This semester I had the privilege to study under Dr. Peter Paul for the second time through his inclusion course. My understanding of the importance of inclusion and the social model of disability was radically changed as a result. The course culminated in drafting our personal philosophy of inclusion. Below is mine:
Differences should not dictate separation. We must understand that schools are more than spaces for meeting IEP goals and lesson objectives. They are learning communities. Communities are built on relationships. Every member of a learning community is entitled to these relationships regardless of ability or any other difference. Education policy and practices that approach inclusion as a privilege to be earned infringe on a child’s rights to be an active participating member of their school community. My philosophy of inclusion is that all children should start in the general education classroom and their wishes and that of their parents should dictate where they progress to.
With that being said, the four walls of a general education classroom are not sacred. Children can be included in their learning community without staying in the general education classroom for the entirety of the day. Many children, regardless of ability, prefer the attention and calm of working with a teacher or therapist in a small group or individually. It is important to not get caught up on where instruction is taking place, but how it is occurring. Is it during specials time? Are the other children in the class talking to the paraprofessional instead of the student they are supporting? Is the content being taught relevant to the general education curriculum? Inclusion is a feeling of belonging, not a location.