After watching the Tedx talk by Dan Habib about his son Samuel and reading Kelsey’s blog it strikes me how important inclusion of people of abilities is not only in school but in society. This week’s topic is one that I truly am passionate about. I have been fortunate enough in my life to have several opportunities to get know and spend time with many people of mixed abilities. When I was an elementary school student we were paired with a classroom of students with a range of cognitive disabilities and although the classroom was not fully inclusive the partial inclusion model was at some level beneficial for students of all ability. As I continued into high school we again had a semi-inclusive experience. The students from our “Special Needs Classroom”, what would now be the Functional Integrated Academic Program Class would often join us for classes such as Phys. Ed or Drama. Although this experience could arguably benefitted students of all ability it could also be argued that it may not have been providing enough for those students with disabilities. I think that in many ways Kelsey’s story and the story that I share in my first CSBL blog would illustrate how that model can fall short. I think that many students who have benefitted from programming such as FIAP still have needs that are not being met. The problem with FIAP as with most of Education is that you are dealing with a diverse group of learners- in a FIAP room the abilities could be argued are even more diverse. This diversity means that teaching or programming that treats all learns with disabilities equal means that some are challenged beyond their means or some have abilities that are never accessed. This brings me to Samuel Habib- although his story of inclusion paints a great picture of what is possible when we stream all students in a main stream classroom there are practicality issues that can come into play. From the images within in Dan Habib’s Ted talk it appears as though Samuel was the only student with complex disabilities, he also was provided with supports such as a motorized chair and digital devices for communication. These supports certainly would make Samuel’s inclusion much less difficult then it may be for a learner who was unable to access such supports. Also by having a group of advocates who worked hard with his teachers, community members (such as the baseball league), Samuel was able to be included in a full way. What happens to students who don’t have those supports or advocates? What happens when you have a classroom with multiple students with complex disabilities (physical and cognitive)? How much do we expect a single teacher to carry in terms of adaptations and UDI while maintaing a commitment to curriculum goals?
There are so many questions when it comes to providing the inclusive experience all students deserve. The key is making sure we get as close as possible.
My one question for today is how do we provide these supports for learners in a school environment where funding is being cut all the time? How do you ask teachers to take a 3.5% pay cut and then ask them to increase their workload to support all students while EA positions are being lost? In short how do we convince the Government of Saskatchewan that it is worht investing in Education and in EVERY student?