Thursday, October 18, 2007

What is Inclusion?

Inclusion is not just a place a kid goes. I used to kind of think that way, like...if shes in that classroom, with typical kids, THAT is inclusion. But it wasnt. Inclusion is sort of a state of mind, a commitment to educating a child with a disability while seeing them as completely capable individuals with their own strengths within the classroom. A child might be IN a classroom that calls itself Inclusion, but still not really be INCLUDED.

Inclusion means someone is taking pains to make him a part of the community within the classroom, and holding him accountable too, to being a member of that community. For instance, Ciarra has long been IN an Inclusive classroom. But it wasnt working, she was withdrawing a bit the last 2 yrs, pulling away, sort of afraid to emotionally open herself to the other kids. Intimidated, I thought. Her teacher was wonderful...but....she clearly and fully saw Ciarra as different, and not in a way that made her want that challenge. She assumed things couldnt happen that could have, with care. She loved Ciarra, and so she tended to baby her a bit. To be fair, there was no program around her that supported her Including Ciarra, either. "Here is this kid, educate her" was how it happened.

This year, we went into third grade with a strong belief that what we were seeing before was NOT Inclusion. It was a place, plain and simple. There was no scaffolding to support any of them, Ciarra, the teacher, or the other kids. If Ciarra turned away from other kids or was intimidated by them, then that was fine, "we wont push". THIS year, we have set about creating an Inclusion atmosphere. It is in every second of the daily planning, and it took a LOT of work and a LOT of faith by the staff (and by ME) that it was at least worth a shot. This morning I had my first monthly meeting. And I was told, point blank, [i]we didnt believe this could happen. But it IS happening, in fact it is awesome![/i]

A teacher committed to Inclusion will make it work. She will find things the children have in common, whatever those may be. She will see at least ONE thing in your child he can be successful at and build on that. An example for a little older kid would be...if a child is a good photographer, he/she might take photos for a group project. His or her contribution is valuable, important, and equal.

COMMUNITY is vital to Inclusion. Creating a community in which the child feels valuable, capable, smart, is so important. A good teacher will find those things and let him shine. She will encourage friendships by assigning tasks to groups, by having your child choose 2 friends to take the lunch money to the office with, encouraging friendships along the walk, she will ask kids to make goals that involve personal attributes...things they can do that make the community work better. Like manners, helping one another, being a real friend. She will teach the children to give him time to respond when they speak to him, and find ways to encourage them to need to speak to him within the context of the classroom. "Johnny, are you having white milk or chocolate at lunch today?" and wait for his reply.

If you arent sure about how your teacher will handle this stuff, go to the guidance counselor and ask her to research Lunch Buddies or Circle of Friends. Elicit the help of everyone there to make him feel successful and WANT to engage. Ask the Spec Ed teacher to brainstorm with the reg ed teacher, to come up with a plan. Often, it isnt the placement that is the issue, it is the scaffolding around that placement.

1 comment:

LeeJo said...

WOW! What an exceptional, excellent teacher and environment. We must figure out how to make this the norm!