Blog #156~Is Inclusion For Your Child?
Are you raising or involved with educating a child with special needs within an inclusion setting? Perhaps you are considering an inclusion classroom for your child. If so, then THIS is the book you need to read:
Who’s The Slow Learner? A Chronicle of Inclusion & Exclusion, written by Sandra Assimotos McElwee (Outskirts Press) is a great book and and resource on inclusion. Her son Sean McElwee was born with Down syndrome. Sean is now 22 years old and is one of the star cast members of the Emmy Award Winning series, Born This Way on A&E.
Her goal for writing this book was to educate and inspire, while chronicling her son’s education experiences. In Sandra’s words, “This is not a ‘How-to’ book, but a ‘How we did it’ book.”
What is inclusion?
Inclusion is a term which expresses commitment to educate each child, to the maximum extent appropriate, in the school and classroom he or she would otherwise attend. It involves brining the support services to the child (rather than moving the child to the services) and requires only that the child will benefit from being in the class (rather than having to keep up with the other students). Proponents of inclusion generally favor newer forms of education service delivery.
Full Inclusion means that all students, regardless of handicapping condition of severity, will be in a regular classroom/program full time. All services must be taken to the child in that setting.
(From Sandra’s book this information was taken from the Wisconsin Educational Council’s Website)
Inclusion not only benefits the special education student, but also the regular education students in class. It can be highly successful with the right supports, accommodations, modifications and supportive school staff. From my own experience, I found this to be the case with my son Nick, who is also 22 years old and has Down syndrome and autism.
Sandra offers a wealth of information in this book. Each chapter begins with all Sean’s IEP goals for that school year. The book is loaded with great ideas on how to navigate the school system and how/when to reach out for outside help using consultants to advocate for your child. This was the case when Sean transitioned into intermediate school, where they determined a need to put a behavior support plan in the IEP. Sandra provides this full behavior support plan in the book as well, which is very beneficial. Getting outside support for communication and behavior also helped greatly during the adolescent years with my son, Nick. Keeping in the loop with staff and volunteering in the school and classroom is another great way to keep up with how your child is doing in school.
There are so many valuable lessons that Sandra learned and shares about her son’s educational journey. Many of which I can relate to having gone through this with my son, Nick. You are not always going to have a school team or some of the members supporting inclusion for your child. Sometimes it’s the school staff that are the slow learners. In this book, you can see how Sandra had to advocate even harder during the intermediate and high school years. Unfortunately this was not always a success. But these actions set the foundation, to make it easier for other families to follow.
The book not only contains a wealth of education information, but many funny and inspiring stories on how Sean touched so many lives. In one story, Sandra gets out of the shower and noticed the unmistakable odor of popcorn being microwaved. She fully expected to smell a burnt popcorn next, so she hustled quickly downstairs. To her surprise, Sean had just opened a perfectly cooked bag of popcorn. She asked Sean what number he pushed? Sean looked at her like she was crazy, and pointed to the control panel and said “popcorn”. It turned out that the all the site words Sean had been learning in first grade were working. Sandra didn’t even know there was a popcorn button on the panel. In this case she, was the slow learner.
Who’s The Slow Learner? is not just for parents, but a great resource for educators, future regular & special education teachers, school administrators and advocates. This is the first book that chronicles a student with special education needs from pre-school to high school graduation. It’s a very instructive book that shows a mother’s determination to advocate for the best available resources in not always a cooperative educational system.
I’m sure this book will benefit many considering inclusion for their child with special needs, and the education team that will be providing for them. That’s what is in my noggin this week.
Catch Sean and his family on the Emmy Winning Series, A&E’s Born This Way, Tuesday nights at 9pm (8pm Central)!
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