I have to confess that I was a little surprised by the general reaction to my last post about Ryan Langston attending a special school for children with Down syndrome rather than attending whatever typical school I assume his brother attends. I had sort of expected more outrage by like-minded parents, and not necessarily the “Wait a second, let’s look at the benefits of Special Education” that the post instead generated.
So I started wondering: am I naive and idealistic? Yes, I very well may be.
Nevertheless, inclusion is what I want for Finn, and it’s what I believe in my heart of hearts should be the goal for society as a whole.
I understand that there are lots of anecdotal instances where families can say with absolute conviction that their child is/was better off in a separate, special ed setting. I have to believe, however, that these instances are only true because true inclusion – or “authentic inclusion” as blogger/writer/activist Lisa Jo Rudy calls it – has not been achieved. Placing a child with special needs in a typical classroom in which there is a lack or absence of the necessary attitudes and supports necessary to make inclusion work is almost certainly not going to go well. And the truth is that true or authentic inclusion very likely is difficult to achieve. It takes committment and genuine willingness on the part of the powers-that-be (i.e., the school/school district staff), it takes money to provide the resources, support and modifications necessary for the student to succeed, and I would venture to guess that both of these factors are rarely achieved simultaneously and continuously. So what we see time and time again is so-called inclusion, which isn’t authentic inclusion at all, which often fails. Which leaves a lot of parents feeling like their child will be better served in a separate, special ed setting.
And what happens to a child who grows up segregated in a special ed setting? Does he grow up with a feeling of belonging and equality with his peers? Does he grow up equipped to function in society? Or is he forever instilled with a feeling of otherness and ineptitude?
There are some wonderful articles out there on inclusion. Here are a couple:
The Need to Belong: Rediscovering Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs by Norman Kunc (thank you, Alison, for introducing me to him!)
The Moral Imperative of Inclusion by Kathie Snow
Maybe I am naive and idealistic. And there is no doubt that true inclusion is not an easy thing to achieve. But isn’t it what we should strive for?