Sunday, August 24, 2014

Back To School: Inclusion

In a few short days I will be taking my little man Blake to his first day of preschool with his 'typical' peers. When thinking of inclusion our minds tend to think only of the student that is being included in the classroom and the obvious benefits as opposed to a 'special' contained classroom. I was reminded by another parent that there are more who benefit from the inclusion of someone with special needs in a typical classroom setting.

I took Blake to the "open house" of his new preschool. My daughter attend the same program  but they have recently obtained a new site for the school. We went to show our support to the administrator and staff as well as introduce Blake to what will be his new environment. Of course he loved it and wasted no time exploring and playing.  I ran into another mother whom I had not seen since my daughter was in preschool with her daughter. We chatted and exchanged acquaintance pleasantries. She went on to rock my world and take ANY lingering doubts away about my choice to have Blake 100% included. She Thanked ME for choosing to include Blake and pointed out how good it is for her daughter and all the other students.
I remember reading research on the benefits to the children without disabilities when I was preparing my case for the School District but to hear it first hand was a whole other level for me. It just reinforced all that I fought for was worth it and will be a benefit to both Blake and others.

Some Benefits of Inclusion for Students Without Disabilities

The Creation of Meaningful friendships.

Increased appreciation and acceptance of individual differences. Tolerance is learned and Respect is earned. When a child is exposed to people with 'differences' the fear of the unknown is removed and replaced with respect.

Increased understanding and acceptance of diversity. Limiting children's exposure only restricts their social potential.

Respect for all people. This all starts with proper models. When children see respect equally distributed across the board, despite perceived differences they are more likely to follow suit.

Prepares all students for adult life in an inclusive society. We all must co-exist in the world, inclusion lays the foundation for children.

Builds the students knowledge of various disabilities. I would like his classmates to have the FACTS about Down Syndrome so they too can act as advocates and educators to people in their lives. Only through correct information can we dissolve stereotypes and myths.

Opportunities to master activities by practicing and teaching others. It also helps build self esteem and give a sense of self mastery when a child is able to improve their skill sets as well as act as a teacher/helper to the other student(s).

Greater academic outcomes for all. Creating a sense of inclusion, cooperation and helpfulness will help everyone succeed.

All students needs are better met, greater resources for everyone. Blake will have a 1-1 Aide to assist him with speech but it is my hope that a sense of community is promoted here regarding assistance. When the class works collectively as a community to help one another overall every one's needs are better met.

To me the benefits reach even further. All of the staff can benefit from having the opportunity to teach children of all abilities and take a sense of pride for being able to assist in someones success in accessing the curriculum, learning new skills and preparing them for their future. They are in essence the instrument through which their students learn the tolerance and respect for diversity that an inclusive classroom can bring. 

I am excited for Blake to start his new school adventure. If you need me at approximately 9:10AM on Wednesday August 27th I will be pulled over, in my car sobbing!

Every time a uniquely abled child/person is included in the classroom or an other facet of society means a societal step in the right direction has taken place. I am so thrilled Blake can be a part of this movement toward respect and equality in our culture.

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