While reading the recent NPR article about inclusion, I realized that it’s still a subject of controversy, which puzzles me. Because to me, the issue of inclusion is about basic human rights. In America, every kid has the right to a free education, and the notion that some kids who “hinder” or “distract” kids who will actually make a “net contribution to society” and should therefore be stuck in a room somewhere sounds like something out of the 50s and 60s. Have we really not traveled so far as to realize the “worth” of every human being, and their basic human rights, even in this country?
I have to say I’m gobsmacked. Many commenters were concerned about gifted kids being placed centrally in a classroom so they could help their peers during lessons, as if that were a disservice to that gifted child. What? We want to discourage helping others, now? Because not being placed centrally in the classroom would help her achieve higher levels of giftedness? Help me understand…
I am not necessarily a proponent of full inclusion, except when a student with disabilities is best served with full inclusion. I prefer for my kid to have a safe space and some downtime in his school day, so that he doesn’t have to be “on” all day long. I love that he has a space where he can be his true self, at least during lunch, and his social skills class. If he didn’t, he would be ready to blow every day when he got home, and that ain’t good for anybody. So I appreciate the sort of inclusion he gets – “Inclusion lite”, if you will.
But as I wrote in my recent post, I want him to be able to socialize with his neuro-typical peers, because that’s a thing. He will need that in his lifetime, in order to succeed to the best of his abilities. And in my humble opinion, he will need that more than knowledge about the Pharoahs of Egypt. I want him to belong to his school community, and that just won’t happen if he is stuck in a separate room all day.
I shouldn’t let the trolls get to me, but every human being has worth, and my kid has more than most. He deserves the same respect as every other kid on the block. And he does have a very basic right to the same education every other 6th grader gets.
I get that kids should (of course) be taught to help others — though doing so by having a kid teach her peers isn’t necessarily the best of all possible ways to do so.
A gifted kid is still a kid and should not be expected to “teach” their peers – because, well, they’re a kid and it’s not their job to be a teacher. Yes, yes, a kid could learn a lot by helping teach their classmates — but they’re also well within their rights not to want to do so!
I’m all for full inclusion when it is in the best interests of the kid and their classmates. Probably 95% of kids can with special needs can be mainstreamed, if given appropriate supports. The other 5% likely can’t.
I’m a bit biased — my girl has a classmate with autism and Tourette’s who calls her (and a handful of others) names and vile words, all day every day. It’s an involuntary tic but my ten year old hates being called a “fat &);:” fifty times a day. Intellectually, she gets that B isn’t insulting her on purpose… but it’s nonetheless awful.
I live in a very, very snail town with one school and one class per grade. She’s stuck with B for another four years — until high school.
Should B be included? Probably.
Is it reasonable to expect ten year olds to like a classmates who (involuntarily) insults them, all day, every day? Probably not.
(I’m an adult wouldn’t put up with it from a colleague at work — but presumably have the option of closing my office door, asking for my office to be moved further from the insulter’s. My kid and her classmates don’t have that option).
I require my kid to be polite to B (as it keeps the world from descending into anarchy; civility is the minimum required by the social contract) — but cannot and will not make her like him. My heart goes out to B but I will not make my kid see him outside of school nor invite him on a play date, birthday party, etc. My kid puts up with B’s insults in class. I won’t allow him to be unvoluntarily horrible to get during off hours!)
Sandra, being a former teacher, I know full well that when you have gifted peers helping in the classroom, they are not teaching fellow students, but simply acting as a guide while instruction or study takes place. I think every one of us has had help mates in classes where we struggled – someone who could help you understand or follow along better. That is what we are talking about here. Not gifted kids actually having to teach other children. And it is actually considered best practice in this country, and used quite successfully in classrooms around the country.
I have to say that your explanation of your bias on this issue was a shock to me. You say that “intellectually” your child (and I’m assuming you by proxy) understand that this special needs child isn’t insulting her, yet by your language in the rest of your reply, you belie your true feelings, that this young person is purposely being mean to your daughter. If the child in question had diabetes, or was cognitively impaired, would you encourage your daughter to make more of an effort to get to know this other child as a human being? Is it simply because he has Tourette Syndrome that creates your unwillingness to “subject” your daughter to him outside of school hours?
I can only imagine how lonely it must be to be a child with Tourette Syndrome. To have absolutely no one who wants to spend time with you, no one who will invite you to a birthday party because of what involuntarily comes out of your mouth. To have no one who makes an effort to see past your disability and get to know you as the person you truly are.
I know plenty of 10 year olds who ARE that compassionate, that worldly, and that tolerant because they have been my son’s friends, who are willing to accept him for who he is, autism and all. What a teachable moment you (and your daughter by proxy) are missing.
Very well said. Frankly, Sandra, if I were your employer and you asked to be moved because you couldn’t tolerate or even be compassionate about a person with a disability, I would seriously rethink whether or not you were fit to work for me. You do realize that tourette syndrome is completely involuntary for the person and isn’t done/said to hurt someone, right? Because it seems you think “B” is doing it to hurt your daughter. If “B” was epileptic and had seizures which “disrupted” class time would you not invite him to your daughter’s parties because he was infringing upon her instructional time?
Inclusion isn’t just imperative for the students who have disabilities,the gen ed students benefit as well by becoming compassionate and able to live in a very diverse world. Until then, you might benefit from picking up the book, “Tic Talk: Living with Tourette Syndrome: A 9-Year Old Boy’s Story in His Own Words”.
Sandra, I feel sorry for B that he lives in a small town. You and your daughter may feel “stuck” with him for the next few years, but POOR B who may be “stuck” with a number of small-minded individuals who may not understand and try to empathize with how difficult it is to live each day affected by autism and Tourette Syndrome. I hope your daughter learns more empathy from her classmates than she may learn from you. It is difficult to parent a child with special needs, even in our forward-thinking, modern world. Mostly because of persons who don’t try to put themselves in our shoes or our child’s shoes. May you and your child learn the positives of the situation and no longer feel stuck!