Wednesday, March 1, 2017

If he could just walk

Inclusion is being talked about a lot in Education it seems. Hooray! It's all going to be peace, love and equality from here on in!  But what does inclusion mean? What does it mean to you?

I guess to me inclusion means letting everyone in. Not isolating others because of difference but rather celebrating diversity and focusing on everyone's strengths. Neurodiversity is a word I'm liking at the moment. Inclusion then requires people to understand and value the differences of others. 

Last year I completed an online course of webinars by Autism specialist and advocate - Sue Larkey. I've been on Sue's email list for many years now and love her tip sheets and resources. A lot of what I learned on the course is not unfamiliar to me but I really enjoyed the reminders of strategies and the stories of children, adults and families that she has worked with.

One of Sue's messages is - Fairness doesn't mean everyone having the same thing. Fairness means everyone having what they need to succeed.

I think that standardised testing is a thorn in the side of inclusion. If teachers see test results as a requirement rather than an indication of learning and a way to infer their planning, then they will see students who do not test well as a problem. A red cross in their data sheet. I spoke to a parent recently who was worried because his Autistic son was not meeting the National Standard. He was concerned at how this would impact on his son's feelings of self worth. 

Because people with Autism and Aspergers don't have an obvious physical difference or disability the strategies that might support them are often disregarded. My son has been fortunate to have had some teachers that have valued his strengths. I would find that it was just their ignorance of Aspergers and once I explained his difficulties, many would try to adapt lessons and be more considerate of his needs. 
However, not all his teachers were as understanding.
I remember one of my son's school reports at Intermediate. Almost every teacher had included in their comment - he just needs to focus more and be less distracted.  
I would have liked to have written a report for the teachers and have included in my comments - my son would enjoy school and be more successful if you could differentiate your programme to focus more on his abilities rather than punish him for his disabilities.

Thanks to Sonya Van Schaijik, I read a piece of Steve Silberman's speech to the United Nations. He talks at one point about the time and resources that have been put into preventing Autism and the lack of support and understanding for Autistic people.
"Imagine if society had put off the issue of civil rights until the genetics of race were sorted out, or denied wheelchair users access to schools and public buildings while insisting,
"Someday, with the help of science everyone will walk." "

To be able to achieve inclusion we need to be more open and vocal about ASD so that people have a better understanding. It is my opinion that ignorance creates the biggest hurdle to inclusion. 

I spoke about my son's report to a lovely RTLB and her response was much like Silberman's, - "so if your son was a paraplegic they would be saying that he would do much better if he could just walk."

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