There are so many reasons why inclusion matters. I included a (#1) in my title because I'm sure over the course of the next little while I will be reusing this title over and over again. I'm sure this is the first in a series of posts.
This thought starts with a nagging thought and a personal story:
Back in October we decided to change up the schedule of one of the students in my classroom. Rather than looking at including him for "specials" we decided to have him join the "regular classr for core academic time. It was a shift and although we have not achieved perfection as far as inclusion goes I believe we are on the right path. One of the driving forces behind wanting him to be in Language Arts class in particular was to try to expose him to not only remediated language arts instruction but also to grow literacy skills. Although we had done some focus work on literacy in our room it had mostly been in a one-on-one type of setting and we found very quickly that this students was far more motivated to interact and be a parrt of literature when there were other students involved. We quickly moved from working almost exclusively on remedial reading work to trying to find the best way for him to access content. I see so many more things that we can work on over the next couple of years that will be beneficial to him now. I saw those things before but without the authentic need to make them happen the motivation (on our side but more importantly on the side of the student) isn't really there.
These two posts help to frame the emotion/feelings around this story:
In particular it is this line that confirmed for me what I had been thinking and feeling: "Special educators and other specialists, often overemphasize remediation at the expense of accomodation and compensation."
- Perspectives of Supporting Adolescents and Young Adults With Learning Disabilities on Disability Blog
And here I sit thinking that inclusion is so much more than just putting a child in a regular classroom because "it's the right thing to do". Putting a child in the regular classroom changes the focus of what you are trying to achieve through the course of their education. Rather than focusing on remediation and life skills you begin to look at finding the modifications, adaptations and supports the student will need to function in a larger world. You begin to work more collaboratively with the student and you have more opportunities for them to start to take better charge of their learning (figuring out what supports they need in any given situation).
The second article I linked to seemed to point to the need to teach our students to be self advocates. I used to think that as long as we taught our students to be self aware and somehow made sure that they believed in themselves then they would somehow become self advocates. I'm coming to realize that the skills and information behind being a self advocate can be taught. And again... much better taught in an authentic environment where there is a need to be a self-advocate. When we take control of making the environment work too much for our students then we are taking away the opportunity for them to discover what works and doesn't work and then to advocate to make it so for themselves.