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The Inclusion Room

July 23, 2008

I’d just like to say that I agree with every bit of this great article. Let me react to some of my favourite bits.

Jane Muir tells us how, because of his physical DisAbilities, her 16 year old son had to be moved out of mainstream lessons, and into the ‘assisted learning group,’ where he’s taught by teaching assistants. This has been dubbed ‘the inclusion room,’ a classroom reserved for DisAbled pupils in a mainstream secondary school.

They are read stories meant for people ten years younger, like Roald Dahl’s The Twits. As Muir rightly says:

 at secondary school, why not move on to Oliver Twist, or Jane Eyre, The Curious Incident or even My Left Foot? What about Wilderness by Roddy Doyle? Why not read something that addresses social issues of race or gender or disability, or something that lifts you into a higher realm of understanding or perception, or that gives you a glimpse of other ways of seeing and other possibilities of being? Isn’t that what education is about?

She says that her son and his class don’t have qualified teachers, because there is no money for qualified subject teachers in the assisted learning group, and they aren’t even seen as necessary, except for music, swimming, maths and English.

Reading this article has made me very sad, because, to quote from Muir again, I am a passionate supporter of the idea of inclusion, but this, an “inclusion room”, is not it.

Of course it isn’t. It hasn’t been for 50 years. The ‘inclusion’ of an ‘inclusion room’ like the one that Muir describes in a mainstream school is not real inclusion at all. It is the opposite. It is a process known as Integration, where mainstream schools let DisAbled children use their building, but not much else.

For me, my friends, our parents, and just about every other campaigner for inclusion in the UK today, this just isn’t enough. We want real inclusion.  We want to be allowed, as I have said in an earlier post, to be around able-bodied children, to learn what they learn and to do, as much as possible, what they do.

Calling integration inclusion will never make integration inclusion. I loved being included, but if I had been integrated, I would much rather have stayed in a special school. Integration would have made me feel excluded and disabled, not, as I was, included, welcomed and DisAbled.

Yes, people did feel differently about this once, but that was 50 years ago. Integration is not what so many DisAbled children and their parents have fought so hard for for so long. We did not fight our personal battles, or celebrate our personal victories, so that this outdated practice would still be taking place. Reading that DisAbled children, anywhere in the UK, are still only being integrated, in this century, has, quite honestly, made me want to cry.

 Sadly, it seems like DisAbility Rights campaigners must fight again. We must, once again, find a way to put a stop to integration and replace it with real inclusion for every DisAbled child who wishes for a mainstream education. ‘Inclusion rooms’ must take the nearest time capsule back to the 1950s. Jane Muir’s son and his friends must be allowed to learn French, Geography, and anything else they want to learn, in mainstream classrooms, with able-bodied children. Otherwise everything that we and our parents have done and fought to do was a waste of our time and our mainstream schools’ money.

This post is part of the Inclusion Rules! debate at Same Difference.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. judy permalink
    July 24, 2008 8:05 pm

    Mmmm….there doesn’t seem to be much appreciation of how difficult it is to fully ‘include’ children with additional needs. A child who can only communicate in noises because they have no speech for example, is difficult to accomodate inside a classroom where those noises constantly interrupt a lesson. It depends on the disability as to how it can be accomodated. The rest of the children in the class will be required to go out into the world and earn their living one day, the SEN child will not. I think considerations such as this have to be discussed to make an argument for both ‘normal’ children and SEN in mainstream schools.

  2. samedifference1 permalink
    July 25, 2008 12:50 am

    Thank you for your comments. But:

    “The rest of the children in the class will be required to go out into the world and earn their living one day, the SEN child will not”

    This isn’t always true.

    And I don’t like to think of them as ‘noises.’ They are reactions.

    If you have some time, please google Facilitated Communication.

  3. Susan permalink
    July 25, 2008 8:41 am

    I think there has to be a more considered approach to inclusion. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. Some children are better educated and more comfortable in smaller groups not the large busy classes of mainstream.

    My son is autistic and is constantly chattering to himself, shrieking with delight or frustration and it would be totally inappropriate for him to be in the classroom making this amount of noise while other children are trying to concentrate and do their work. Children’s right to be educated must be balanced with other children’s right to be educated and this has to be negotiated for the best in each case.

    He lives at home with his family in the community, we go to the local shops and access leisure opportunities in the local community. He is included in society in all other respects.

    I also know of friends whose children have been forced by the local education authority inappropriately into mainstream schools for the sake of inclusion but whose education and development as ironically been set back.

    We have to be sensible, not extreme or ideological about it.

  4. samedifference1 permalink
    July 25, 2008 10:17 am

    Thank you for your comments.

    Even though I am a passionate supporter of inclusion in any method of communication and for anyone with any DisAbility, this has only ever applied to those DisAbled children who are intellectually able to handle a mainstream education, and to those whose parents want one for them.

    I realise and accept that mainstream education is not suitable for all DisAbled children, and that all parents do not want a mainstream education for their DisAbled child.

    What I am saying in this post is that there is a difference between Inclusion and Integration. If the mainstream only offers us Integration into education, then most DisAbled children and their parents would rather have a special education where at least the differences are not so obvious or so unfairly highlighted.

  5. Anonymous permalink
    September 2, 2013 11:54 pm

    I agree with you, but being forced to read The Twits doesn’t sound half bad. It’s a good book, though a kid’s book. In the class I was in in seventh grade, for example, we did coloring sheets and Life Cycle of a butterfly. XP

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