Friday, September 11, 2009
Including kids with special needs in mainstream classrooms (and ALL parts of life)
I've been thinking a lot about inclusion lately. It started when I read a post on Tiptoeing Through The Tulips about how Cristin's happy to keep her little boy Graham, who's deaf, in a school for the deaf.
I am totally with her on that one. After Max aged out of Early Intervention, we pretty much decided that he'd be best off in a school for kids with special needs. Between all the OT, PT and speech therapy he needed, it made the most sense. I also wanted teachers who specialize in working with kids who have disabilities to be on hand to help with other skills, like feeding and toilet training.
I still feel content with having Max in a special school (he's bussed there, our district pays for everything), though over the years I've certainly made requests about how he's "included" there. Back when he first entered school, I felt that Max should be in a class where he was functioning mid-way between the other students; I wanted him to have kids to look up to, for inspiration, and also kids who he was ahead of, for confidence. This year, though, I wanted Max to be in a class with mostly verbal other kids and a class that posed more challenges to him. It won't be easy for him, but he's ready.
When Max was just under two years old, I read this article in The New York Times Magazine about a kid named Thomas who has cp. His dad, Richard Ellenson (I blogged about their recent visit with The Yankees), had worked the system to get his child included in a mainstream class. It was a herculean feat, and I clipped and saved the article for inspiration. Over the years, it's given me pause; should I be pushing for Max to be around typically-developing kids? While I'm still content in my decision, inclusion may very well be in his future.
There's a documentary out on the topic that I'm so eager to see, Including Samuel; I first heard of it through the awesome AZ Chapman who writes the blog Life and Times of A Teen With Disabilities. Shot and produced by photojournalist Dan Habib, the film is about his son, Samuel, who has cerebral palsy and his family's efforts to include him in all parts of their lives. The film also follows four other people with disabilities and their families. I quote from the site's description: "Including Samuel is a highly personal, passionately photographed film that captures the cultural and systemic barriers to inclusion." It's airing on TV stations around the country over the next two months, here's the schedule.
Dan has kindly offered to give away two DVDs of Including Samuel; he asks that whoever wins one commits to hosting a viewing party with at least ten people, and then reports back on how the screening went/reactions people had/discussions it inspired (you'll receive a packet that explains how to plan the party and report back).
Leave a comment below with your thoughts on inclusion and children with special needs, and you'll be entered to win; the contest will be open until Sunday September 20, and I'll announce the winner on Monday September 21. Note, it is best if you submit a comment using a Blogger I.D.; if you leave a comment as Anonymous, please include your name and e-mail.
There's something about Samuel that reminds me of Max! Just look at his beautiful face in this clip from the film.