Sunday, August 19, 2007

inclusion?

I haven't decided what my final opinion is on this. It changes daily, depending on how the kids were that day, how the teachers were, and my own energy level.

We are a full-inclusion school, which is incredible. Last year the speech therapist even came into my room to work with the kids instead of pulling them out. Except for the children receiving reading recovery, very few students are ever 'pulled' at my school. Considering some of the significant needs a few children have, as well as our high English Language Learner population, this is really something we work hard to make work. In many ways it's incredible and contributes to the loving and accepting nature of our school community.

Is it always best for every child? As a classroom teacher I had a child who had previously been self-contained at another school. We watched him come in with one set of behaviors and slowly develop behaviors reflected in traditionally developing children. I also had a child with autism who fit in perfectly. I think my first graders would have been shocked if anyone had suggested there was something different about him.

Then there are the kids who sit in an inclusion classroom, but don't achieve. Is it really their least restrictive environment if they are too scared to open their mouths because they are embarrassed of their ability? Or if the teachers are only managing their behavior to make them fit, but never really contributing to their actually education. Learning how to interact with others is arguably the most important skill you learn in school, and is an essential life-skill for children with communication disorders like autism. Yet sometimes it feels like we're maintaining sanity instead of educating.

I have a few children this year who require separate hours in a special education setting. Although this is very rare at my school I have been allowed to continue to meet these IEP requirements. Their growth in 3 weeks has been amazing. I watch them come to our group and let themselves relax for the first time all day. Originally did not participate in their classroom, but in group we've been able to work on skills to give them confidence. As they became comfortable in a small setting they have slowly begun to apply those skills in the classroom.

The thing is, the subject of inclusion is never going to be black or white. Every child is different and there is no one right answer.

In my first few weeks as a special education teacher this question continues to pop into my head frequently. Is this the best way to serve my kiddos' needs? I am sure I will continue to debate it in my head. I'd love to hear your comments and thoughts.

3 comments:

Herdingcats said...

You've really put your finger on the basis of teaching as an art. Special ed students have a lifelong advantage over their "normal" counterparts in that they have been habituated to daily changes in situation from an early age. They are far more sensitive to the composition of peers, time of year, and other stressors than others.

By the time Special Ed kids learn to roll with the punches of life, they have developed a highly sophisticated skill set of coping through the help of angels like you. Later, when they are in multi-tasking professions, they can handle the stresses better.

Learning Disabilities particularly are like this. I think that your emphasis on the personal skills is really key to including them in the regular life of a child in school.

Jenny said...

Inclusion is not for every child, but it works so well for many. I'd hate to see us go back to the days when so many students were put into special centers. I also think there has to be a better way to help kids who need extra support rather than make them spend good chunks of their school day traveling from their general education classroom to another location for special education, English language instruction, or speech. Those kids need more time in the classroom, not less.
Teachers have to be given the opportunity and responsibility to help determine the best instructional model for each student. This should be true whether kids have any special labels or not. Every kid has unique needs.

organized chaos said...

You both make such great points. HC, I love your point about how they will perform in multi-tasking professions.
There is an interesting article in the post magazine today that discusses the culture of Gauldette and the difference between the students who were 'mainstreamed' and those who were in deaf school settings.
Jenny, you make such a great point about the opportunity teachers should be given to determine the best course of action, despite the special labels or not. I've heard people advocate for giving everyone labels merely for the 'gifts' the school system provides with such labels.
Overall though, it should come down to the teacher's educated discression. It doesn't have to be between 'pull-out' and 'inclusion' but something inbetween. We make that work with small group instruction inside the classroom,like guided math and reading groups.
Teacher collaboration also supports this model. The more we work together the more we'll find answers for meeting everyone's needs.
Thanks for your thoughts!

A think tank focused on creative solutions for future problem solvers -tree