Marmiteboy - Urbane Warrior.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Blogging Against Disablism Day - Inclusive Education.

Blogging Against Disablism Day

Inclusive Education.

When I was growing up and at school in the 1970's, disabled children were educated in 'special schools'. At my school there was a girl with Spina Bifida and me, whose only visible 'disability' was that I wasn't allowed to partake in sports as a result of my condition. That was it!! In a school of some 1500 puplis. At that time in seemed that the norm was to educate disabled children apart from their non-disabled peers. I think this had a damaging affect on how my generation (as a whole) perceived the whole subject of disability. Our attitudes were seriously affected. Disability was seem as something that was strange and even scary. The only time we ever saw a disabled person was during the Blue Peter appeal when they collected bottle tops and silver foil for Riding for the Disabled (as in was called) or to re-house people like Joey Deakin in warden controlled adapted homes.

As a rule, if children are confronted by something that they do not understand or are frightened by then they resort to either being cruel, or by making jokes about it. People of my generation will remember all the Joey Deakin jokes that were about in the late 1970's. But how can ths kind of attitude, which is by any definition, disablism, be combated?

For many years, in this country, there has been a debate about and whether disabled children should be educated in mainstream schools, or whether they should receive 'specialist' education. True, there is the need for schools that cater exclusively for cetain conditions. Schools for blind and visually impaired children and for deaf and hard of hearing children are essential, but in my opinion, where possible, disabled children should be intergrated in to the mainstream education system. The more disabled children that can be educated in this way, the more that negative attitudes can be challenged.

Of course the main reason that disabled children should be educated within the mainstream education is that they receive the best education possible. It is my belief that in the past disabled children have not been able to reach their full potential by being in 'special schools'. I will provide an example.

Lily's daughter Sybil has just turned 6 and when she was 2 years and 9 months old she went to a special unit because when she went to pre-school it was felt that she was not coping. When she was 3 she was diagnosed as Autistic. Lily tells me that she really hated the unit. She was frightened all the time because as we know the Autism Spectrum is very wide and she couldn't cope with the children in the units different behaviours.

Sybil's condition means hat although she is high functioning she would find it impossible to cope with being in a large class without support. Her reasonable adjustment allows for a key worker to be with her all day at school and she uses a laptop. Lily has told me that her progress since being at school has ben very good. She interacts much more with people than she did when she was in the unit. She is stimulated by her environment and loves going to school. Her reading age is that of a 10-year old and because she has a key worker she is able to focus on this. It is by being around other children though that has benefited her the most. Until quite recently large groups of people scared Sybil but when we went to Cornwall on holiday recently we went to a park full of very noisey and boisterous children. Sybil wasn't bothered at all and really enjoyed playing on the swings and slides. I'm not at all convinced that had Sybil been in a specialist unit that kept her apart form noisey boisterous children that she would have been able to cope with that playground.

It is not just the disabled child that benefits from inclusive education though. Teachers and more importantly non-disabled children also benefit. If disablism is to be tackled, then early contact with disabled children is essential. A lot of disablism is not because of prejudice (although the rise of the far-right groups such as the BNP is worrying. We must remember who the first target of the Nazi's were). It is ignorance and lack of understanding that is the biggest cause of disablism in my view. The sooner our children are educated together then the better chance there is that ignorance of disabled peoples needs can be addressed.

It is my hope that with the next generation, disabled people will be treated with respect and understanding and not be thought of as scary or burdensome. If non-disabed children have disabled schoolmates and vice versa, then everybody's needs can be addressed without any second thought.

Disablism exists. It is out there are needs to be challenged everyday. Disabled people are still second class citizens. Not enough provision is being made within the transport system ( and I could do a whole series of posts about that little subject), access to many places is still very poor, career paths are affected and we all know about the fight to what is rightfully ours within the benefit system. However, with the rise of inclusive education maybe there is light at the end of the tunnel. Our future generation is being educated together and we must stand up and challenge those who shout that there is no place for disabled children in mainstream education.

The Goldfish must be thanked for coming up with the idea for Blogging Against Disablism Day and making that idea into a reality. It started small and has grown into something really quite wonderful. Cheers, you're a star. Lady Bracknell has also been involved to quite a degree too. Thanks to her too.


Blogger James Medhurst said...

Hi Marmiteboy. I agree about inclusive education. I don't know what I would have done if I had gone to a special school. We must be fair to the schools and the teachers though - they often cannot accomodate disabled pupils because they are ludicrously underfunded. Ultimately, it is the government which is responsible.

5:49 pm

Blogger Katie said...

Hi Marmiteboy,

I agree with James, inclusive education should be there for disabled children who need to integrated and have support in education to learn about life.

That's how a child learns about the world, by having learnt, and any education whether for a disabled child or a child in mainstream education needs to know about life.

8:58 am

Blogger Charlesdawson said...

MB, you are so right. The trouble is, that politicians and Civil Servants can never think of service users as individuals with individual needs.

I believe that even Baroness Warnock has now admitted that the rigidity of policies in the past may have been a mistake!

12:52 pm

Blogger The Goldfish said...

Excellent post Marmite - thank you so much for this. :-) Charles is right; children especially are seen as statistical units rather than complex individuals for whom the right help can make a lifetime's difference.

5:41 pm

Blogger Kev said...

I couldn't agree more. I'm the product of the same era of education as you, judging from your post, and it was disastrous for disabled kids. My children, on the other hand, attend a school which is really not bad at all at inclusion. Of course things can always improve (the buildings are Victorian, and they really do their best, but physical access can be difficult), but in Thing One's year group alone there are kids with all sorts of impairments. At a guess, I would say that 10% of the year group has a statement. She is in Year 4, and by this stage, the kids are all well integrated, as far as I can tell. I think it helps that it's an ethnically and linguistically mixed school too, so difference is not just about disability, it's about language, culture, gender, and religion...a whole gamut.

Kids do cope so well with difference if it's presented to them openly and matter of factly. Kids who come home to tea with the Things think that Mr Kev's brailler and the talking digital radio (and the Daisy Player) are cool gadgets. They don't see any stigma in them at all. And the kids in their classes who are disabled are not seen as other, as alien, or *special*. They are just part of the group. I have high hopes that these kids will grow up believing firmly in, and committed to, equality. For them, it should become just the natural way of things.

6:04 pm

Blogger Gimpy Mumpy said...

Wonderful post MB!

I agree. I worked for some years at a "special" school for children and young adults who had 'behavioral problems.' Although some of what the school provided was excellent I have to say that I never got used to seeing five or more adult staff holding down a child. "Take downs" were a daily occurence. The idea was that when the student became violent they were restrained. I know that I came away from that a changed person. It makes me wonder, what effect seeing that every day had on the children.

10:10 pm

Blogger Gimpy Mumpy said...

**I probably should add that in our legal system that this school was the last chance for these kids before prison. PRISON. Now THAT really, really bothers me....

10:12 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi,I may sound extreme but as a society we treat 'disability' like we treat 'death'. It's out there but we don't want to see it, hear it, be near it or be involved with it. Yet it is a universal condition. No person is exempt from either reality and both have the power to affect us at any stage in life.
I totally believe in inclusive schools as the way forward. If given the chance children are far more inclusive than adults. In my experience the government is only partly to blame ---lack of disability officers and disability awareness programmes.I find that many principals and teachers have a problem with mainstreaming. They pretend otherwise -it's politically correct to do so! but in reality they discriminate against children with a physical disability on a daily basis. How? lack of access despite 100% government funding for same (ireland), refusal to use accessible buses, and segregative practices in many extra curricular school activities -- fund raising activities, school tours, plays, retreats matches etc. Such segregation in mainstream schools has a very negative impact on the morale, self esteen and life opportunity of the student with a disability. Mary

11:24 pm

Anonymous Ben said...

Hi Marmiteboy - Ironically, a South African band called "The Goldfish" is playing a gig on 20 May in support of the Colin Javens trust. All Marmiteboy readers in SA are invited!

2:08 pm

Blogger crazy88 said...

I am a mother of a disabled child he is 7 years old and can't walk or talk but has no learning disabilities we live in the west midlands (England). We were told by the local education authority to find a school for my son, when ringing the local schools they said that the staff did not use sign langue and many have no disabled access. After reporting the information I received to the LEA, I was told that it was best for my child to attend a mainstream school and which ever school I chose would have to adapt the school for a disabled person and staff would have to learn sign language. Hydrotherapy and other treatment facilities were not close to the school and my child would miss out on important parts of his education because of traveling to these facilities. I have also spoken with physiotherapists who say the only way some schools could include disabled children would be to knock them down and start again. I believe that inclusive education should defiantly be an option for families but not their only option. I was never offered a school that could accommodate my son because special schools are being closed down and there was not a school for physically disabled children in my area but if my child had been born blind or deaf we would have had much more support for my child. My son has glutaric acid urea type 1 a very very rare genetic disorder (about 300 cases world wide) he has to take several medications and is on a low protein diet, he is very intelligent for his age and communicates using sign language he needs hydrotherapy, physiotherapy, Occupational therapy and speech and language therapy. I eventually found a school for my son in the next LEA my LEA were not happy to foot the bill and even seemed pissed off when I told them I wanted him to attend this school and asked me abruptly who had told me about this school. My child has now been provided with a state of the art touch screen speech computer a specially adapted trike (which he loves because he can move around by himself) and the school has physiotherapy, Occupational therapy and speech and language therapy departments in the school and school nurses and a hydrotherapy pool. It is fact, that for every mainstream school to be able to accommodate all the very different disabilities children may have, is an impossibility. In an ideal world inclusion would be wonderful but when the funding for our schools is so insignificant compared to the money poured in defense (or offence) special schools need to kept open and have more funding.

12:53 pm

Blogger Jewel said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

1:35 am

Blogger Jewel said...

I agree with Crazy88 that inclusive education or special education should be an option, as some kids don't like going to the traditional schools. Most teachers are not properly trained to educate the disabled kids. When the disability is severe, a special classroom is preferable. Mild cases do well in mainstream. To try to integrate everyone demanding 'rights to equality' is an ideal. Reality is that, other kids suffer because of inclusive education, since teachers have to pay more attention to the disabled kids. Inclusive education only works if the school administrator and teachers believe in the system, if not, students' learning suffer. So the type of education system should be an option.

1:38 am


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