Inclusion holds many pros and cons. The purpose of inclusion seems to be trying to put everyone on an equal playing field and feel welcome, but sometimes I wonder if it really does a good job doing so. While I think that there definitely needs to be wheelchair ramps (referring to ir a la escuela) available in all public places, I think that that sets a standard for creating all other equal public accesses.. such as bathrooms for transgenders and such. I think that inclusion is a positive thing for trying to include everyone, but at the same time I think it opens up the opportunity for putting people in a situation where they "stick-out" even more. For example, putting a child into a regular classroom as an attempt for inclusion puts the special education student in a situation where they are the minority, versus being in a special education classroom where they are one of many. Inclusion can take away from the special ed student who needs the special attention while also taking away from the regular student who loses attention due to the teacher needing to spend more time with the other student. But then again...what are we teaching our children if we do are constantly separating each other and putting labels?
November 2009 Archives
Inclusion can be a great thing. It helps develop social relationships, both for the child with the disability and the children in the regular class. We encounter different people every day; the blind man walking down the side walk, the girl in the back of the lecture hall sitting at the wheel chair accessible table. If we aren't exposed to different people, we're missing a big part of our society. Also, for those with a disability that inhibits social abilities or skills, being part of a community like a classroom can help build confidence and skill. The child can learn, through mistakes and example, what is "proper" and expected of a student in a classroom. Yes, it may be difficult, but making connections with kids his/her own age is important.
It also has its downfalls though. Especially when they're younger, little kids freak out if someone gets something they don't. If one child has a "special buddy" aid, and the rest don't, it could cause conflict, isolating the disabled child even more. Also, it can be distracting to other kids if the disabled child's aid is constantly talking or moving around, or if the child has tantrum or get overstimulated.
My mom is an aid for a child with Asperger's and he is included in regular classes. She says nothing but positive things about how he is developing social skills and emotional control. Based on that, which may be a bit biased, I think inclusion has more positive effects than negative.
In the movie "Ir a la escuela" there were many barriers to inclusion at the public school. The school only had stairs at the main entrance, and had beautiful handicap accessible restrooms that they school did pay to maintain and have in working condition. This seems, aside from being unfair and insensitive to large population of handicapped and disable students at the school, very pointless, especially in the case of the restrooms. Why even pay to have handicap accessible restrooms installed in the first place if they are never going to be used? Another major barrier to that school was lots of the individuals higher up in the school system, who made IEP's very hard to figure out and difficult to schedule. Another major barrier is the fact that many of the parents and guardians who sent their children to the school didn't speak English. This made communication very hard between individuals who worked for the school and parents and caretakers. Thankfully, and luckily enough for parents and teachers in the area, offices were established to help solely with these problems. This was one barrier that people in that school system seemed to be working especially hard on, both with higher officials in the program as well as with parents and community members. People who work in the IEP office take lots of time to clearly explain what to expect and how to act, as well as what questions to ask to get needs met during the IEP. Improvements such as this will help not only the students involved, but the parents and the teachers as well.
Through the movie "Ir a la esceula" and the Berube readings many arguments for and against inclusion were mentioned. My first thoughts on Inclusion are there is no way that a person can ever be completely included. In my last blog entry on normalcy I stated roughly the same idea. There is this ideal human being that is perceived to be perfect, but I highly doubt there is a single human being on the face of the earth who is absolutely perfect. Whether there is an emotional, physical, or mental issue underlying in each individual, everyone has something in there life they wish could be better, at least I imagine so. In the film, one of the first ideas presented was that children go to regular schools, but are separated into "bungalows." There is a constant negotiation to whether children with disabilities should be included in a regular classroom setting and I believe they should. There is evidence that shows when a child is working and learning among other children who help them adapt to the "normal setting" shows improvement at school and at home. This is much more beneficial in my opinion they placing them in a classroom where they are with the same people who push them to be better everyday, where in a regular classroom there are 20 or so people who can be influential. I understand where parents of so called, "regular children" are coming from when they state that these special needs children may disrupt their child's speed of learning, but there is many other environmentally influenced distractions that could do the same thing. Whether it be the way the teacher teaches the material or a child who decides drawing on his desk is more important and the teacher must stop the whole class to make sure he is paying attention. When it comes to determining whether a child should be included or not, Berube creates a significant argument when he says that American Conservatives complain that "inclusion saps resources from "normal" and "gifted" students." He then later comes back to argue that disabled kids are not limited from getting help from one resource, they need many for the best improvement. They may have a teacher who works with them during certain parts of the day, but that one person can't teach them everything they need to know. At the end of the film we watched in class the quote. "Your dreams can be realized, set your goals, and achieve what you want in your future," was stated. This overall sums up my feelings about inclusion because I feel it suggests that every person needs to do what they need to help them develop in the best way possible, disabled or not.
a) for those who are typical
I definitely think that inclusion is a positive experience for those who are typical. If children with disabilities are included in normal classrooms right away, then I believe they will be accepted easier. If the typical children are around children with disabilities at a young age and grow up with them then there is nothing 'strange' about them anymore. Kids can be afraid of the unknown, so by being around kids with disabilities it is no longer an unknown and something to be afraid of or confused about. By having inclusion those who are typical will hopefully not even think twice about someone being disabled. They will know the appropriate way to act around them. One of the kids in the video said he was glad there was inclusion because now he's comfortable being around people with disabilities.
b) arguments against inclusion
The only argument I can think of for inclusion being a negative experience for those who are typical is that the pace of learning in the classroom may be slowed. For example in the movie, the group has to slow down for the boy with the sign language interpreter. I don't feel this is that big of an issue, however. And in a lot of cases the kids with disabilities don't have learning difficulties. They may just have a physical disability which wouldn't affect their performance in the classroom. Overall I believe the positives outweigh the negatives.
Is it a good idea or a bad idea to have individuals with disabilities included in "normal" classes with atypical children?
Some parents believe that including their children in "normal" functioning classes is an oustanding idea. Including children in normal funiction, atypical classes and at a normal school is a good idea for several reasons. One reason is that the child learns how to become more social. The child feels included with peers which helps them interact with their world and learn form other peers. In the movie it was also described that children with disabilities that were included in normal classes learned much more and were functioning noticably better by being in an environment where they could thrive and be pushed in a healthy way to help them function more normally by the atypical kids. Whereas in special ed classes the children were not progressing in their academic material or normal, daily functions.
On the other hand, some people, such as school principals or other speical aids believe that inclusion is a bad idea. They believe that it is a bad idea mainly because of school funding and the time it takes to find certain or speical aids to help these children during "normal school." They also believe that it takes learning time away from the kids who do not have diabilities and it disrupts classes.
In the movie more positive comments were made from inclusion than not. Ultimately, I feel inclusion is a good idea because it helps the children with the disability as well as the children who do not have disabilities. It teaches children, with or with out disabilities how to work and function normally and productively with anyone in a world that is filled with many different races, ethnicities, disabilities and needs. Isn't that what school in the younger years should be about anyways? Learning how to interact and be social with many groups and types of people? To be able to work, understand and function socially in the world to create success? I view this situation as valuable learning time and that inclusion does not take away from learning time.
No matter how hard parents want their children to be included, it's almost impossible to be completely included. It is possible for an atypical student to be put into a regular public school with 'normal' students and interact with them. Even though these interactions are occurring there will always be some sort of barrier. Personally, I believe that inclusion should occur and the school should be doing something to allow this to work as best as possible. A lot of parents are unaware of their rights, which actually is a huge factor to barriers. Parents need to learn that there is a service that can help their child and then take charge from there. Other than physical barriers, such as not having ramps in schools and not having handy capped bathrooms, there are also social barriers, which influences the ability of individuals to engage in conversation and fit in with groups. I believe students will benefit the most if they are included as much as possible while given the need that they deserve as well. There should always be options for the disabled that helps them feel more included and creates equality within the school. In order for inclusion to be successful the school needs to understand the parents and child just as much as the parents and child understand the school. I believe inclusion is possible and parents should never give up on fighting for their children's rights.
In the video we watched in class, the biggest problem facing the disabled children was how to get the help and assistance they needed. I think that the biggest barriers to the children and their families are that they were uninformed. Now I do not believe this happens on accident. The program set up to help these children deliberately makes the information hard to find so that they will not be responsible for giving these children the services they need. I also think that the attitudes of the public are to blame. Most people, as one of the non-disabled children said in the video, are disgusted with people who are not considered "normal" and do not feel that they should be given special treatment. For example, instead of putting in a ramp (which everyone can use) they wanted the disabled children to figure out how to use the stairs. This is unacceptable and if we want to live in a society that is equal and fair we need to change how we look and think of people who are different from ourselves. These children should not have to fight for their right to be included in regular classes or to have an access to all areas in their schools.
After the readings and class discussion I have more factors to consider. For example, average vs. normal vs. ideal. How can we measure it in the medical field? What is normal variation? So with our disucussion of normal I was actually left with more questions than answers. Each question that was presented didn't have a clear cut answer just like normal doesn't have a universal definition. My favorite point we talked about in class was about how we focus on the mode in which someone functions and not the level. For example, we value speech over sign language, yet one can communicate using sign language just as well as through speech. This point however brings up yet again another question. This question being how do we decide on values. So how did the idea of typical become valued? Overall I still believe what I said in my first definition about everyone having their own definition of what's normal, but now I realize there are so many other factors that contribute to this.
Clearly, "normal" is a very taboo, highly criticized and socially debated word. However, despite all of the stigma surrounding the word, there needs to be a standard, something to compare against. Although it is unfortunate, there needs to be some sort of middle ground, especially medically, otherwise how will we ever be able to judge is progress is being made? Maybe we need to a different word for it, maybe that will help solve this problem. No matter what it's called though, some idea and set standard, or "norm" needs to be present in our society today.
I believe that because variability in the human genome is typical, most conditions are "normal" because most conditions are natural. Normal as a category is too broad and is too dependent on context to be concrete, and so using the term to define people is not accurate. Normal is both social and individual, and both must be taken into account. More accurate, I think, would be to define normal by the ability to adapt to and interact with your surroundings in a way that is not destructive or harmful to yourself or to the people around you. If this requires the assistance of others, there is no reason to consider someone abnormal in the condescending manner in which that term is generally used. If, through various therapies or outside assistance, an "abnormal" individual is able to carve a niche in society and function, then it is unnecessary to consider them "abnormal." Perhaps, in these cases, "unique" would be the better term.
From this weeks discussion on what is normal and abnormal I have come to the conclusion that normal is based on ones society and HOW the individual can function in their society. Normal also has to do with not only HOW the individual can function but how productive they can be. What is the most common function in a society creates value and an ideal. In a society everyone tries to reach the "ideal" and that is how "normal" is determined. However, there are variations and levels of normal, it just depends HOW one can function successfully in a society in order to determine normal.
I am not sure if that made any sense, but that is what I gathered from this weeks classes!
What is "Normal"?
In a physical sense, "normal" is what we read about for class today. Being in the average percentiles for weight and height for a certain age, being able to complete certain tasks by a certain age, and just fitting the "norm" at the time, but staying within that "norm" forever.
It's not a wonder everyone is obsessed with "fitting in" and being "normal" today. A long time ago, in the 1900's, a person got in trouble if they weren't. The age of eugenics aroused even more a fear and distrust of people and illnesses not understood, primarily individuals with disabilities.
Karl Marx was a major influence on the definition of "normal" and what individuals needed to do in society to obtain normalcy. He created social standards, labor that an individual should be able to perform, etc. He stated that a successful society would only be able to function if everyone contributed this standard amount.
As is obvious, people have been struggling with the definition of this elusive word, "normal" for hundreds of years.
Who's to decide what it means?
Maybe we should just delete it from the dictionary?
oye, this took a while to remember what to do! :\
When i hear "normal," i think of "typical," "common," "average," ets, as someone who has no physical or mental impairments, and someone who is similar to people i know or encounter in daily life. Granted, everyone is different in personality, appearance, etc, but are similar in nature. Normal, though, changes from culture to culture and place to place. The chinese used to, though some still do, practice foot binding. Here, we would think that is crazy or really weird, yet for them it is something that achieves beauty (small feet). In reality, i dont really believe there is a concrete "normal," yet we try to define it.
conforming to the standard or the common type; usual; not abnormal; regular; natural.
'conforming to the standard' is another criteria for normalcy it seems. However, it seems to be a bit contradictory in a sense, because if autism is natural, and people are born with it, why should they have to conform to the standard or common type to be considered normal? I find it odd that to be 'normal' one must 'conform'. I always thought that just being yourself was being normal. The term "normal" is thrown around so casually yet is clearly a loaded word for many people. I am very interested to learn more about what different groups of people have to say about it.
I think for each person normal is defined differently. I think it depends on the environment one grows up in that decides how he/she will define the term. Even around the world normal is seen differently as seen through the different foods people eat and the different rituals different societies perform. Normal cant be defined its more of a general abstract idea.
This weekend I stumbled across a small collection of poems,
and opened to a page on which I found the poem "Much Madness is Divinest
Sense" by Emily Dickinson. The last few lines of the poem say essentially
that majority rules, and so long as you conform, you are alright. While she was
speaking here about insanity and not necessarily about normalcy, it seems to be
applicable to both. "Normal" is generally defined by society's
standards of what is average. Everything is measured by it, from growth in
children to standardized test scores. "Normal" is a term of
standardization, a tool against which we measure ourselves and others as a way
of determining the way in which we fit into the world around us. There is still, however, another definition: that which is standard for a particular person, and we use this all the time, as well. The key is determining which "normal" is applicable in which situation, and to what extent the abnormalities require different treatment.
"Normal" is typically perceived as the social norm: what society excepts. But who is society? and who determines what is normal? Conforming to what society excepts is "normal". However, to me everyone is different, so what is normal? How can something/someone be labeled "normal" when there really is nothing from normal to be compared to, since everyone is unique.
When I was younger I would come home from preschool often crying because the boys would tell me I was "weird." My mother would reply, it's okay to be weird, everyone is different, no one is "normal." I realized that my mother's reply was right. No one is normal. There is such a controversy and debate about what is normal and abnormal. In essence, is anyone or anything really normal? And who decides what is normal and abnormal?
In my opinion, no one is normal. I hope that through studying what is normal and abnormal I will be able to form better opinions about normality.
What I consider normal is going to be different from what other people consider to be normal. We all have different definitions. I believe a group of people can have similar definitions, but they aren't going to be identical. Just like none of us are completely the same, neither can our definitions of what's normal. We all have a different way of thinking about things and we all have a different background. It is our backgrounds/past experiences that greatly shape what we think normal is. So when people have similar backgrounds their definitions can be similar, such as in cultures and societies. Each individual within the society or culture has variations to their definition of normal however. If we were all the same and if we all had the same definition of normal it would be boring. We would have nothing to say on this blog topic! Basically, what I'm trying to say is that it's impossible to come up with a universal definition of normal, but this is okay.
The Atlantic (November 2009 issue) has featured Thorkil Sonne, CEO and Founder of Specialisterne in the articleBrave New Thinkers.
"After his son Lars was diagnosed with autism in the late 1990's, Sonne had an epiphany. Autistics tend to have poor social skills and difficulty response to stress or changes, which makes finding work a challenge (one study suggests that only 6 per cent of autistic adults have full-time employment). but Sonne realized they also tend to be methodical, possess excellent memories, and show great attention to detail and tolerance for repetition -- in other words, the might make excellent software testers. With this in mind, Sonne launched Specialisterne, in Copenhagen, in 2004. Thirty-seven of its 51 employees have autism...The firm now pulls in $2 million a year in revenue and serves clients like Microsoft and CSC. Sonne refuses to run the company like a charity: he competes in the open market and aims to make a profit. This makes government support unlikely, but it may lead to a sustainable new model for companies with disabled employees: Harvard Business School now uses Spepcialisterne as a case study in social-enterprise business. People on the autistic spectrum are not super human memory machines, but neither are they incapable of work. Sonne treats them as employees with strengths and weaknesses that smart employers should respect -- and capitalize on." (The Atlantic, November 2009, p. 68).