Things were so simple before. If a student was struggling in your classroom…there obviously was something wrong with them. Not your teaching methods (or curriculum for that matter). Things are not so simple anymore…nor were they ever…really.

The prevailing attitude of “my way or the highway” in education is dying…albeit a slow death. There are those who cling to it because that is what they know. So…I can’t really fault them for it. As with any “practice,” one that involves a community, methods change and evolve…so the educational system of my days will look different 20 years from now.

As public education teachers, we serve a very diverse group. This includes students with disabilities (or different abilities).  So naturally…when we examine the case for inclusion…we are going to see a diverse range of opinions on how exactly to accomplish this. Here is where I am starting from:

Does all really mean all? Yes.

But what about the student who is self-injurious? Yes.

But what about the student who yells and screams all the time? Yes them too.

But what about the student who hits other kids and the teacher? Yes.

But what about the student who can’t keep their hands out of their mouth and drools all the time? Yes…most definitely!

Okay…now I am being just downright frustrating (to some anyways).

You see, most of the people I talk to that are leery or completely against the idea of inclusion (all students learning with their same age peers and with grade level materials in neighborhood schools) have experienced inclusion gone “wild” or amuck. Here are some brief but no doubt common examples.

Example #1: The student (with a disability) is “dumped” into a regular education classroom and the teacher is expected to teach 20-30 students while the special education student takes up most of their time and energy.

Example #2: The student has a significant cognitive disability and makes noises and screams and is disruptive to the classroom. Their one-on-one aide spends more time taking them out of the room than they are in the room because they attract so much attention.

Example #3: The student has some challenging behaviors and is aggressive (sometimes hitting the teacher and other students). More than once they have had to be escorted out of the room for the safety of all students and staff.

I agree…these are awful examples. But do you really think that this is what I or any other inclusion proponent is advocating for? Absolutely not!

Inclusion that is done badly is not better than the alternative (segregated settings) it is just BAD teaching!

Okay Tim! Well…what is the better option?  If there are segregated settings that support children better than poorly run inclusive settings…what is the motivation to change?

That…my friends will have to wait until the next post. But for now…let me leave you with this thought.

When a family has a child with disabilities or a loved one is suddenly disabled…their only option is to include them. During meals, daily routines, visits with relatives, vacations, doctor’s appointments and the like. Each family decides how best to support that person…in whatever context should arise.  Shouldn’t this be the same with our schools? If the purpose of public education really is the leave no child behind…what does that look like for students with disabilities?

Tim Villegas of  Think Inclusive

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