Tomorrow Is Too Long to Wait for Inclusion

I Can Hear You: A Poem

I Can Hear You

Have you ever heard a teacher talk about what a student with special needs could or could not do? Have you heard a teacher call a student “low” while they were sitting right in front of them? This poem, from the Teaching Learners with Multiple Special Needs blog is pitch perfect.

I can hear you.
It seems like you don’t know that,
Do you?
I am sitting here,
In this chair.
Trying as hard as I can.
Or I was, at least.
Are you?
You ask me questions,
But you won’t wait for me to answer.
You talk so fast.
And you don’t check that I am ready.
When I’m quiet I’m good
When I’m noisy I’m bad
You boss me around,
Press this,
Touch that.
If I do or if I don’t,
It doesn’t matter.
You have already decided.
You have decided that I can’t.

Read the rest of the poem HERE.
Please visit Teaching Learners with Multiple Special Needs for more resources and ideas for teachers of learners with severe, profound, intensive, significant, complex or multiple special needs.

Opinion: Open-Mindedness Needed for Inclusion to Thrive

Effective communication helps solve interpersonal conflicts

Effective communication helps solve interpersonal conflicts.

Embarking on your daily routine day after day can lead to accidental close-mindedness, a fact reader feedback reminded me recently. Sure enough the feedback came from our fourth “Inclusion Spotlight” subject Melanie Broxterman. After reading my Handicap This blog post “Cerebral Palsy Tip- Eliminate ‘Embarrassment’ From Your Vocabulary” Melanie reached out to me via Twitter. In-part she commented to me “I need to read more from individuals w/ perspectives like yourself.”

Her comment spoke to a sentiment I consider important for all involved within the education system, parents, teachers, intervention specialists, administrators, all. Stay open-minded to each other’s perspectives. Heck, if you recall my introductory post “First Day: Hello My Name is Zachary” I share my excitement towards the opportunity to better understand the education process from the educator’s and the parent’s views.

Open-mindedness allows inclusion to thrive. Simply look to an IEP team’s structure for proof. Parents, general education teachers, the various special education professionals, and the student can individually bring unique insights to the metaphorical or literal table. Their perspectives together enable the IEP team to form the best plan possible.

Yet what happens if IEP team members close their minds off to one another? An example, say the education professionals casts the student’s parents off as overly optimistic and unreasonable. Such a dismissal could leave a credible suggestion gone unheeded.

Obviously advising someone to maintain an open mind and then putting said advice into practice remains a challenge. Surely most, if not all, teachers reading this could recall that parent who when you hear her name, you sigh and say “Here we go again.”

Meanwhile parents reading this may possess the parental equivalent, growing angry at a specific teacher’s mere name. “Mr. Filler never gave my son a chance. He saw Stevie’s diagnosis and unjustly determined Stevie unable to learn.”

On the most basic level the aforementioned hypotheticals stands not an educational issue but a communication one. A seemingly simple task of communication in reality proves complex and at the occasions discussed here downright difficult. Fittingly enough I studied communication in college so I picked up a few strategies to employ to prevent a disagreement escalating into an emotionally charged shouting match.

Asking questions works to address these situations. For instance my friend from college now works as a general education teacher. We ended up going to a concert together in a group containing a mutual friend, and also my friend’s co-worker.

When I meet new people I almost automatically search my memory to recall any past writings which may intrigue my new acquaintance. Thus on autopilot I started. “You’re a teacher? Oh, I’ve written articles about education. Most recently I did some pieces about inclusion for the upstart Special Education Guide.”

“I’m not a big believer in inclusion” she responded. Gut reaction to a response like that entails a jump in logic. If not a believer in inclusion, you think all students with disabilities belong in a segregated special ed classroom. Rather than sparking an argument I kept a calm demeanor and pursued clarification.

“What are your objections to inclusion?” I coolly asked. Through my question and further dialogue I discovered she actually objects to placing students at a lower grade level intellectually in general education classrooms with their same aged peers. Yes, still a debatable topic but at least a topic with more nuance.

Admittedly, the questioning strategy will not work with everyone. Some individuals you cannot reason with. However, based off personal experience, I believe most people remain approachable. Even if a conversation utilizing the questioning strategy becomes heated, don’t instantly label the other person close-minded. Tempers could flair due to miscommunications.

Expose misunderstandings by using reflective listening. Reflective listening works by paraphrasing the other person’s words to confirm you accurately interpreted his or her message. Say a parent expresses concern over an educator who utilizes social networking as a teaching tool. The parent may complain “I don’t want my son on these sites because the Internet is filled with predators.”

The teacher could respond using reflective listening. “So online safety is your concern?” After the parent says yes, the teacher can expand on how he promotes online safety to his students.

Familiarizing yourself with communication strategies like questioning and reflective listening will provide greater ability to maintain an open mind and thus allow inclusion to better thrive.

Do you agree? Share your thoughts by commenting below.   

*Image courtesy of Idea go /

An Invaluable Lesson

Peyton Goddard

By Pat and Diane Goddard

By 1991, Peyton Goddard, then 16, had had enough of segregation. The finale was five years in the most restrictive educational private school placement San Diego schools had to offer. “Institutions, defined by me are any place that all people are not included Peyton writes so they can better live the wonders of creation.”

She began the road back into the community led by two teachers who introduced Peyton and her family to TASH via its newsletters. Although Peyton is nonverbal and in perpetual motion when not actively intellectually engaged, these teachers began to build inclusive opportunities for her in general education classrooms, at first on a high school campus and later a local college campus.

TASH and its principles changed Peyton’s life. In 1995, she and her supporters stood together on stage in San Francisco to receive the TASH Collaborative Advocacy Award. In 1997, three months prior to leaving the school district, she was accommodated to use the strategy of facilitated communication and began to ask for a real education.

In fall 1998, Peyton enrolled in the child development program at Cuyamaca Community College in East San Diego. Four years later she graduated as class valedictorian with complete fulfillment of all academic responsibilities and a 4.0 GPA in her general studies major. She had recently moved into her own apartment, supported by San Diego Regional Center’s Supportive Living model. Today Peyton is a poet and writer espousing all persons as “vastly valuable.” 

This article originally appeared in a document published by TASH in 2008 called When Everyone Is Included. For more information on the important work TASH does please visit their website and follow them on Twitter. This is the fifth article in a series. The first article can be found here, the second can be found here, the third can be found here, and the fourth can be found here.

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