I must concede that my closing thought in the previous post is not airtight. There are families who for whatever reason…decide to have their children or loved ones live separately (temporarily or permanently) because they feel like they are not able to give them the support they need.
But that is the minority…or it should be anyways. Yet, I contend that even those people who need the most extensive support possible should at least be given the opportunity to shine in their own strengths integrated in their family and community.
Here is how this is related to public schools. It should always be the objective of public education to serve all students no matter what their disability label. It should always be the objective to give the right amount of support for all children. I know these are vague terms and a little bit nebulous but the truth is that inclusion is going to look different in various settings. We are working with a diverse group right…so the best way to start is with one student.
Too simple? Perhaps not.
An important thing to remember is that the way the educational system is setup right now there is a disproportionate number to students with disabilities in certain schools. Right now…as you are reading this there is a school down the road who does not have any students with significant cognitive disabilities. Even though within that school’s zone there are two students which that would be their home school. Go another few miles or so down the road and the middle school has 15% of the student population with an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Go even further and you have a high school that has no self-contained classrooms because the high school on the other end of the county has all of them.
Now imagine for a moment what inclusion advocates are suggesting.
1. All students go their neighborhood schools. 2. No self-contained classrooms…all students are included in their same age peer groups and work with grade-level materials. 3. All support that is needed for each student is given within the context of their school environment.
If you stop to consider how the distribution of resources could be better used with this model it really becomes more clear. Instead of having 10-20 students with autism in one school (most of which are in one classroom) they could be going to their home school and be given real support to learn with their peers. Instead of having eight students with severe disabilities in one class…there would be one or two in the whole school (which would be much easier to create opportunities for inclusive learning).
So just for a moment think about one person. Perhaps your child or a relative…think about their unique needs as a person who has different abilities. Apply the three scenarios to them…what would it look like? It is much easier to think about one than one hundred. This is why going through the MAPS (Making Action Plans – Pearpoint/Frost) process is so important when planning for inclusion. There are other tools too… check out the resources from Inclusion Press http://www.inclusion.com/ .
If any of this is going to be possible…there needs to be a sea change…and it starts with you. Much like it does for planning inclusion…just think of one student. With the educational system so tied to measuring achievement with high stakes testing, is it at all realistic to think that students with disabilities will ever be fairly and accurately assessed on what they know? Will educators in general education ever feel comfortable with having students with disabilities in their classroom when they know they are responsible for their test scores?
Tim Villegas of Think Inclusive