Nuts and Bolts of Inclusive Education

With the metaphorical bulb replaced, Think Inclusive eagerly gets set to once again shine the “Inclusion Spotlight.” Experience and passion makes author and CLC (Christian Learning Center) Network’s Barb Newman an ideal candidate to feature in the re-launch kickoff spotlight post. Barb and I covered many topics during our phone conversation, with the highlights compiled below.

Barb Newman

CLC Network’s Church Services Director and education consultant Barb Newman

On how education evolved over the years: “It is vastly different. Of course I’ve worked mostly within the Christian school settings but I worked closely with a couple public school counterparts. So, I’ve seen both sides do some changing. Obviously the biggest difference from when I first started (studying education in 1980) is the institution era was beginning to let out.”

“When I first started teaching there were children gathered in one room and all of them happened to have some kind of disability. At that point when I was with the CLC Network I had my own classroom but we were a school within a school. So, we started out with three or four classrooms within a larger Christian school. But the interaction people had with one another, with typical peers, would be on the playground, or the hallway, or in the bathroom. I saw that change with mainstreaming introduced during that time in the later 80s.”

Inclusion before the term “inclusion”: “Believe it or not the term inclusion wasn’t even used then. It was called supported education. We started that first year and absolutely no clue what we were doing, but knew the philosophy of ‘Look, this works better if people are together in classrooms’ and we’re here to help facilitate that.”

Finding inspiration in Scripture: “There were not a lot of models to follow except within the Christian realm we held a Bible verse dear, that was Corinthians 12 where it talks about us all being a part of the body of Christ. I can’t say to the hand ‘I don’t need you.’ Each one brings gifts to the body so that was sort of our assumption and we watched that happen.”

About CLC Network: “Christian Learning Center was literally started by parents whose children had been part of an institutional day children retreat which also ran a school within that institution. When they closed down, some of the parents said ‘You know what? We still want a Christian education for our children with disabilities.’ So, that really birthed the Christian Learning Center. It was very much a school when it started.”

CLC Network and inclusion: “When inclusion began to happen, the whole opportunity to be something different grew rapidly… We are no longer a school. We are there to help come along side of schools, communities to help them to include families who want to send all their children there including the child (with a disability).”

“So, CLC Network now truly is an opportunity to network with an organization that has some expertise in inclusion. We offer evaluation services. We offer school services and we also offer church services. I happen to work in the last two divisions. I’m Director of Church Services division and I’m also within the school division. I’m a consultant for them.”

What inclusion means to her: “I suppose there are a whole host of definitions that people can go to… In the book (Nuts & Bolts of Inclusive Education) I often chose to define inclusion as having two important components ownership and friendship, ownership within that general education classroom friendship as a huge tool to make that happen.”

“Quite honestly in most of the schools that I work that looks different for each child. It is naïve to assume every person is going to require the same supports or the same schedule or the same opportunities. So even within that definition there has to be a lot of individualization to make sure it works for each one.”

Who inclusion benefits: “One of the things I have discovered through this whole process of inclusion and watching that program blossom and watching children blossom and grow is I really thought we started this because it would benefit the child with the disability. What I really know today that it not only benefits the child with the disability, but it impacts an entire community.”

“What an opportunity every student who goes through any one of CLC Network’s partnered schools has a chance to learn! They’re understanding that we all have gifts, we all have needs, and we all fit together in the body of Christ. Grace and kindness we even have towards one another is a lesson I think each person, every teacher, student, and parent leave understanding.”

Stay tuned to Think Inclusive for later this month Tim will review Barb’s latest book Nuts & Bolts of Inclusive Education. To learn more about the CLC Network visit www.clcnetwork.org.