Perceptions, Expectations, and Achievement

Mar 26, 2013
Tagged with: Perceptions, Expectations, and Achievement

I came across a book called “Everybody Belongs: Changing Negative Attitudes toward Classmates with Disabilities.” by: Arthur Shapiro. The book was written over a decade ago and yet the themes from the book apply easily in 2013.   Mr. Shapiro’s book offers in-depth perspectives and strategies about how to change negative attitudes and biases about disabilities.

Mr. Shapiro’s book cites studies that show that the concept of disability is generally viewed negatively[i].  Research shows that children develop misperceptions about disabilities by the age of 5.[ii] Mr. Shapiro writes about how we integrate attitudes, perceptions, and prejudices about disabilities very early from books, media, and through interactions in community settings like schools. Research shows that developed prejudices tend to increase and become more set as children progress through school. [iii]

The research highlighted by Mr. Shapiro gave me pause, misperceptions about disabilities form by the age of five.  I am bothered about the negativity that can and does exist about disabilities.  When I read that misperceptions become more fixed as children age, I become increasingly bothered.  I am bothered by an observation that I keep encountering, the idea that expectations for people with disabilities are generally lower.  I read an article which cited research that said “people with disabilities are still habitually regarded as people to be pitied because of disability or admired based on minimal efforts and achievements.” [iv]

Based upon my review of this literature, I started to consider the idea of expectation in the context of my walking program. When I work with my Movement Specialist, the notions of effort, progression, performance, and the “can and try” principle create a standard of expectation and achievement in my program.


I am always expected to make an attempt or a repeated sequence of attempts even if I do not achieve the intended result.  My Movement Specialist expects 100% of my effort regardless of the nature of the task.  My Movement Specialist has also raised his expectations of me over time.  He is working with me to expand and create ability versus setting a standard of minimal achievement.


My walking program has become progressively more difficult.  My Movement Specialist is working to help me learn new movement patterns and eliminate compensatory patterns that I have developed from Spastic Cerebral Palsy.


My Movement Specialist shows me respect at all time and provides feedback based on the performance I deliver or the presenting need.  The feedback that I receive is skill-specific and not disability-specific. I am taught skills at a pace and frequency that support me to master each task.

The “Can and Try Principle”

My Movement Specialist often employs the “Can and Try Principle”.

Can I perform the task?  Not always.

Will I try to perform the task? Always.

From this principle, my Movement Specialists has a dynamic approach that determines the level and intensity of the support that I need to achieve mastery of each discrete skill as well as a task to achieve a new pattern of movement.

Mr. Shapiro’s notion of “Everybody Belongs” is an ideal that we have not yet reached, but is an end that we need to continue to work towards.  The concept of combining effort, progression, performance, and the “Can and Try Principle” has the potential of raising individual expectations and general standards of achievement for people with disabilities in health, fitness, and other settings.


[i] Shapiro, A. (2000). Everybody Belongs: Changing Negative Attitudes toward Classmates with Disabilities. New York: Routledge Falmer.

[ii]   Shapiro, A. (2000). Everybody Belongs: Changing Negative Attitudes toward Classmates with Disabilities. New York: Routledge Falmer.

[iii] Shapiro, A. (2000). Everybody Belongs: Changing Negative Attitudes toward Classmates with Disabilities. New York: Routledge Falmer.

[iv] Harris, L. (1991). Public attitudes toward people with disabilities. New York: Louis Harris and Associates.

Author: Kerry