We hoped you enjoyed last week’s interview with self-advocate Ross Ryan! Now we’d like to turn your attention to another voice, this time Phil Stone of the Oregon Self Advocacy Coalition. OSAC is a statewide organization made up of 18 local self advocacy groups whose mission is to engage communities in advocating for the rights of people with developmental disabilities.
FACT posed a series of questions to one OSAC member, Phil Stone, that should be of interest to parents, caregivers, and young people experiencing disability. (Our thanks to Ryley Newport of Oregon Council on Developmental Disabilities for facilitating this interview.)
Please share a little background on who you are, what your interests include, and how you came to be involved with OSAC.
My name is Phil Stone, and I am currently the Chair of the Oregon Self Advocacy Coalition. I want to make sure that people with disabilities get good jobs at a competitive rate. I believe that we are capable of being out in the community and not living segregated lives.
I become involved with OSAC during the 2008 Disability Megaconference in Salem, OR. The current state-wide self-advocacy group called Self Advocates As Leaders [SAAL] was being re-structured as the Oregon Self Advocacy Coalition [OSAC]. OSAC was created so that local groups would be stronger and we could come together to accomplish our goals.
As OSAC’s leader, I want to see us help people find real jobs in the community. I want be a strong voice representing people with disabilities, and I hope I can encourage younger people with disabilities to achieve what they want in their lives. My other passions include listening to heavy metal music, hanging out with friends, playing video games or being spontaneous and doing something out of the blue, like going out to the Oregon coast!
What was your school experience like? In looking back, what would you have changed or improved upon?
To be honest, I really didn’t like my school experience. I went to five different high schools before I dropped out of Lebanon High School. I did this after I was told that I wouldn’t be receiving a diploma and graduating with my classmates. I was segregated in a classroom with a group of people who all had intellectual and developmental disabilities. I felt that I wasn’t being challenged and that they were expecting that I wasn’t capable of learning at a normal speed like the rest of the students.
Looking back at my school experience, I would have liked to be included in general education classrooms. I really wish I could have graduated alongside my class with a modified diploma. I wish my teachers supported and understood how I learn best. It might take me a little bit longer, but I like to develop my skills, get materials in advance and have an opportunity to ask questions. It would have been helpful to have peers with disabilities provide me with support and give me guidance and leadership as I entered high school.
Who was your role model growing up?
My mom has been my role model and one of my closest friends growing up. She lets me know what I’m doing well and what I can work on. She was a single mom trying to raise me to be a successful adult. She cares about me and wants what is best for me. I know she strongly supports me being involved with OSAC so that I can continue to grow as a self-advocate for myself and others. I wouldn’t be doing the great work I am today without my mom being such a great supporter.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to a parent of a child newly diagnosed with a disability?
My advice to parents of a child with a disability is to not give up on them. I would recommend pushing them to reach their full potential. There is a fine line between supporting someone and smothering them or holding them back. I think it’s important that people stumble and fall so that they can pick themselves up and try again.