It was an enormous privilege and great learning experience to facilitate the The Inclusive Class Podcast “When Schools Say ‘No” to Inclusion” . I have been a huge fan of the Inclusive Class since it’s inception. I think of it as my Khan Academy for inclusive education and often listen to the podcast on itunes when I am running- good for the heart and mind.

Nicole Eredics, of The Inclusive Class is an Ollibean contributor, and truly one of my kindest and most genuine “virtual” friends.  She has been gracious enough to ask some of her guests specific questions pertaining to H and has even skyped with me after the show with suggestions on how best to incorporate AAC into the classrooom at Henry’s old school. An educator herself, she is truly dedicated to promoting and supporting inclusion. Her website is a vast resource for inclusive education.

Terri Mauro, of The Inclusive Class podcast, is an author, parent advocate, and very popular writer at About.com and mamatude.com. I greatly appreciate Nicole, Terri and the panels patience with me as a first time facilitator. I believe I may have broken the record for saying, “um” the most times in an hour, so I’ve got that going for me. For those of you that know how very talkative and inquisitive I can be..especially when given the opportunity to talk to any expert, you will appreciate the enormous amount of self control I exerted during this hour. Honestly, I could have asked questions to the entire group for days. The good news is they all have great websites that have answers to almost any question you could have about inclusive education, differentiated instruction, UDL (universal design for learning), literacy, and civil rights.

Because inclusion hasn’t been done in our immediate area yet, people here just haven’t seen it implemented. And while our community whole heartedly supports Henry and his right to attend Wilson, I’m not sure they know what it’s going to look like.  So much of one’s educational experience is dependent on a zip code or region of the country. Many students and their families in other parts of the country could not imagine a school that isn’t inclusive. But when you happen to live in an area that doesn’t practice inclusion, you don’t know what you don’t know.

The guests on the show are leaders in the inclusion community. They all brought something unique to the table, but they had one thing in common- respect for all learners. It was so incredible to have all of these opinions, but never hear, “those kids” or many of the very subtle forms of discrimination that can happen even with people with good intentions.

One very important point that several members of the panel made was that while of course inclusion is the right thing to do , morally and ethically, there is also irrefutable data to show that tests scores for ALL students go up when students with disabilities are included in the general education classroom. ALL students.

US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan knows the benefits of inclusion saying, “Almost 30 years of research and experience have shown us that all children, including those with significant disabilities, benefit from high expectations and practices that support inclusion”. The U.S. Department of Education has awarded a five year, $ 24.5 million grant to The University of Kansas, The National Center on Inclusive Education , and  MCIE (the Maryland Coalition for Inclusive Education) to create The Schoolwide Integrated Framework for Transformation (SWIFT) Center to assist school in creating inclusive schools.

See this study on inclusive school reform by Julie Caustin-Theoharis and George Theoharis. The National Longitudinal Transition study offers a great deal of information. Cheryl Jorgensen, Ph.D has written extensively about the benefits of inclusion and her Inclusive Education F.A.Q. is great. The studies show that when students with disabilities  have access to the general curriculum with their non-disabled peers, they are more likely to live independently; that literacy is more important for success than life skills for success for any individual; and, that students with disabilities that are included have fewer absences and  higher test scores.

I learned so much from each expert and know you will too. I look forward to writing about Paula Kluth, Mary Ulrich, Francis Stetson, Torrie Dunlap, Kathleen McClaskey, Tom Mihail, and Lisa Jo Rudy.