes too.


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DESCRIPTION: Black shirt with a John F. Kennedy quote ”If we cannot now end our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity." Around it reads "Celebrate Diversity through Inclusive Communities."


If I sound at all passionate about thinking and teaching inclusively it is because, as a parent, as a peer, as an advocate, as a human being, I am passionate about it to my very core. Lives, real lives, and futures are at stake. The struggles for inclusive educational environments aren't the only battles being fought by parents and people with disabilities. We live in desperate times for people with disabilities. Here we are ten years after the passage of our ADA and our civil rights; our human rights continue to be violated every day. Choices continue to be denied us as to where we wish to live, shop, eat, work and play. Government, health care and the long term care industry conspire to put us away, or in an early grave. No one in these powerful political, public and private places seems to care about equity, respect and compassion toward their fellow citizens. They seem to worship a different god: the bottom line.

Therefore, it falls to us, like it fell to Mahatma Gandhi, like it fell to Nelson Mandella, like it fell to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and like it fell to our forefathers to excite and, if need be, incite; to pick up and define our culture, our disability culture, and move it forward out of the shadows of low expectation, paternalism and second class citizenship.

We all have the same Maslovian needs for love and respect and belonging and contribution. We all need friends and hobbies and opportunities to work and to play. And when these opportunities are happening in our communities and not in segregated environments, when people with and without disabilities are enjoying or struggling through an experience side by side, pushing and pulling and thinking and sharing together, the fear and apprehension begin to dissolve, the monster comes out of the closet and we discover it isn’t a monster after all, and our community, our world, becomes a little more understanding; a little more whole.


Closer Look Learning Together Shirt Image ORDER IT

DESCRIPTION: Teal shirt with a white ink drawing on front of kids working on a science project together. One uses a chair. The caption reads ”Learning Together so we can Live Together. Inclusion: It's a Cool Solution."


People ask me why inclusion in our schools, workplaces and communities is being fought constantly by many with adversarial attitudes. My response is that those in power, those with the ability to make change, themselves are products of exclusionary school systems. Because they did not grow up knowing and befriending peers with disabilities, they still harbor many of the archaic fears and misconceptions regarding disability and they act accordingly.

When we begin to teach and value diversity without struggle, without friction, and with high expectation, bringing children with and without disabilities together, we begin to build a generation comfortable and respectful of differences and aware of our commonality; a generation willing to provide access to all members of the community because it's the right thing to do.

The work that you do toward that end is so very important. You have the power and the opportunity to either promote or prevent positive growth and change; to alter lives either way.

My buddy, Wade Taylor, did the artwork.


Closer Look Our School Shirt Image ORDER IT

DESCRIPTION: Purple shirt with a white drawing of a school. The Caption reads: "Our School Welcomes Everybody".


Every school should deserve the right to wear this shirt.


Closer Look Parents are experts shirt imageORDER IT

DESCRIPTION: Navy shirt with white design of a family holding hands, one kid is using a chair. Caption reads “Parents are Experts”.

COMMENTS: This is a great message all around. Parents need to know that their life experience gives them power and valuable insight into the issues and needs of their kids. They should not be intimidated by professionals "should"ing upon them. On the other hand, it is important for professionals to listen to and value what parents have to contribute. If everyoe would just leave their egos at the door and share what they know and believe so far, we could get on with educating a child to the very best their ability. After all, isn't that the common goal?