How can inclusive education work better?
Whoever said it takes a village to raise a child was nothing short of genius. The concept of inclusive education is not a new one. In 1975 the Education for all Handicapped children and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) lead to the declaration that every child with a disability had an inalienable right to education in the most appropriate setting for that child. Since 1994 inclusion has theoretically grown further to be enshrined at the same time that discrimination and segregation have been rejected. However, inclusive education is about the child’s right to participate and every schools duty to accept the child. Essentially inclusion rejects the use of ‘special schools’ or ‘special classrooms’’ to separate learners with disabilities from those without. Fully inclusive schools, which are rare, have to be restructured so that all students learn together. We should be less focused on the label assigned to a particular child and more on the symptom that has an effect on the level of functional ability of the child, the family and ultimately the community and that is why we believe that any child is the responsibility of the community as a whole. ALL children benefit from an inclusive learning environment. When children are part of a learning environment that reflects the similarities and differences of people in the real world, they learn to appreciate diversity and friendships are developed in a space where judgement is absent – an incredible life skill! Mainstream children also tend to show a greater development in moral and ethical principles in an inclusive learning environment. Many children with disabilities however need accommodations in order to participate fully in the classroom. Teachers and other staff need current information, skills training, and even additional staff in order to accommodate these children. Co-teaching is an appropriate service delivery approach in these circumstances whereby a comprehensive team of System Practitioners, Educators, Occupational Therapists, Physiotherapists and Psychologists can work together. Teachers and related professionals who are flexible and have good judgement are likely to be successful in this role. This approach increases instructional options, improves educational programmes, reduces stigmatization and provides support for professionals working in this exceptionally challenging field. Although once hailed as a way to increase achievement while decreasing costs, full inclusion does not save money, reduce learner’s needs, or improve academic outcomes. A full set of services and resources is required including well designed, individualized education programmes, professional development of all staff involved, reduced class size and collaboration between teachers, parents and administrators. This philosophy needs to start in pre-schools and day-cares but most importantly within ourselves.
My World embraces this philosophy completely and would like to journey alongside you and your family if you have children that would benefit by being a part of this way of thinking.