Tomorrow Is Too Long to Wait for Inclusion

Inclusion Is All About Supports

Thaysa-Dan-Habib; an elementary school girl is sitting at her desk using a communication device with her classmates around her and a support teacher behind her. everyone is smiling

If you are not willing to differentiate instruction for the wide range of learners that you have, including students with autism, then you are in the wrong profession.

-Holly Prud’homme (General Education Teacher at Mape Wood Elementary in New Hampshire)

Are some students too hard to include in general education?

It has been my experience that the reason inclusive education fails is never because of the student; it fails because of lack of support or not the right kind of support. The following video, “Thaysa” made by Dan Habib  (Including SamuelWho Cares about Kelsey? and Intelligent Lives), is the perfect example of how a student with significant support needs is given what she requires to be successful in general education.

Is this example going to be the model for everyone? Of course not. The model is the willingness to try and listen to what each student is telling us. Inevitably, there are going to be students (and families) who don’t want to be included in general education. That is okay. Why would we want to force someone with a disability to do something that they don’t want to do? The point is that inclusive education should never be a fixed equation. You are X. Therefore you are put in X classroom with X amount of supports. When we reduce special education to a formula, we are not serving the unique needs of our students.

Inclusion Is a Mindset

Say it with me. Inclusion is a mindset. 

Now that you have said it, watch the video below. It is about 14 minutes long, and it highlights what Thaysa’s school has in place for her to be successful. Then, after you watch it, check out Dan’s other films. You won’t regret it.

Thaysa from Dan Habib on Vimeo.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally posted in 2012 and has been updated with a new featured image, formatting, and new post content. 

A Credo for Support: Don’t See My Disability as the Problem

Throughout history, people with physical and mental disabilities have been abandoned at birth, banished from society, used as court jesters, drowned and burned during The Inquisition, gassed in Nazi Germany, and still continue to be segregated, institutionalized, tortured in the name of  behaviour management, abused, raped,  euthanized, and murdered.
Now, for the first time, people with disabilities are taking their rightful place as fully contributing citizens.
The danger is that we will respond with remediation and benevolence rather than equity and respect. And so, we offer you “A Credo for Support”.

Do Not see my disability as the problem.

Recognize that my disability is an attribute.

Do Not see my disability as a deficit.

It is you who see me as deviant and helpless.

Do Not try to fix me because I am not broken.

Support me. I can make my contribution to the community in my own way.

Do Not see me as your client. I am your fellow citizen.

See me as your neighbour. Remember, none of us can be self-sufficient.

Do Not try to modify my behaviour.

Be still & listen. What you define as inappropriate may be my attempt to communicate with you in the only way I can.

Do Not try to change me, you have no right.

Help me learn what I want to know.

Do Not hide your uncertainty behind “professional” distance.

Be a person who listens, and does not take my struggle away from me by trying to make it all better.

Do Not use theories and strategies on me.

Be with me. And when we struggle with each other, let that give rise to self-reflection.

Do Not try to control me. I have a right to my power as a person.

What you call non-compliance or manipulation may actually be the only way I can exert some control over my life.

Do Not teach me to be obedient, submissive, and polite.

I need to feel entitled to say No if I am to protect myself.

Do Not be charitable towards me. The last thing the world needs is another Jerry Lewis.

Be my ally against those who exploit me for their own gratification.

Do Not try to be my friend. I deserve more than that.

Get to know me. We may become friends.

Do Not help me, even if it does make you feel good.

Ask me if I need your help. Let me show you how you can best assist me.

Do Not admire me. A desire to live a full life does not warrant adoration.

Respect me, for respect presumes equity.

Do Not tell, correct, and lead. Listen, Support, and Follow.

Do Not work on me. Work with me.

Dedicated to the memory of Tracy Latimer

(c)1996 Norman Kunc and Emma Van der Klift

Thanks to Norman and Emma from The Broadreach Centre for giving their permission to republish this Credo for Support.

Five Posts You Might Have Missed

Five Posts You Might Have Missed

Before we take a break for the holidays, we wanted to share with you some posts that you might have missed. We recently celebrated our 300th post (an amazing feat if we do say so ourselves). Don’t worry, we will be around before the end of the year to talk about all the exciting things planned for 2015. Check out these carefully curated posts from this past year and if you feel so inclined, share them with a friend or colleague.

1. 12 Things To Remember When Working With Challenging Students

Let’s face it. Some students are hard to work with for a litany of reasons. Maybe you are experiencing a challenging year in your classroom. Before you throw in the towel or give up hope, read this list of DOs and DON’Ts when encountering students who push you to the brink.

2. Young Man With An Autistic Twin Brother Makes Documentary About The History Of Special Education

Meet Miles Kredich, a teenager with a twin brother who has autism. Watch this short (8 minute) documentary that gives a history of special education and gives a great case for inclusive education.

3. On Being Joe’s Mom: Why Inclusion Is Important To This Mother

One of the most important speeches about inclusion and the mindset of a mother with a child with special needs that you will ever hear. Watch this ten minute video…it just might change how you think about parenting a child with a disability.

4. What Does Full Inclusion Really Mean?

I know that I do not have a corner on the truth. While belief systems and worldviews tend to get mired in rhetoric, the big picture of inclusion (specifically inclusive education) is far more forgiving. My aim in this piece is to clarify a big misconception about what full inclusion really means.

5. Why Bother Giving Access To Curriculum For Students With Significant Disabilities?

A 30+ year veteran teacher gives her thoughts on why it is important for students with significant disabilities to be given access to the general education curriculum. This is a must read if you are a teacher in a self-contained classroom.

Thanks for spending some time with us. If you have anything you would like to add please tell us about it in the comments section below!

Photo Credit: Michael/Flickr

Man with Spinal Muscular Atrophy recounts his inclusion experience at Plant High School.

Man with Spinal Muscular Atrophy recounts his inclusion experience at Plant High School.

Photo Credit: Leo Reynolds/Flickr

Michael Phillips, a 32-year-old man, who has Spinal Muscular Atrophy experienced inclusion at Plant High School as a student.

It is easier to see how students with significant disabilities can be included in elementary school. The demands are often not as high as in high school and the students are usually more welcoming. Watch and read this incredible story of Michael, now a 32-year-old man, who experienced inclusion at secondary school in Tampa Bay, Florida.

Born with the most severe form of spinal muscular atrophy, Phillips could not walk or sit up while attending the South Tampa school. He used a voice amplification device to take part in class discussions. A special switch allowed him to use his thumb to take photos and lay out pages on a computer.

At Plant he experienced “inclusion,” making friends with able-bodied peers and outshining many of them in class. But that followed nine years when Phillips says he was segregated with children who had a wide array of disabilities.

For more visit:

What do you think of Michael’s story? Is this a good example of authentic inclusion? Tell us about it in the comments section below!

Included: Damian’s Story of Inclusion

Included: Damian's Story of Authentic Inclusion

Beginning in 2011, Damian began the transition from spending most of this day in a self-contained classroom to being fully included in general education. These two videos give a brief overview of his story.

While Damian’s inclusion story is not unique, it is certainly not the norm. As educators, parents and advocates for inclusion, we must strive to provide inclusive opportunities for all of our students. There is simply no reason not to start this process (even if it is gradual).

Thanks for your time and attention.

Have something to say about the videos of Damian? Tell us about it in the comments section below!

Smile, Don’t Stare

Smile, Don't Stare PSA - YouTube.clipular

Stares can be hurtful. They can be, of course, benign as well. This short PSA gives everyone an alternative to the stares…start with a smile.

As Ellen Seidman (Love That Max) points out in her recent post…

The stares I break down like this:

The curious stare:What is up with that boy? I can tell he has special needs, but I’m not sure what. Autism?
The pity stare: Oh, that poor, poor, boy with special needs. How sad. Awwww.
The exasperated stare: Why is that boy carrying on in a restaurant? His parents should not take him out if he’s going to act like that. What a brat.

These stares, I understand, as much as I’d like to think that people are looking because Max is so cute (and has really good hair). But the stare-glare, I don’t get. How can you be annoyed by how a child looks? Yeah, he’s not exactly like other kids who walk straight and who do not drool. But how shallow—no, how vile—it is to go by appearances. Or to think that it is OK to blatantly stare at a child.

Read more:

That is why I loved this PSA created by the Lollipop Kids Foundation. Giving people an alternative way to engage a family with a child with a disability is a great idea. Check out the short minute and a half video and see if you can hold back your smile.

We asked families and children that Lollipop Kids Foundation serves a simple question: how do wish people would treat you? Or how do you wish people would treat your child or sibling living with a disability. Here’s what they said.

Help us make these dreams a reality. Join the Smile, Don’t Stare movement. Find out more at

Here Is To The Crazy Ones

Apple Steve Jobs The Crazy Ones - NEVER BEFORE AIRED 1997 - (Original Post) - YouTube.clipular

Is thinking that inclusive education should be available to everyone make us crazy? I guess you can lump all of us in here at Think Inclusive. Here is to the crazy ones…

Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes, the ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules and they have no respect for the status quo.

You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify, or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them — because they change things. They push the human race forward.

While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius — because the people who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world are the ones who do. – Steve Jobs (narrator)

On Being Joe’s Mom: Why Inclusion Is Important To This Mother

On being Joe's mom - YouTube.clipular

One of the most important speeches about inclusion and the mindset of a mother with a child with special needs that you will ever hear. Watch this ten minute video…it just might change how you think about parenting a child with a disability.

The following is a transcript of the Lia Tremblay’s speech at Highland United Methodist Church, Colonial Heights, Virginia. May 11, 2014 (Mother’s Day). This is published with permission.

Good morning, everyone.

It says here I’m one of the five people in the Tri-Cities that you should get to know, but the person I really think you should know about is my son, Joe, who will be 6 years old soon. He loves a good book, enjoys a Reese’s Cup after dinner almost every night, and has some pretty sweet dance moves. I’m not exaggerating when I say he greets every day with a big smile.

Joe is also very different from most children his age. He doesn’t speak (though he makes a lot of noise), his walk is a little wobbly, and he needs help with things like dressing, eating and bathing.

His disabilities didn’t become apparent until he was a couple of months old, when he began to miss milestones and seem increasingly different from other babies his age. I began to worry constantly about why he wasn’t reaching for toys, or pushing up with his arms to look around, or sitting without a pillow to prop him up.

When our pediatrician confirmed that my worry was not just a side effect of brand-new motherhood, and that we had a real problem on our hands, I was aghast. This was not what I’d planned for at all. I wanted to get on with the normal mothering experience I had looked forward to. I wanted the whirlwind of neurologists, geneticists and orthopedists to eventually become a funny story about how we had overreacted to our perfectly normal child’s momentary delay.

So I began to pray, every night and throughout each day, for him to change. Please let him see properly. Please make him notice the toys we put in front of him. Please let him reach for things and play and explore. Please let him sit up and interact with the other babies at the play dates.

Then one evening, my husband and I were watching a documentary in which a man was asked how he felt when he learned that his younger brother was deaf. His answer stopped me cold. I later went back and transcribed it word for word (imagine this in a British accent):

At the time, I was desperately hoping that it wouldn’t be true, that somehow some sort of miracle would happen and he would turn out not to be. But then I told myself, “Well, if he weren’t, then he wouldn’t be the same person, and it would be wishing that this person didn’t exist.” So that wasn’t the appropriate way to think about it.

What a revelation. How much time had I spent wanting this adorable infant to be different, to become the baby I assumed I would get instead of the sweet little person he was? I’d spent years dreaming of a child, 42 weeks carrying him, and 24 hours bringing him into the world, but now I’d wasted so much precious time wishing that I would wake up and find a totally different baby. It made no sense.

So from that day forward, I stopped praying that Joe would become the typical child that we’d planned for. Instead, I began praying that I could become the mother he needed.

That meant helping him to achieve his potential without wishing his potential were different. It meant spending as much time as possible just relishing sweet moments with him, and being grateful for every hair on his sweet head. It meant doing everything I could to make sure that he felt nothing but love for being exactly who he is.

As the baby years gave way to toddler years and preschool years, I was still learning new ways to be the mother Joe needed. I figured out how to keep him involved in those play dates, even when they revolved around things he couldn’t do. I practiced ways to explain his differences to curious children on the playground. I pureed his food, sought out adaptive gear to help him move around, and shopped the sales after Halloween and Christmas to find light-up toys that would pique his interest. I advocated and raised funds for our crumbling neighborhood playground to be rebuilt with features that would make it as fun for him as it is for the kids who can climb and jump with ease.

And I’m still learning. Right now we’re making the official plans for Joe to begin kindergarten. It’s important to me that his school experience is as inclusive as possible, not just so that he can learn from children who are speaking and writing and climbing the jungle gym, but also so they can learn from him. When I was his age, kids like Joe were kept in a separate classroom way down the hall, and we only caught occasional glimpses of them. No wonder I was frightened and overwhelmed by the prospect of parenting one of “those kids”—I’d never been given the opportunity to know any of them. So it pleases me that in 20 or 30 years, if one of Joe’s classmates has a child with disabilities, their reaction might be, “Oh, maybe he’ll be like Joe. Joe was a cool kid.”

Having an inclusive education gives Joe the best head start for a life in which he can become as much a part of his community as he might without a disability. Some of you may know that Virginia is right now in the midst of a historic transition, in which the “training centers” that housed people with developmental disabilities for decades are slowly closing down, and those resources being redirected to help people live their lives in the community, with meaningful work and friendships that are based on their desires instead of their diagnoses. It’s what The Arc describes simply as “A Life Like Yours.”

It’s a pretty straightforward, common-sense idea, but I recently had a startling lesson in how radical it seems compared to a time not that long ago. I had the opportunity to visit Southside Virginia Training Center, where a staff member encouraged me to stop by their memorial garden on my way out of the campus. The most recent burial was a man who had died there in his 90s after a lifetime of institutionalization. On the other side of the cemetery were the earliest graves, marked with concrete stobs but no names or dates. Later graves had first names but no birthdates, or approximate birthdates. Several had died before reaching their teens. It’s astonishing to think how many were left there as children, their parents encouraged by physicians and family members alike that it was the wisest choice. It makes me incredibly grateful to be Joe’s mother in 2014, instead of 1920 or 1950.

But aside from sparking an interest in disability advocacy, being Joe’s mother has changed me fundamentally. I spent a lifetime prizing intelligence above all else, because it’s what I felt I had to give the world. I have been known to have a sharp tongue, and little patience for anyone who couldn’t keep up with me in a debate. I still get a little mouthy sometimes—usually for a good cause—but when you have a child whose IQ falls below average, and he’s your favorite person on earth, you have to question whether intelligence really ranks anywhere near the top of important human attributes. Kindness, patience, optimism and compassion mean much more than I ever gave them credit for.

So it always makes me laugh a little when people tell us, “God gives special children to special parents.” While we certainly appreciate the sentiment, and it’s fun to momentarily think of ourselves as having earned this child by being virtuous and exceptional people, I just don’t believe it’s true. We didn’t get this child by being better people—but I do think we’re becoming better people because of him. I’m definitely more interested in trying to become a better person than I ever was.

It reminds me of a moment just a few weeks before Joe was born, when I was in my prenatal yoga class—the only hour each week when I felt somewhat graceful in a hugely pregnant body. The instructor was leading us all through a guided relaxation exercise, and instructed us to place our hands on our bellies and imagine the baby inside. Then she said something like, “This baby has chosen you to be his or her mother for a reason.” It sounds like hippy-dippy yoga talk, I know, but at the time it moved me very deeply (a lot of things moved me very deeply when I was pregnant) and I remember getting teary-eyed as I thought about why this baby might have chosen me. What did I have to offer that made me the best mother for him?

I now see that statement in a totally different way. If it’s possible for babies to choose their mothers, and he really did choose me, it’s not because of anything I had to give him. It’s because of what I lacked, what I had yet to understand, and what only having a child—this child—could teach me. I’m so grateful that he did.

It still bothers me to think of how much time I wasted wishing not to have this life. There is so much silver lining in this experience that you can hardly call it a cloud. If I had looked into Joe’s crib in 2008 and found that his body and mind were working the way I’d expected—all his milestones met and all my prayers answered—I’d have missed the moments that are now among the highlights of my life. I wouldn’t have enjoyed a cuddly baby phase that’s three times longer than most mamas get. I wouldn’t have had a reason to become involved with organizations like The Arc and the Virginia Board for People with Disabilities, where I’ve met people who inspire and motivate me daily. And I wouldn’t have experienced the particularly exquisite joy of seeing a child take his first, long-awaited independent steps at 3 years old.

Before I leave today, I want to ask a favor of you. Actually, I have three favors to ask:

  1. Be mindful of your words. Most people have learned not to use what we now refer to as the R word. It began as a perfectly innocent medical term to say that someone was mentally retarded, but after that evolved into a schoolyard insult, it became painful for families like ours to hear in any context. Whether you’re making a self-deprecating joke or mocking someone who’s done something foolish, please just choose another word.
  1. Be mindful of your attitudes. Disability is a natural occurrence in humans, like gender or ethnicity. It’s not a tragedy. Even if a person can’t speak, or move with ease, or process information the same way you do, you’re still more alike than you are different. Look for common ground, and think of ways to include children or adults with disabilities in the things you do.
  1. Forgive yourself. I had to forgive myself for spending so much time wishing that my child would change, and I forgive myself regularly for smaller things that I did, or didn’t do, or thought or felt or forgot. Regrets of parenthood seem so much larger and heavier than other regrets, because they’re attached to the deepest love we’ve ever felt. It helps me to recall something once said by Maya Angelou: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better.”

I know better now than I did six years ago, and in six years I expect to know better still. I’m incredibly grateful that this child came along, just exactly as he is. He taught me to change my way of thinking, to fight for things that mattered, and to help create a world that welcomes him.

Most of all, he taught me that what you think is terrible news one day may actually be the best thing that ever happened to you.

Thank you.


If I Knew Then: A Letter to Me on My First Day Teaching

If I Knew Then- A Letter to Me on My First Day Teaching - YouTube.clipular

Today is National Teacher Day in the United States. Coincidentally, it is also National Nurses Day (I know because I am married to one). I came across this video, which was co-produced by Edutopia and SoulPancake, while skimming through my email this evening. It was too good not to share. Teaching is a tough gig. But the rewards are amazing (and not it is not just about the summers off). Watch this video where educators write a letter to themselves about what they would have liked to have known on their first day of teaching. Just try not to be inspired…and then share it with a teacher you know.

Click on the button to read the “9 Things Teachers Do Gladly” from Edutopia.

Will You Stand Up For Inclusion?

The Power Of Inclusion

This video is of Aaron Devries and his Tedx talk on The Power of Inclusion. Check out the 7 minute speech that brought everyone to their feet.

Inclusion of students with disabilities in the general education classroom is powerful. It not only benefits those students with disabilities but also their peers and the whole community.

A passionate advocate for full inclusion for students with disabilities, DeVries shares stories of failure and success. He shares that we have come along way but there are still things that need to be done. In the end he wants everyone to Stand Up for Inclusion!!!

The following is a transcript of the video.

Once upon a time there was a girl who loved music. She loved listening to the radio, she loved to sing but most of all she loved it when her dad sang to her before bed time. I love you my daughter, I love you my daughter, I love you my daughter, my daughter I love you. You’re beautiful my daughter, you’re beautiful my daughter, you’re beautiful my daughter, my daughter I love you. One day her choir teacher told her that she’d be singing in a historic theater in her hometown. She was so excited she came home and memorized the songs in two days. The time for the concert came and they went off without a hitch she sang like an angel and she had fun on stage with her friends. Her parents enjoyed seeing her on stage but their heart ached a little bit. The reason their heart ached a little bit is that she uses a wheelchair to get around and the stage wasn’t handicap accessible. So instead of her getting up onto the stage by herself her mom had to place a chair on the stage while her dad picked her up and carried her and put her in the chair on the stage. Those concerts took place five weeks ago at the Paramount Theater, the girl in the story is my daughter and I am the dad who carried her up onto the stage.

My job is not to save the princess like Mario does in Super Mario Brothers. My job is to help the princess become the best princess she can be and I believe inclusion has the power to do just that.

Inclusion is defined as the “act of including, or the state of being included,” We have always included our daughter wherever we go in the community. If we go to church she comes to church, if we go to the 4th of July Fireworks she comes and watches them with us. If we go to the fair to look at the smelly farm animals she’s there smelling them right with us. But little did we know the power of inclusion was already working.

As she has grown older she has been in girl scouts and had the opportunity to ride a horse for the first time. For the last two years she has been in Miracle League T-Ball where she goes once a week to Rochester to play with other kids with disabilities. On Wednesday nights she goes and joins her Jr. High friends in a class at our church. There has been several occasions over the years where people come up to us and say “It is so nice you always include your daughter in whatever you are doing, you are great parents.” I usually say “Thank you” but at the same time I am thinking “of course we are including her isn’t that what parents are supposed to do?”

But then I remember that the treatment for those with disabilities has improved greatly over the years. Our daughter is able to live at home with us because of the laws that have been passed and the supports that are in place. She is able to attend a neighborhood school and she is able to be in a general education setting with her peers for most of the day. And every Friday morning at 7:10 AM she is at school singing her heart out with her friends in choir.

But even though we have come a long way there is still more that needs to be done.

Right now at this very moment there are students with disabilities who are segregated in self-contained classrooms.
Right now at this very moment there are students with disabilities who do not go to their neighborhood school because either it’s not handicap accessible or the special education program is in a different building.
Right now as we speak there are students in elementary schools learning life skills they are folding laundry, they are picking up recycling and sorting it and they are copying papers while their peers are in the classroom learning math and reading.
Right now as we speak there are students with disabilities who have no choice but to ride a special education bus because that’s the way the bus company wants to do it.

As much as I would love to tell you the things I just shared were fiction sadly they are not.

Inclusion in a school setting is when special education students are included with their peers in the general education classes. When students with disabilities are fully included all students benefit. Inclusion is powerful. As our daughter has been included more in the regular classroom we have witnessed the power of inclusion first hand. She has been invited to birthday parties, she’s had a sleepover after the homecoming game, but most of all she likes when she gets those phone calls from her friends, they talk about their day at school, they talk about boys which makes this dad a little nervous, but the best thing she likes to talk about is her favorite singer Justin Bieber.

In addition to seeing the benefits our daughter receives studies have shown inclusion is powerful for those students without disabilities as well. Students perform better in an inclusive setting, students without disabilities also gain life skills they gain acceptance, they gain patience, and they gain respect.

Inclusion is Powerful!!! The power of inclusion lies in its ability to bring everyone together in such a way that each person’s abilities can shine through.

“A community that excludes even one member is not a community at all.”

Every person has a purpose, every person has a gift, every person has something they to contribute to the community.

If we exclude people, if we segregate people, if we look down on them because they are different we are no community at all.

I believe that if we include students with disabilities from the beginning all of the students will grow up to be adults who value each others differences and they will work together to transform the world into a more inclusive place for those with disabilities.

If you are already standing up for inclusion I want to say thank you and keep up the good work.
If you believe all men are created equal STAND UP for Inclusion
If you believe every student deserves to be included STAND UP for inclusion
If you believe “We are better together” STAND UP for inclusion

Thank you

Are you standing up for inclusion? Tell us how in the comments section below.

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