By Pat Linkhorn
The word inclusion seems to conjure up all the worst images for many
professionals. It, like it's predecessors, mainstream and integration,
has different meanings to different people. The first thing professionals
tend to do when they hear that they are going to be asked to change is
to have a meeting. Then they go about defining the extent to which they
will have to change. They then deliberate and try to outline the process
they will have to follow in order to comply with rules. Meetings like
this tend to be long, drawn-out affairs where it is impossible for everyone
to agree on the exact nature of what they're doing.
As a parent with two children with special needs, who are in "inclusive"
settings, (which by the way vary because their disabilities are different),
I have to question the need to define the process for so many people who
are supposed to be educated. Is it a need to limit the extent to which
they will have to adapt? Is it a method by which to prioritize all the
reasons it won't work? Is it a stalling technique?
My memory of teachers from my childhood was that they were people to be
looked up to and admired. After all, they were our teachers, the people
responsible for helping to shape our lives and futures. Based on the amount
of resistance I have encountered during the process of getting my children
in inclusive settings, I have to question whether my memory is bad or
whether teachers are different now. Had I been educated in a setting where
the professionals worked twice as hard to avoid doing what was right rather
than simply just doing it, would have made me a very badly educated person.
Perhaps if our professionals thought of inclusion as a way to make the
most of all students abilities, there wouldn't be this need for all the
meetings to define the term. If all people would look at people with disabilities
and say to themselves, "There, but for the grace of God, go I,"
and then go one step further and try to imagine how they would like to
treated if they were in that person's shoes, there would be no problem.
They would help to make it possible for our children to be included in
school, social affairs, extracurricular activities and community. They
would, without the need for meetings, do what was right for all children.
So perhaps inclusion should be viewed as just the right way to do things
rather than a new mandate that has to be met. The way they would like
it to be if it were their child.
©Copyright 2001 Pat Linkhorn
Pat Linkhorn is the Editor of Special
Education at About.com and a professional advocate for families with children
who have special needs. She is also an experienced parent and has two girls
with special needs - autism and blindness due to prematurity. http://thelinkto.com/linkhome