Beyond inclusion-ableist.doc - Beyond inclusion educators'ableist assumptions about students with disabilities compromise the quality of instruction

Beyond inclusion-ableist.doc - Beyond inclusion...

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Beyond inclusion: educators' 'ableist' assumptions about students with disabilities compromise the quality of instruction School Administrator, March, 2003 by Thomas Hehir Over the past two decades, more and more students with disabilities have been educated for more of the day in regular education classrooms. This movement largely has been positive for most students with disabilities and has supported the broader goal of societal integration for people with disabilities as all children learn that disability is a natural element of human diversity. Further, the inclusion movement in K-12 education has been supported by research that demonstrates that well- implemented inclusionary approaches are superior to fully segregated placement for most disabled students. However, it has become apparent to many educational leaders and some disability advocates that a one-size-fits-all model of full inclusion may not be appropriate for some students. The deaf community has questioned the capacity of full inclusion programs to meet the communication and social development needs of solitary deaf students. Learning disability advocates and many special education teachers struggle with the prohibitions against all pull-out services for students who may need intensive help in reading. This questioning of full inclusion also receives support from research. Ultimately the controversy around inclusion is dysfunctional and we need to shift from the value of inclusion as a practice to the successful implementation of inclusionary education that recognizes the full range of needs of the disability population. Central to moving beyond the debate is the need to focus on the goals of education for students with disabilities. First and foremost our goal should be to maximize the educational development of all disabled students to enable them to fully participate in all aspects of life. However, we need to also recognize that education plays a central role in changing the society disabled students will be entering. For instance, though blind people attain comparable educational levels to nondisabled people, they do not access employment at the same level. The reason for this is likely to be found in "ableism," the pervasive negative attitudes and prejudice in society. We must move beyond inclusion to confront ableism in education. Ingrained Prejudice The lens of ableism offers a useful perspective through which the future of inclusion and indeed all of special education can be considered. The various definitions of ableism in the literature share common origins that are rooted in the discrimination and oppression that many disabled people experience in society. Applied to schooling and child development, ableist preferences become particularly apparent. From an ableist perspective, the devaluation of disability results in societal attitudes that uncritically assert that it is better for disabled students to do things in the same manner as nondisabled kids.
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