By Kodey Toney
The Power of Equality
I’m going to continue my rant about inclusion in the classroom because of a lot of things that I’m working with right now, but also because I feel it’s very important.
Why do we always get this idea that children with learning disabilities automatically belong in a different classroom from others? I’m not saying that all teachers and parents feel this way, but it seems to me that many do.
Jennifer and I attended a conference Friday sponsored by the Oklahoma Parent Center, which was great. They had an assortment of speakers talking about many different subjects including: Improving Access for Students with Disabilities, iPad Apps, 504 and IEPs, and a session that I attended called Basic Rights in Special Education.
The Ellen Kimbrell, the Associate Director of OPC, spoke about IDEA and several other things, but one thing that she said that stuck with me was program first, placement second. Though I’ve heard this many times it was never said quite like this. It’s just one of those things where you get it because it’s delivered differently.
It goes right along with what I’ve been writing about lately. I’ve also read a little more of Patrick Schwarz’s book “From Disability to Possibility: The Power of Inclusive Classroom”, and it includes some more great advice.
I think the second chapter’s title says it all: “Special Education is a Service Not a Sentence!” As part of Least Restrictive Environment it is important to remember that we need to let someone try to learn in a mainstream classroom under “normal” conditions before we change things. If we see that we need to modify then we move to that. It’s only as a last resort that you move a child to a secluded classroom, and even then you need to have a plan in place to move them back into the mainstream as soon as possible. I know that this seems to be a repeat of some of what I’ve been saying.
Let’s take a look at the history real quick. When these laws were being developed in the 1970s there was an idea of segregation in the classrooms. However, as things went on people began to realize that the lack of socialization with others was causing segregation from “childhood to adulthood,” according to the book.
Not to mention, the teachers were not getting to learn about teaching children with disabilities, and the children were not learning about peers with disabilities.
The other side of this, as I’ve discussed before, is that the children were learning to act like others with disabilities. Lack of socializing with mainstream peers does not give children anything to model after.
In the classroom it’s often seen as a distraction for a teacher and the other students when a child with a disability receives help. Some have said that it seems unfair to give a child supports such as paraprofessionals, specialized reading materials, one-on-one instruction, etc.
There is a big difference between fair and equality. We want all children to have an equal playing field. We want to give a person with visual disabilities large print to help them read. We want to give children with fine-motor skills something to help them hold on to their pencil better.
Look at it this way; I saw a picture once with three people trying to look over a fence. One was kind of tall, one was medium sized, and the last was short. They were all three given step stools of the same height. This was fair. The problem was that the tall person could see over the fence, the middle person was eye-level with the fence top, and the short one still couldn’t see. The second slide saw all three with different sized stools that allowed them all to see over the fence at the same height. This was equality.
This is just a little something to think about.