“One excited boy did all that he could before making his way to a swing for comfort. Another boy made it all the way through, enjoying the project and doing an amazing job. Other kiddos were off enjoying the end of the day doing other activities in other rooms. J melted.”
I talk about J’s inclusive classroom model and my first experience coming into his world where I didn’t fit, where I didn’t belong (in his eyes) on 5 Minutes for Special Needs yesterday. Just a few days ago, I had O’s preschool teacher, working for continuing teaching credits, ask me questions about J’s classroom. Was it inclusive, what are things like for him. Between her questions and this post, I starting thinking about other classrooms across the county, around the world.
Inclusive classrooms, in my opinion, are the model to follow. All children need the opportunity to have exposure to every kind of person they will run into in the world as adults. They need the opportunity to be challenged with a variety of circumstances, find their voices, mold themselves into the person they are to meet the world as. This is the same for children with special needs…as long as they are able to do so.
In the beginning, when J first started in his educational journey, I was adamant that I wanted him surrounded by typical peers, in the mix of the general classroom, in an inclusive classroom. I wanted most of his time there, questioning the reasoning of those in his IEP meetings. Why wouldn’t they give him this exposure, allow him the opportunity; why would they seek to shove him into a box of a room and close him off from the world….my idea of this is different now.
Now, I see J’s classroom, the separate classroom, his room of other peers with Severe and Significant Needs as a haven. A place where he feels safe, confident in the predictability, has less variability of actions of peers, of the day. A place where the noise level is fine tuned, tools for self-advocacy, for centering are available to him, a place where he feels he belongs. It is a comfort. A room of focus, encouraging his ability to foster his strengths and make his way towards the best person he is to be.
He spends 85% or more of his time in this room. Learning. Working on tasks. Learning the computer, how to type his name, how to effectively communicate, control impulses, work on social skills and more. It is a place I’m proud for him to belong with a group of kiddos and staff who are forever in my heart. And I know he is lucky for this, and I am lucky for this. He has a good balance (for him) between inclusion in a classroom of typical peers and a haven in a classroom that provides structure and reprieve that he requires.
I think of all those who don’t have an inclusive classroom model, who don’t have the balance between inclusion and haven. I think of those who don’t have encouraging, strong, loving and balanced teachers and paras (something I worry about leaving from in middle school) and I wonder how they do. How do those kiddos cope…succeed? I question how many schools aren’t inclusive.
So I put it to you…what’s your school makeup? Inclusive? Not? Fostering successes, lacking in resources, lacking balance? What would you change?