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“The Short Bus” by Jonathan Mooney Essay (Book Review)

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Updated: Dec 25th, 2020

In The Short Bus: A Journey Beyond Normal Jonathan Mooney describes his experience of growing with impairments, which are commonly considered as serious obstacles to the educational process – dyslexia and ADHD. Despite them, he successfully overcomes his disability, graduating from Brown University with a degree in English. However, his overcoming is not the central point of this book. Willing to claim his solidarity with the other ones who have been labeled “disabled,” he undertakes a trip across America on one of those short buses, which take kids with impairments to schools. During his journey, he interacts with different disabled people, and what he learns from this interaction is the primary theme of the book.

Although most of his meetings are beautiful and inspiring stories, some of the encounters represent the communicational issues that are inevitable in interaction with the people, who have been isolated from the society due to their disabilities. For example, Ashley, a deaf and blind girl, “has spent most of her life without natural language. Nor has she really been educated” (Mooney 117), and it seriously affected her ability to communicate according to common, “normal” patterns. Another factor, which vastly impacts the girl’s behavior, is Ashley’s experience in the public school, where kids treat her both with fear and rejection as if she is contagious (Mooney 111). This example represents a fundamental communicational problem because if people around Ashley perceived her as a unique human being, who deserves the same attitude, her integration into society would be a lot easier. If I were placed in similar situations represented in the book, I would have welcomed people to discuss different solutions that they can propose to eliminate issues of misunderstanding in communication. Accordingly, group counseling techniques such as seminars or coaching sessions on personal development can become optimal strategies for collectively finding appropriate solutions that enhance communication between people of different backgrounds and viewpoints.

In general, The Short Bus: A Journey Beyond Normal provides a lot of material for my professional growth. Throughout the book, Mooney is elaborating his general idea of imbalance and indistinctness of the definition of the norm. Disability is a complex phenomenon, which affects different spheres of social interaction, and it “can no longer be considered in isolation from the psycho-emotional aspects of disability oppression” (Hernandez-Saca and Cannon 6). The educational system should also be changed, and since many communicational problems derive from labeling people as disabled, “it is a moral imperative to destigmatize disability in our schools” (Valente and Danforth 56). Moreover, the steps should be taken in the direction of a broader inclusion of people with the impairments into the social life, because isolation and detachment drive an immense level of difficulty and embarrassment. It is possible to combine previously mentioned suggestions into the statement that “people with disabilities can succeed in a position of power within the classroom in general and, as applied to the current study, specifically within the university classroom” (Mulderink 8). Such an initiative would bring a profound change in the current situation.

On the grander scheme, the book by Jonathan Mooney is a thought-provoking reading, which can provide a lot of help for both disabled and non-disabled people, because the author, reinforcing his point of view with many examples, emphasizes the fact that the equal treatment is the basis for healthy communication.

Works Cited

Hernandez-Saca, David, and Mercedes Cannon. Disability as Psycho-Emotional Disablism: A Theoretical and Philosophical Review of Education Theory and Practice. Springer, 2016.

Mooney, Jonathan. The Short Bus: A Journey Beyond Normal. Henry Holt Company, Inc., 2008.

Mulderink, Carrie. “Living Communication Pedagogy: Instructors with Visible Disabilities.” Opensiuc. 2016, Web.

Valente, Joseph Michael, and Scot Danforth. Life in Inclusive Classrooms: Storytelling with Disability Studies in Education. Occasional Paper Series 36. Bank Street College of Education, 2016.

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