Friday, September 13, 2013

Changing the mindset---Kids shouldn't have to 'earn' inclusion

I've loved my job this year.  Our school system is trending towards inclusion for all but the most cognitively disabled children!  This means, for me, now many of my children, who once were in a special class, are now in a classroom of typical peers, with resource teaching.  I've been going into classrooms and have been thrilled with how well the kids are doing!

 I've seen:
  • participation on an equal footing in 5th grade French
  • walking in line in the hallways correctly
  • a kindergarten child reading all of his classmates' names
  • kids teaching a peer with autism how to play games on the playground
  • writing sentences with capital letters, commas, and periods
  • perfect writing on the little whiteboard in kindergarten (who would have thought?)
  • regular education teachers taking ownership of the children, nurturing them in so many ways
  • typical peers raising their levels of expectations
And it's only the first month of school!  The kids have made more progress in one month than they made all last year.

As I've been going into classroom, a few things have jumped out at me.  Many, many of the 'regular' classroom population have their own set of disruptive behaviors, learning issues, and emotional problems. As I've watched, several of the children seem to be on the spectrum, with the teachers providing accommodations within the natural setting.  Why should some children have to 'earn' their way in, while their classmates (many with their own problems) are just there?  Sometimes, it's quite indistinguishable between 'my' kids, and their classmates.  Often 'my' kids are better, and unfortunately, 'my' kids are held to a higher standard than the regular population before being allowed to enter the realm of regular education.   Thank goodness that my school system is shifting in philosophy. 

Which child in the photo is the EC child?  You might be surprised.   (Hint: It's not the one acting like there's a tornado drill, which is her position every day.)    If an EC kid had done that on a daily basis, there would be an issue with inclusion.
     The lesson here is that there can not be two different standards for kids and most kids shouldn't have to 'earn' their right to a least restrictive environment.

Obviously, because of my disability, I need assistance. But I have always tried to overcome the limitations of my condition and lead as full a life as possible. I have traveled the world, from the Antarctic to zero gravity.
Stephen Hawking