The Dream of Inclusion (Part 1)
Merriam-Webster provides an educational definition as its fourth entry for the word inclusion.
“the act or practice of including students with disabilities in regular classrooms.”
Parents of special needs children, like my wife and I, are divided on the value of inclusion. Some find it to be unhelpful, others essential, while still others occupy the middle ground of uncertainty, because they fear how their child will be treated.
Parents of non-disabled, or as I prefer typical children, also tend to be divided on inclusion. Some welcome the process as long as it doesn’t interfere with the education of their child, others are completely against it, while another fairly large group remain uninformed as to its implications.
Wrightslaw is a helpful legal resource for special needs families, and they make a very important point in answering questions about inclusion. That point is that the “the term “inclusion” is relatively new and not included in the IDEA statute or regulations.” I take this to mean two things: 1) Inclusion is so new that its practice, availability, and the policies defining its place in our schools remains unclear 2) Inclusion is a significant social change for our schools and society as a whole.
While I don’t have all the answers about inclusion, I do believe that our children, schools, and society as a whole would be made better if we were able to successfully include children with disabilities in classrooms with their typical peers. Failure to do so insures the isolation of those with disabilities in adulthood, and a lost opportunity for rich relationship diversity on the part of those who are typical.
Inclusion is something I have been working on personally for several years, and have been fortunate enough to have experienced some success within a program called E-Soccer. I hope to share lessons learned from this experience that will help others believe in, and effectively build inclusive communities. I also hope to learn from many who are doing great work in this area around the world.
I didn’t always believe in inclusion or even think about it. I was uncertain about the future our children with special needs might have with regards to mainstream society.
The origin of my belief in the possibility of inclusion actually began when I caught a vision from a Forbes magazine article written by Peter Huber.
He wrote a forward thinking essay about the possibility of technology becoming a “social equalizer and cognitive leveler”. For me those words meant that in the future anything might be possible. I plan to say more about this in part two of “The Dream of Inclusion”.