Every time I write about inclusion, there are as many who reply that it doesn’t/wouldn’t work for their child as there are who share my inclusive vision for My Boys, and another bunch playing around the middle ground by choice or by force. I, personally, advocate for inclusion as I am an inclusionist (not by Wikipedia’s definition). I want my children included in all aspects of life… automatically. Not as an after-thought. I want my children to be seen first and foremost as children, people, students, human beings. Not as a diagnosis or a disability. I want them to have the same opportunities and choices as every other child has. So they can go to school or play soccer with their friends and “with the regular kids” if they want to. If THEY want to!!! (And, as their parent, if I agree with what they want.) I want what’s best for them… I want the choice of inclusion, instead of being automatically redirected to a “special” class, down the hall, tucked away, where My Boys are kept separate from everyone else.
You see, the difference between My Boys and everyone else is one tiny little chromosome. Besides that, they’re more like everyone else than they are different. They’re really good at some things and not so good at others, just like everyone else. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. My Boys are no different. They need help in some areas and hold their own in others, same as every other kid.
Just to be clear about what I’m supporting here: Inclusion is when a child is placed where he would have been placed if there was no disability, and then supports are added to help him succeed in his areas of special need. Naturally, disability occurs in only ten percent of the population. That means, 2 out of 20 children in a class would have some sort of disability.
Not a 12:1:2 or 6:1:2 class where all of the children have disabilities. Not an integrated class where half the children have special needs. Not a collaborative class where 5-6 out of 20 children have special needs. It is my humble opinion that, with appropriate support, teacher’s can handle 2 kids with special needs. Key words: WITH APPROPRIATE SUPPORT.
The truth is, inclusion for my boys looks like a hybrid approach to education. They are assigned to a general education class with same-aged peers. They are pulled out 2 times per day for 1:1 academics via discreet trial — over the past 3 years of school we determined this was the most effective teaching methodology for my boys — and once per day for speech services. An OT and PT push into writing, art, gym and recess. And, they share an aide who assists with generalizing their 1:1 academic training in the classroom. We got here by fighting our way out of a pseudo-segregated, split-placement that didn’t work at all for us. Instead of starting here and adding supports as needed. Either way, we’re here, included in the general education class and My Boys are loving school this year. (Now to make sure the supports are in place to help them succeed.)
True, My Boys may never be the best students in class. Heck, they might not even graduate with a “real” diploma (since NY state officials decided our only diploma options are regents or IEP… a different problem). But My Boys are living their lives… just like everyone else. They go to school, play sports, have friends and hobbies, hopes and dreams. They have the human need to be social, to learn, to eat and drink and thrive… to live their lives intertwined with others. Honoring those needs is at the heart of inclusion. Offering them the additional support needed to succeed should be a natural extension of humanity.
It’s all about choices.