Thursday, 11 February 2016

Including children with disabilities in the classroom

"Inclusion of all children with disabilities in regular classrooms seems to be the law of the land. But is it the right thing for all kids? And how are teachers handling it? Inclusion -- the idea that all children, including those with disabilities, should and can learn in a regular classroom -- has taken firm root in many school systems..."

"To oppose inclusion would seem to advocate exclusion. Yet, some observers maintain that full inclusion isn't always the best way to meet student needs. Critics of full inclusion ask whether even students with the most severe disabilities benefit from placement in regular classrooms. Further, some outgrowths of inclusion involve rethinking the structure of the regular classroom. Inclusive classes may require more than one teacher. And teachers and students may need specific technology to help students with disabilities perform better."

"While few educators oppose inclusion completely, some express reservations about how full inclusion works in the classroom. Albert Shanker, writing for the American Federation of Teachers in 1996 in "Where We Stand," asserted, "What full inclusionists don't see is that children with disabilities are individuals with differing needs; some benefit from inclusion and others do not. Full inclusionists don't see that medically fragile children and children with severe behavioral disorders are more likely to be harmed than helped when they are placed in regular classrooms where teachers do not have the highly specialized training to deal with their needs."

When I reflect back on my own education - and I have been to many different schools - I have no memory of seeing children in any classroom with disabilities or special needs. It must have been the policy to place special needs children elsewhere but that was something that passed by me.

It was not until I was in conversation with my teenage grand-daughter - so many years later - that I realised that.

She was telling me about a blind girl that she admired in her school who went about the facility with great independence and apparent ease, despite her handicap. The only time she felt sorry for this gregarious and popular girl was at lunch time.

It was then that the disabled children, the deaf, blind, autistic and others were herded together by one support worker to a special table.   It was there they sat in silence.

I thought about that. How could deaf children be expected to communicate with blind children, and vice versa ? And this was called inclusion ?

I do not know whether I am a full inclusionist or not. I would like to hear from the parents and children themselves and I believe they would provide different accounts. But one thing I am sure about is that without proper support tokenistic `inclusion` is another form of exclusion.

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