Micah Fialka-Feldman – Anything is Possible with a Circle


Emma, Rich, Janice and MICAH

Micah Fialka-Feldman

In 2003, Micah and several other students with intellectual disabilities began sitting in on regular classes at Oakland University (OU) through a Transition Program sponsored by a local school district, in collaboration with the university. During the next few years, Micah took two buses to the campus each day, attended classes, actively participated in student organizations and extracurricular activities, volunteered in the Student Activities Center and the childcare center, and was known as a “OU student.” In 2007, the university initiated a new program called OPTIONS which allowed Micah and other students to continue learning as students at OU.

When the University refused Micah’s application to live in residence – he took them to court – and won!!

“I was going to school at Oakland University. When I went in to pay tuition, I said I could live in the dorm. They said I could live in the dorm and I applied, and they took my money. Then the vice president, who’s a very nice vice president, she just said no. I couldn’t live in the dorm because one of their policies they came up with was that I had to be toward a major, toward a degree. But I was paying the same amount of money as anyone else and taking 12 credits. They said I could live in the dorm, but then said no.”

I got three letters. So I set up a meeting with the vice president all on my own. I tried to tell her that I was very capable, and I traveled a lot and I was very capable of living in the dorm. They said no.

They kind of gave a couple reasons. They were kind of not reasons that I believed. They said I wouldn’t know how to leave during a fire drill, and that friends in the dorms wouldn’t know how to be friends with me and stuff.
How did you respond to that? I was upset and sad, because I probably have more friends than the vice president and most of the people that work at the university.

I kind of took the next step of trying to go to my school’s board of trustees, and I tried to explain to them that I was very capable. I thought because they were the board of trustees, I thought they would overturn the ruling, but no, they followed what the vice president said.

So Micah and friends went to court – and in time – beat the university – and created a national precedent!

In May 2014, Micah was appointed by President Barack Obama to the Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities.

Then Micah challenged Oakland University’s refusal to allow him to live in a dorm like other students. Took them to court – and won!!

Janice Fialka has taken up the adventure of parenting bravely, creatively, and mindfully, and here she shares a lifetime’s harvest of wisdom and practical guidance for families, educators, clinicians, and all the rest of us.

She writes, early on, that “Micah has deepened my understanding of the absolute brilliance of asking for help. He is at ease with what he can do and what supports he needs.” This is a counter-cultural brilliance in American life, but with a winsome combination of poetry and pragmatism, she reveals it as possible for us all – and as a beautiful way out of the impoverishing illusions of “self-sufficiency” and “normalcy. I am grateful that this mind-opening, life-altering, soul-stretching book is in the world.

—Krista Tippett, Executive Creator/Host, On Being + The Civil Conversations Project

This book offers delight, clarity and insight not only for those seeking inclusion in society, but for all people working to change things that matter to us. Whatever our cause, the questions persist: How do we persevere for the long term without being overtaken by anger and exhaustion? How do we keep improving relationships with everyone, even those bureaucrats and professionals who hide behind their expertise? How do we celebrate andcry together and learn that joy is always available in our deep connectedness,no matter the external circumstances? These questions are answered here, by this persevering, insightful, loving family and their friends.

Margaret Wheatley, author of Leadership and the New Science and many other books

Micah Fialka-Feldman – Recent Articles

Circles of Support and Self Direction

An Interview Highlighting a Journey of Friendship and Managing Services
Elissa Lockman Turner, MS1, Sarah Bubash, M. Ed2, Micah Fialka-Feldman, Cert.DisStud3, and Andrea Hayes, B.S4
All people need different supports to be successful in their daily lives. For individuals with intellectual disabilities, support needs have traditionally been agency-directed. Circles of Support shift the control over who identifies and directs those support needs from an agency-directed model to a self-directed model, putting the individual with an intellectual disability at the center of a self-selected team of individuals involved across all environments in their daily life.

Micah Fialka-Feldman – Videos

Plus Intelligent Lives – Including Micah’s Story – award wining film by Dan Habib.