Inclusion Is Not Easy But It’s The Right Thing To Do
I read a blog last night about a family whose son started a new school and was sent home on the first day of school with the administration citing behavior issues. There were no formal assessments by experts just summary conclusions by people with 25 years of experience that this child should not return to the school.
I read this in bed just before going to sleep and it was on my mind all night. It reminded me of our situation 4 years ago when we applied to the community day school that her siblings attended to get Caily into their 2 year nursery program. We were told “no” without the school accessing her or even meeting her. The Principal told us it was the “unanimous decision of experts in the field”.
I often wondered what kind of experts could have opinions without even meeting the child or accessing her. In our case there was simply discrimination based on a diagnosis – there was not even the most basic attempt to consider or assess Caily as an individual. Fortunately, we did find other options for Caily who is now enjoying her fifth year in an inclusion class room.
My mind wondered to all the experts that I have encountered along the way. One of my favorites was a district administrator who told me she was pleasantly surprised that Caily had normal IQ. She then proceeded to peer over get glasses and warn me that all people with Down syndrome plateau by age 6. When I started quoting research that suggested that he assumption was patently untrue, she simply replied that I should prepare myself. So much for her PhD in education from Columbia University.
As we approach the holiday of Simchat Torah where we conclude reading the Torah and resume again I think how every Torah portion has some message about special needs. I hope that in Caily’s world people are enlightened by the Torah teachings. I also hope that this year provides all children with special needs and challenges the opportunity to be included in community and schools. It is not easy but it is the right thing to do.
Originally published: September 25, 2013
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