Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Why inclusion saved my kids.

First lets start off with a definition of inclusion.  The original source is unknown me.
Inclusive Education:  All Students educated in age-appropriate regular education classrooms, in neighborhood schools, AND the supports provided so that the students, teachers, and classrooms can be successful.
small boy wearing hoodie
Sam looking a little scared his first day
 Inclusion minimizes or eliminates 'pull-outs'. Its not mainstreaming. Students are still getting the same supports as before just in the classroom. Things like OT, PT and even speech can happen in general education classroom. The key here is support.  It doesn't work without proper support. Inclusion is a journey for a school and district and sometimes the path is smooth and other times there is missteps and you get lost. Its never perfect but so worth it. This isn't a post about educational placements because that should be child driven. Sometimes due to lack of supports alternative placement is the better choice. I do believe strongly that inclusion when properly done can be done for ALL students regardless of behaviors or disability.

Abby does leave the classroom for Braille and other blindness skills instruction. Braille instruction is required for Abby to be successful in school. We have requested that more appropriate times be used. She in in her class most of the time.

Girl in puddle, wearing rainboots with wet hair and white cane.
Abby loves to explore
 What happens at a school where inclusion is practiced regularly is that culture of the school changes.  The whole idea that certain kids are different and what that means changes.   Let me tell you why I will fight for inclusion and why you should to.

Boy with backpack on, plaid shirt, monster tshirt and shorts. He has a big smile.
Sam's first day of 1st grade
I will never forget the day before Sam started first grade.  There was a meet the teacher time and with excitement we went to go check out Sam's first grade classroom and teacher. I am going to share something very personal and something I am not proud of. I am STILL ashamed of my initial gut response. My attention was directed at a boy that was going to be in Sam's class.  A child I don't think I would even have seen growing up and if I did it would only be in the halls as he went to that scary room called many names but no child wanted to ever been seen going into.  I thought in my head. "He doesn't belong in same classroom as Sam.  He will hold Sam back. Something is wrong" I forced a smile.  "Do I say something?"  Then quickly a light turned on.  Sam will no be the only child with a difference in the classroom.  Sam has had a speech disability his whole life. He doesn't talk like other kids.  When you flash forward 4 years later when both boys where in 5th grade I remember thinking how much of a positive experience it was for both kids. Both were part of a community. A community that accepted them as part of their class. A community that was patient with Sam when he shared in the class. I actually tear up when I think of my fears and how silly I was.   For this reason alone I will fight for inclusion.

girl with brown hair. blue shirt and a big smile.
Abby First day of First Grade
Wait wait I have more.  This tale also starts when Abby starts first grade. She started the year with some kind of unknown vision issue.  I remember just flinging her to school not knowing what to do while we focused on trying to figure out what was going on. Even before we found Abby's diagnosis. A math teacher enlarged materials for her. I recall Abby telling me about the teacher taking Abby into the office with the math book. And enlarging the page over and over again to get it the point she could kinda see it. The school set up Abby getting seen by the districts awesome Teacher for the Blind & Visually Impaired. The hours before we got Abby's official diagnosis we had her first IEP meeting.  Things moved that quickly because the school wanted to make sure Abby had the tools to be successful.  The lunch lady was always willing to tell Abby which one was milk and which one was juice while making it seem like it was no big deal. Abby was embraced by the whole school. There have been times that teachers have fought for Abby during field trips. Then when you look around Abby wasn't the only student with a disability, she wasn't the only student who was just a little different because we all learn differently. She was part of a community that saw her as just another kid. The kids really don't see it as that much of a big deal beyond thinking braille is pretty cool.  So for this reason alone wouldn't you fight for inclusion?

It may be scary if your school isn't there yet. I can tell you there were trailblazers before my kids entered the school. It has to start with someone. Why not you?

Ally’s allies help her wings to grow

Including Samuel http://www.includingsamuel.com
Who Cares About Kelsy? http://www.whocaresaboutkelsey.com/
Both Including Samuel and Who Cares about Kelsey DVDs has the option for audio descriptions. 

"The Least Dangerous Assumption", Cheryl Jorgenson, Ph.D., Presenter

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