As a parent and professional, over the years I’ve witnessed the confusion about and misinterpretation of the word inclusion. Inclusion is not a prize for those with special needs who can prove their worth, or are well-behaved enough to be seated in a gen-ed class without significant behavioral or academic concerns. Inclusion is instead the result of accessibility and full acceptance, so every student can get the opportunity to exercise his or her right to belong while receiving the benefit of natural inclusion.
Without Accessibility, Inclusion Would Not Be Possible
Something else that I keep hearing is that accessibility creates inequity among students. Many professionals believe that accommodations or modifications can violate the ethical code of education by setting the rest of the students in clear disadvantage in relation to the student with disabilities. However, accessibility is not a tool to give extra power to one student with special needs. It is intended to empower and balance the opportunities in a way that allows the students with disabilities to access information and benefit, to the maximum extent, from what everyone else is already receiving. Accessibility is the ability to create positive and productive strategies that will help the student keep advancing. Personally, I think that accessibility is the term that keeps us from the mediocre and limiting inevitability that many choose: Plateau.
Without Full Acceptance, Inclusion Becomes Exclusion
Another typical situation that affects inclusion is the lack of full acceptance of the individual. Full acceptance has nothing to do with victimization nor with rejection. Full acceptance is the ability to find the balance to acknowledge the individuality of the student and recognize that as much as the student will need accommodations or modifications, he or she deserves to be treated with the same expectations and receive the same consequences as everyone else. The student should never be blamed as a result of his or her disability, but blaming a child is as bad as ignoring him under the assumption that he is not “smart” enough to understand consequences or learn to be responsible for his or her actions like everyone else.
Every time we assume that the individual is not capable enough to learn how to do things better, we diminish him to the lowest possible level which limits all his possibilities. These prejudicial attitudes are always masked under pity or empathy and for that, may not be considered dangerous by many. However, they are probably the worst and most harmful if we analyze the limitations that we are posing on the student every time we deny him or her his basic right of being: make mistakes, and learn from them.
How to Achieve Accessibility and Full Acceptance of the Individual?
- Utilize effective and productive evaluation tools that will allow us to recognize the student as an individual with strengths and weaknesses like everyone else.
- Work together to create strategies that will allow us to strengthen our students’ existing abilities.
- Use passion and creativity when it comes to the implementation of tools that will allow equal access to education.
- Recognize the individual as a human being with the ability to learn and achieve responsibility through the use of positive consequences that will reinforce his self-confidence and self-esteem.
It’s not easy and it never will be. It takes a life of adjustments and modifications. It’s a hard job to maximize the abilities and possibilities of our children so they can become the best version of themselves; however, something that is not in discussion is the worth it of these efforts. Our work is priceless because our children have the right to be treated with respect, dignity, and appropriate expectations through accessibility and acceptance! They deserve this, and so much more.