Wolf Wolfensberger: Hero of deinstitutionalization

Wolf Wolfensberger, a German born United States immigrant, received a PhD. in psychology at (what is now) Vanderbilt University, with […]

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Wolf Wolfensberger, a German born United States immigrant, received a PhD. in psychology at (what is now) Vanderbilt University, with a thumbnail_wolfensberger_1concentration in “mental retardation.” Since 1973, he has been a professor at the School for Education at Syracuse University. Wolfensberger continues to be an advocate of people with developmental disabilities, and his numerous accomplishments include the creation of programs designed to deinstitutionalize this population, as well as being credited with the term “Citizen Advocacy.” His teachings focused around deinstitution-alization are numerous and comprise such topics as Social Role Valorization, which tries to explain—and, more importantly, counteract—how certain individuals become “socially devalued” (because of conditions such as old age or disability); and Normalization, a theory built around the tenet that individuals will behave “normally” when put into “normal” settings. In addition, Wolfensberger is deeply invested in child assessment, which necessitates working closely with families as they map out their disabled child’s future, especially as it pertains to education. He remains a staunch supporter of people with disabilities having the potential and the right to live lives within, not outside of, society as a whole.

Source: Museum of disABILITY History; www.museumofdisability.org

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