For most people going into the education profession they know what the term “Inclusion” means, but just in case you don’t here is the definition. Let me start by saying two things before I delve into this:
- I did not grow up in a place where inclusion was really a part of the school’s culture.
- Inclusion is extremely important.
As a person not majoring/minoring in Special Education, some people have asked me why I think inclusion is so important. That starts with where I went to school. I grew up in a small town where I graduated with about 85 other students. Our physically and mentally handicapped population was small and I rarely saw them while in school. They were given their own stuff to do and we were too.
About a year and a half ago I had to take an Adapted Physical Education class (PES 346, though I always forget the numbers). This class made me believe that inclusion needs to be the common practice for all schools (which I believe is becoming more of a trend). In this class we were assigned a student from the local middle/high school and they were our buddy for the semester. During the semester we would meet up as a class on Fridays with our student and we would adapt a Physical Education lesson for them.
The student I was assigned to was named “Timothy”. Timothy was a very happy student who had lost much of his brain function at the age of 12 when he drowned. When he was brought back after about 15 minutes of being legally dead there were serious repercussions. Timothy could understand what I was saying to him but could not vocalize anything other than sounds. He had also lost most of his movement skills. He was bound to a wheelchair and only really had use of one arm, while the other was locked into a bent position. He was a great, happy kid who was a willing participant and also liked to look at pretty girls while walking around the SAC.
While spending time with Timothy was great, it was showed me why inclusion is so important to do in schools. I had no idea how to implement a good lesson plan for Timothy, and no idea how to really even spend time with him. I enjoyed his upbeat attitude but I really didn’t have any experience being around a student with disabilities. Through time spent with him I learned how to do certain things with Timothy but there was definitely a learning curve. Plus, I had the benefit of teaching him in a one-on-one setting. There weren’t 25 extra students in the classroom (there is a good chance you will have this scenario) to draw my attention away. While talking about inclusion in another EDU class one of my friends looked at me with fear in her eyes having experienced the same type of non-inclusiveness in k-12 while realizing that students with disabilities would be in her classroom. Non-inclusion in our formative years will seriously effect our effectiveness in the classroom for these students who need our help the most.
Not every student with an impairment will have as severe disabilities as Timothy, but there is definitely a learning curve to help teach these students effectively. That is why I believe inclusion would have helped me at a younger age, and why I was thankful for that class. Not all classes that I have taken have been ones that I will take with me into the field of teaching, but that one definitely was.