Saturday, 28 January 2012

What does it mean to be included?

This has been a topic of discussion in our school community as of late. Parents and grandparents have made comments about how "this inclusion thing" is "ruining" our school. This short-sited view is conceived out of ignorance and my goal is to educate all of parents (and staff who may hang on to this view) that not only is inclusion here to stay, but it is the right of all students, regardless of disability or ability to be included as part of the school community. Until we begin to see this absolute right for students in the larger society, we will continue to bump against these negative views from parents. It is interesting to note that this view was directed at particular students who have visible disabilities when in reality, the child of this particular parent could easily be directed to his physician for possible attention deficit disorder. He has extreme difficulty focusing and remaining on task. However, this parent doesn't see this as a disability; it is just how he is; he is a boy. Really, it all boils down to perception. We include this child because it is his right. Just as it is the right of all students.

Paula Kluth, inclusion advocate, writes,
We often hear teachers and families talking about inclusion as if it were a policy that schools can choose to adopt or reject. For example, we recently met a teacher who told us that her school "did inclusion, but it didn't work," so the school "went back to the old way." Similarly, a parent explained that she wanted her child to have an inclusive education, but her neighborhood school doesn't "have inclusion." Special education is not a program or a place, and inclusive schooling is not a policy that schools can dismiss outright. Since 1975, federal courts have clarified the intent of the law in favor of the inclusion of students with disabilities in general education (Osborne, 1996; Villa & Thousand, 2000a, 2000b). A student with a disability should be educated in the school he or she would attend if not identified as having a disability. The school must devise an individualized education program that provides the learner with the supports and services that the student needs to receive an education in the least restrictive environment possible.
While this points out the law in the US, Alberta is in the process of creating standards for inclusion and re-writing the new School Act. The standards are outlined in the Setting the Direction project and will be laid out further in the near future. One point that really resonates is "taking a strengths-based approach to meeting the needs of students with diverse learning needs and placing the emphasis on what students can do, rather than the limitations of their diagnosed condition."
Take a look at this great video that promotes inclusion. . .

And another promo made as a project at a school by students.

Both great tools to share with parents and staff. I plan on showing the first one to my parent advisory group. I will keep you posted on how that went.

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