Inclusion has been discussed on this blog in the past. I have looked at pluses and minuses in the system and while there are always issues in almost any government created program, the overall goal of the program is one that is too good to throw out.
Recently the outgoing head of the New Brunswick Teachers Association indicated that she felt that the funds used on inclusion could be better used elsewhere in the system. She also felt that disruptive incidents by special needs children made it hard for the other students in the class to apply themselves properly. Then she said that she intended to return to her position as a principal now that her term was up. That to me is incredibly troubling.
Inclusion works when the participants in the program are on board. If some of the participants are not in favour of the program it can create serious issues and those issues are a large part of what leads to the disruptive incidents in class. To put her back into the system as a principal is going to be damaging to any student with special needs that is a member of the school she is connected to because it is going to be one more person in the system that is going to be working against the program. What I would love to do is offer her the opportunity to see what Inclusion looks like when it is actually applied correctly. I would love to have Ms. Smith and Jody Carr (the minister of education and a strong Inclusion supporter) the opportunity to observe my son in his classroom, to see how he behaves, how his EA deals with him, how his class deals with him and how his teacher deals with him. Our son is a prime example of Inclusion working properly. But that was not always the case, Mr Carr in checking through his communication records is likely to be able to see a time when our son was having difficulties in a school where Inclusion was not working to the optimum and where our son was one of the disruptions Ms. Smith discusses. The differences after two years in the new school and in a system that is working well will show just how good Inclusion can be and how it is supposed to work.
Inclusion is a teamwork exercise. It requires the active participation of not only the EA, but also the entire resource department, the classroom teacher, the school administration and the parents. It requires that not only do all of these individuals be on board with the Inclusion process but it also requires that these parties all participate in active discussions on how to best make sure that not only is the child functioning well within the school system, but that all participants understand exactly where the line needs to be drawn. ie. does the child need to be removed from the classroom temporarily on an ongoing basis to help them cope with overstimulation. Does this need to be on a timed schedule or is the child functioning well enough that it can be done on an as needed basis.
Our son functions so well within his classroom because his EA is fully aware of his quirks and the signs of when he needs a break, he also functions so well because his teacher integrates him into the class for all normal presentations and activities even though he is essentially non verbal. He functions as well as he does because when he needs a break his EA is able to see the issue developing and remove him from the situation before it can become a problem for himself, his class or his teacher. And his class uses him as a benchmark and thrive on his accomplishments largely because with his behaviours being so well controlled by a great team, his marks and school work put him at or above the class average in almost all areas. All while being essentially non verbal and largely uncommunicative.
My son used to be a model of the broken aspects of the Inclusion program. Now he is a model of how it can really work.
The most important part of the inclusion, over and above the fact that he is learning at a greater rate then he would under the old segregated system, is the fact that his classmates are looking at him as an example of autism, they are seeing that he is different, but he is also the same and they are seeing that he is one of them. That is what the most important facet of inclusion is. Teaching the students of today that the discrimination that used to happen against special needs children is wrong and that we must never go back, because they are an important part of the our world and they have a lot to contribute to it.