Monday, February 24, 2014

Inclusion for those with Disabilties Requires Educating Society

My new post up at Times of Israel

Last week in Tel Aviv someone fired shots into a house that is the residence for people with intellectual disabilities. The government is investigating and every politician emitted the proper soundbite. But no one actually talked about the underlying cause of the incident…lack of education, a refusal to understand how inclusion works and an accepted pervasive ignorance about persons with disabilities. 

Society, all societies, not just Israel, can talk about inclusion and acceptance of those with disabilities, but until you learn to educate the general population with the truth about those who are different, incidents like what happened in Tel Aviv are going to continue everywhere.  Whether those who thought nothing of endangering these vulnerable people actually understand what an intellectual disability means or how those with disabilities function in society is not immediately important, of course. They committed a crime. They should and must be punished.

Yet it would behoove society to try to learn and rethink how it views those with disabilities. I am reminded of what actually happened when they brought my oldest son back in district in our little hamlet in the USA. He had previously been assigned to an autism only program. It truly was a good situation for him and helped him get over some debilitating hurdles. In the meantime he had progressed and grew as an individual and that placement was no longer appropriate for him. It was time for him to be included in a regular classroom.

Now here in the USA there are many different manifestations of classroom organization when dealing with students with disabilities. Our school district devised a collaborative teaching program with one-to-one support for him and several other autistic children. This means that at any given time in a class of 20 students there were at least 3 adults in the room; the main teacher, a certified special education teacher and one paraprofessional (there could be upwards of 3 paraprofessionals if needed). Meanwhile there could never be more than 5 students with disabilities in that classroom, so everyone received the needed attention, and those students without educational issues would receive the education that they were also entitled to receive. You might assume that a thinking parent would be overjoyed with the added adult support in the class. Well you would assume wrong.

Needlesstosay, all hell broke loose among our very liberal-progressive neighbors. The “not in my backyard syndrome” reared its ignorant and ugly head. Meetings with the school district were called. Lawsuits were threatened. My highly educated neighbors called my son names you don’t call an adversary, never mind a disabled child. Luckily here in the USA there are education and civil rights laws to protect children like my son. The district was in their right to include him in a regular class setting. So my son’s right to an education was protected. But the people that live in the district never forgave him for having the nerve to stay here to be educated. Parents made sure to exclude him from every aspect of childhood and did their best to alienate our family. (We stayed because the school district itself was doing right by our children.)

Read the rest HERE.