Translator: Kirstie Neo Reviewer: Ilze Garda
Imagine that schools recruit children
who have the most different thoughts and behaviors.
Imagine that children who learn differently
are considered children with special rights.
Imagine that educators have all the tools and strategies they need
to meet all the needs of the learners in their classroom.
Imagine that families are viewed
as equal partners in their child's education.
Imagine that there is a true convergence of all abilities in classrooms
that promote and change the way we think about the world.
This is the vision and hope of inclusive culture.
This comes from my years of professional experience,
but also comes from my experience as a granddaughter, as a sister,
as a wife and as a mother,
and it is those relationships that have made me most passionate
about the impact of inclusive education.
The roots of our educational system
actually begin with the Industrial Revolution.
With the best of intents, we ask our education system
to promote learners who will be competitive in the next century.
We ask that they have
high academic achievement and competitive test scores.
it is these attitudes and expectations that are actually counterproductive
to the demands of the 21st century workforce.
Consider our classrooms today.
We expect that students have the capacity for universally accepted behaviors -
the ability to sit still, the ability to listen to the teacher,
the ability to focus and attend.
And we assume
that all students have the capacity, neurological and physiological,
for those behaviors.
And when a child is not meeting academic expectations, what do we do?
We provide more study time, less recess, more tutoring,
fewer after-school activities, all in the name of academic achievement.
And what happens when a child doesn't have those behaviors?
When they're fidgeting, when they can't sit still,
when they're nudging a child next to them?
Do you know what grade level has the highest expulsion rate?
Just when children are learning to separate from their parents
and be in a setting that promotes socialization.
This often leads to a sense, or a lack of a sense, of belonging.
And we all know what belonging is correlated with.
It's correlated with intellectual achievement,
and it's correlated with our sense of health.
Isolation, loneliness, low social stature,
all contribute to our ability to participate in the classroom.
Does this feeling, or lack of feeling, of belonging and connectedness affect
what we see in schools today with bullying and exclusion?
What then is the effect of the standardized system on educators?
Educators are more pressured than ever
to show that their children can make the grade.
They are judged by their children's performance on standardized tests,
and they are judged
by the performance of the schools and their academic ratings.
Educators are more isolated and lonely than ever before.
So for children with disabilities,
that sense of isolation and separation has been there throughout history.
Institutionalization was a long-accepted strategy until 25 or so years ago.
It wasn't until Brown vs. Board of Education
was passed by the Supreme Court in 1954
that the racial segregation ruling paved the way for de facto segregation
of children with disabilities from their peers.
It took another 20 years
for Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1974 to be passed.
That was what finally gave children with disabilities, aged 5 to 21,
the educational entitlement to be educated in same schools as their peers.
Yet still, many of the children labeled with special education
are in segregated settings, or what we call 'pulled out',
where they are pulled out from the regular classroom
and given specialized assistance.
42% of children with special education needs
By that very definition,
they have average or above-average intelligence,
and yet, they are still pulled out of the regular classroom
on a regular basis in many settings.
For children with disabilities, that sense of segregation,
they suffer more than others.
Children with disabilities are twice as likely as their same-aged peers
to be suspended or expelled.
Yet, just one suspension in 9th grade increases the likelihood
that that child will drop out of school eventually, and/or serve jail time.
That is why suspensions and expulsions are often cited
as the school-to-prison pipeline.
So we have the disability rights movement.
People with disabilities throughout history
are the most marginalized in all of our society.
Think about what we've taught,
how we referred to people with disabilities:
deviant, sick, crazy, special, retarded.
It's taking a different way of viewing people with disabilities
in a strength-based way, to not blame the child for her disability.
And families are also often judged
for taxing an overburdened education system,
for bringing their school's test scores down.
So now, consider inclusive education.
Perhaps we could imagine a school
where all the sports are played by children in wheelchairs,
where the mathematician moves to think, where the scholars are non-verbal,
where everyone belongs and everyone participates.
There are some models now for inclusive education across the globe
that are paving the way, and the outcomes are startling.
The academic outcomes for all the children are increased
by looking at inclusive education.
There is a recent movement in the past 10 years
It means that we look at the human diversity
that is inherent in the classrooms, and we celebrate it in our education.
Dr. William Henderson is a principal,
well-renowned in the Boston public school system
who started the Henderson School as an inclusive model.
He quotes three effective practices that make a difference
in the effectiveness of inclusive education.
They are culture, curriculum, and collaboration.
Start with culture - all learners belong.
In fact, the environment is enhanced
by having all people of all abilities within that classroom.
Consider the person with an anxiety disorder
who has the sensitivity to help and tutor another child.
Consider the child who is a visual-spatial learner
who can create PowerPoints for another child.
Consider that classrooms can be places where there are rich environments
to be taught social and emotional confidence.
And conflicts can be avoided by the time the children move to the playground.
In addition to neurodiversity, we have what is called universal design.
That is a set of principles that helps educators design curriculum
for the highest of learners, as well as the lowest of learners.
The result is that it's good for all the learners in between as well.
Jonathan Mooney is an expert in neurodiversity,
and himself, a self-advocate
with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and dyslexia.
He has developed a program called Project Eye-to-Eye,
which is a mentoring program,
and there is a component of it here at the University of Denver.
He talks about using arts
as a way of leveling the playing field for all children.
And what else do children learn?
They learn abstract reasoning, they learn logical thought,
they learn creativity.
He also talks about technology.
Technology, despite all the advances, is still so underutilized
in our education system for kids with disabilities.
iPads, note takers, audio books are all tools
that help make meaningful content to children who learn differently.
And last but not least, collaborative teaming.
Let's take away the isolation that educators feel,
and partner them with a specialist
who can help them with the children in the classroom tap all those abilities.
Look at speech language pathologists,
occupational therapists, art therapists, counselors;
all of these people enrich the experience
and take away the isolation of the regular educator.
Believe it or not, the cost can be the same.
Those same resources and moneys
that go to support pull-out-systems and supports
can be reallocated and redistributed into the regular classroom.
So there is not an increased cost
to the tax payer, the educator, the administrator.
So imagine the 21st century in a school community
where all of the following learn, belong, and thrive:
Helen Keller, Whoopi Goldberg,
Robin Williams, Stephen Hawking,
Albert Einstein, Nikki Giovanni,
my grandfather, your daughter, my co-worker, your neighbor,
me and you.
Disability has inspired many great things in our culture.
People who learn differently have created some of the very things we use everyday.
We've learned to move differently.
Think about the Americans with Disabilities Act and wheelchair ramps.
We've learned to create.
Think about the impact of artists such as Vincent van Gogh.
We've learned to invent.
Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone
when he was trying to create a device to help his parents who were deaf.
We've learned to communicate.
The typewriter was invented to help the visually impaired.
In fact, what we've learned to do better is to interact with one another.
So in inclusive communities, we suspend judgment, we advocate.
We learn that living and being in community together
creates better outcomes for all of us.
When we are all in inclusive cultures, we create ways in which people belong.
We create roles that everyone honors,
we create a room for everybody to show and demonstrate their strengths.
When we are in inclusive communities, we teach socio-emotional skills,
so that we not only have higher intelligence,
we have higher emotional intelligence.
We also create ways where families' cultures are honored,
and all families learn together in community.
We bring it together, we converge people,
like at TED, with different ideas and different thoughts
to make a richer community.
By creating inclusive schools where all ideas are honored,
and all abilities are valued and cherished,
we transform the way the world could be.
It could be a better place.
In fact, and imagine, that we change the world.