(I'd ordinarily post this behind my "Disability Discussions" access filter, but I'm in a "Shameless Agitator" mood, and want this to be publicly available to search engines)
I first posted this video almost three months ago (July 31), with no other comment than:
"This man is saying all
the things I've been [saying] about why "C.P. = 'Retardation'" (unfortunate term still common in medical contexts) is Bullsh--
But because he's the "normal" parent, people believe
him. Whenever I've said this, it must be that my C.P. "warps" my perceptions...
I left it there, because it was the end of a long, hot, day. I had neither time nor energy to unpack my reactions, and type them up. But summer's passed, and today is still young. So I'm finishing what I started.
The video is roughly 18 minutes long, and I encourage you to watch the whole thing. But if you can't, I want to focus on these two points that Dan Habib made in this speech:
First, at around the ten minute mark:
56% of kids in this country with intellectual and developmental disabilities spend their entire day in self-contained, seprate settings just for kids with disabilities ... whether it's classes or separate schools. Even though we know ... and all the research says ... that that is not going to yield better outcomes for them. Advocate for inclusion. Advocate of inclusive education.
I can't help but wonder how much of a link there is behind this national statistic and another that I've seen cited around the Web (often verbatim, so I suspect writers of Websites are "copy-and-pasting" each other) that 'between 30% and 50% of children have some level of mental retardation or seizure disorder.' (also note that the presence of intellectual disability and of seizures are often independent of each other, so I find it troubling that the two conditions are lumped together in this way).
Second, at around the eleven minute mark:
I've come to -- to believe that maybe it's really not about [my son and students like him] . . . Maybe it's actually about the other kids. Maybe we need to show that inclusion benefits typical kids without disabilities as much -- or more -- than they benefit [disabled kids].
The truth is that there are all these research studies that are being done at universities that show academic benefits for typical kids who are learning in inclusive settings. And there's one particular study that was done at Vanderbilt where they did two groups of kids they studied. One group were in an inclusive environment alongside their peers with disabilities. The group that worked alongside their peers with disabilites had an average of a 15 point increase in their academic achievement. that happened and it was because when you're working collaboratively with a peer ... with a friend ... with somebody who might need a little extra assistance ... or some coaching ... you're much more engaged in the curriculum. You want to understand it. you want to study it.
On the one hand, this makes me want to pump my fist in the air and say: "[Durn] Right!" Inclusive societies do better by everyone
On the other hand, this passage also makes me angry. There's the obvious question of: "Why should the lives of "typical" children be worth more effort and care than the atypical -- especially since it's out of the control of the children and their families?"
But also: The way Mr. Habib explains
these demonstrably better outcomes has bothered me since I woke up the morning after I posted this. It's an explanation that sounds to my ear very like the medieval Church's endorsement of alms and of begging: Because being able to offer charity is good for the soul. His son is good for his "typical" classmates, because he is in need of their help -- which frames his role in the class as more of a passive, rather than active
So, here, I would like to offer a few alternate explanations for the improved academic outcomes in inclusive classrooms:
1) Disabled students are role models for their more "typical" peers -- they demonstrate the fact that there is more than one way to solve a problem, and overcome a barrier. Disabled students are in a position to teach
as well as receive help in learning
-- so that their presence helps other students learn whether or not those other students ever become their "buddies," or take a personal interest in helping them out.
2) Schools that strictly segregate students by some arbitrary metric or piece of paperwork in a student's file,* are also likely sending the subliminal message that difference is taboo, and demonstration of weakness will lead to ostracization within a stigmatized social group. Is it any wonder, then, that kids don't do as well in such a learning environment?
3) And finally, a school that embraces a culture of inclusiveness -- from the teachers to the parents to the administrators, and which encourages peer collaboration in a way that Mr. Habib describes -- is more likely to be creative in its teaching methods, and more likely to look for -- and find -- solutions to unanticipated problems.
There! Now I've got that off my chest. I feel (a little bit) better.
*The Chesapeake Public School System, for example, mandates that every
student who has an Individual Education Plan (an I.E.P) on file, must
ride to school on the dedicated "special" bus -- even if the child is perfectly capable of riding a "regular" bus -- so the special ed students are being segregated even outside the school building.