It’s Time for an Inclusion Update

“After nearly two decades of inclusion, we know that ensuring students with disabilities have access to the same educational environments as their peers has resulted in significantly improved outcomes. Twenty years later, progress to fully include all students has stalled, says Sarah Barnes in a guest post on Education Education Week is an independent news organization that covers American education system up to grade 12.  

In a guest post Ms. Barnes is the Education Specialist Program Manager of High Tech High Charter Schools in California. “We need to update our inclusive approaches to include student voice and advocacy while making room to celebrate a student's success through a deeper learning lens.” Here are Ms. Barnes’ suggestions for how to update the concept of inclusion in education (condensed):

 Update 1: Include Inclusion

When discussing equity in education, when we include topics of ableism and perceived ability or disability when examining issues of equity, we not only uncover unexamined barriers to learning and access for students with disabilities; we also unpack unacknowledged privilege and bias that prevents students of all ability levels from benefiting from and meaningfully collaborating with each other.

Update 2: Understand that “Mainstreaming” Is Not “Inclusion”

Putting all students in the same room is not inclusion. It is important to define inclusion as the design of inclusive contexts; meaning that we call a practice inclusive if it provides access to curriculum and community, not just to a seat in the room. When we empower all teachers to have ownership over providing access to a deeper learning curriculum for all students we encourage instruction in multiple formats, we empower students to showcase what they've learned in a variety of ways. 

Update 3: Embrace Neurodiversity

The Neurodiversity movement is fuelled by those in the autism community who do not want to be viewed as "disordered."  Neurodiversity argues diverse neurological conditions are the result of normal variations in the human genome and as such do not require fixing.

Update 4: Champion "Nothing About Us Without Us"

"Nothing About Us Without Us" is a call for a seat at the table for people with disabilities when services, accommodations, and policy aimed at people with disability are discussed. Our current Individual Education Program/special education process is governed by legal mandates that are tied to a medical deficit model that insists that we diagnose and pathologize students in order for them to receive "help."

The author concludes that the best way to humanize and personalize this often-impersonal process is to make student-led IEPs the norm rather than an exception.

Read the full article here: