Inclusive Schools Network - Including Samuel Discussion, Part 2

Uploaded by inclusiveschools on 09.01.2009


There are not enough models out there being with high visibility to show what’s possible.
So I think that a lot of people think that the only possibilities are, group homes,
separate classrooms, you know, day programs, sheltered workshops for employment.
That tends to be, I mean it’s changing slowly, but in much of the country, in many communities
that’s still the norm. I think that, I believe in the power of film and the power of media
to really get the word out and to get visions out there for what is possible. Because I think,
it’s almost like you have to embarrass schools and communities in to seeing how poorly they are
doing around this. Really, and what’s possible and why it’s so much better again,
not just for individuals but for society because you think about when someone gets a good education,
I mean I have a lot of respect for special educators, but I wish they were working in
typical classrooms, collaborating with typical teachers to make this work. Because I want
to say I want to be educated by the best educators in the school, which tend to be teachers
that have been trained that way. If he gets that education, he’ll be more prepared
for college. He’ll get a better college education. He’ll be more prepared for employment.
He’ll be able to get a good job. He’ll be able to have a house. He’ll meet lots of people
and have a lot of friends, relationships. So, I think that that vision has to start and
be the norm. I think that really, you know, if we can get to a point where that becomes
the norm, I think that a lot of people who think their best possibility is to be in a group
home, or their best possibility is to be in a separate school, or parents who feel like
the only way their kids are going to get the best support and resources is in a separate
classroom or a separate school – they’ll start to see that it’s not really the case.
That it’s being done inclusively, why would anyone choose to be excluded? I mean,
that’s the bottom line. I don’t see why someone would choose to be excluded. I think
the only reason that choice is often made is because inclusion is being done so badly
and so under-supported that it’s a disaster. Whether it’s in employment or in housing or in school.

My boys were both at the Haggerty when the inclusion program started. They are 21 and 22 now.
And I think they are very different people then they would have been without this program.
They are non-disabled but they are so sensitive, not just to the other people who are
different from themselves but the world around them. “Where are the ramps, why are you
parking in a handicapped place?” Not, “can I help you” but, “do you need help – if not fine”
And when I had my own accident they were ready, just as you said a grandparent. They took it
in stride and I think that this should be the norm.

I liked how you had some of the challenges that are out there also, especially when you
look at middle and high school and particularly around when this one teacher said
that what a terrible year she had. And so, I’d just like to bring up some discussion
around thinking about inclusion in high school. What does inclusion look like in high school?
Does it look different then it looks like in elementary school?
Samuel just got a DynaVox, which with his very limited verbal
output to start to express the millions of thoughts and words that are
in his head that he can’t express. I think at the high school level, that kind of technology
is more and more critical. And, I am actually really optimistic, because when you think
about teenagers and young people, it’s all about, right? I mean, Isaiah want the cell phone,
the iTouch, all the video games, and so that type of technology is not at all foreign
to them. They are very comfortable with the technology. They are very comfortable
using to interact with each other, whether it’s a cell phone, text message or whether
its an augmentative communication device like a DynaVox. So, I think that there are some
things that are unique in high school for sure. I think it’s a little harder to build
that sense of community like in elementary school – I think that you can build really
strong community classrooms. You don’t have that kind of continuity throughout the day
in high school when people are moving around as much. I do think, the potential is there
to create a strong community within the school. A community of acceptance, of diversity.
And I see that happening, and I see that happening because of great leadership. It all starts
I think with leadership. If you don’t have someone like a Joe Petner, or someone who really
believes this is the vision and the only question is how are we going to get there?
Then I don’t see how it can happen. Then support staff leadership, with the right training, the staffing, the technology, the curriculum, the well-trained para-professionals
– all things the teachers need to be successful, the planning time, I mean this is what
I hear all over the place, “we don’t have the technology, we don’t have the planning
time. Everyone says, what about the money – a lot of stuff doesn’t cost more money.
Planning time doesn’t cost more money – it takes some really creative engineering
of the schedule and the staffing. But also if you take one girl like Emily Huff, who was
sent out of district, partly because she was very ill at the time but partly because
there was not a climate of community in her school so she was getting bullied mercilessly,
that was the biggest factor that drove her out, but she’s being sent out of district
to a residential placement for maybe tow hundred thousand dollars a year, one hundred
fifty thousand dollars a year. If you can re-purpose that money in to a school district
that benefits all kids. So, that’s kind of just a bunch of thoughts about how I think,
there was some unique challenges and I think that teacher was feeling very challenged by what was going on.

The need to have images, such as films like “Including Samuel” that represent and bring
this message to those diverse communities that are increasingly populating our school
districts. We’re not good at that yet and that’s an area where I think that there
are some advocacy agencies such as the Federation for Children with Special Needs,
the PEAK parents center out in Colorado, other institutes that are working on this,
but we’re not there yet. The Inclusive Schools Network that we’ve launched here
at EDC is intentional on making sure that parents of diverse learners
are getting the information, getting the supports they need.
IDEA says that students will be educated in a typical classroom in the least restrictive
environment, which is a typical classroom, with the proper supports. And some people
forget about that second part, with the proper supports. So, they just throw kids
in to a classroom without those supports. So once parents understand those are the legal
obligations, and then I think trying to collaborate, being in a collaborative spirit
with your team and it can very quickly become oppositional when you get in to legal fights.
I feel very fortunate that I had parents that were able to afford to send me to college.
I grew up middle class but like a lot of kids, I was able to go to college and it was
wonderful. I was able to develop a career in journalism. I was able to help my advocacy
skills. My wife has a career that helps her advocacy skills. So we feel very fortunate.
A lot of parents have not had that economic status to go to college. I had a conversation
with someone recently who said, “What are the three things you want for your child? –
just the three basic hopes, dreams, things you want for your child?” I think any parent,
regardless of their economic status or situation can at least answer that question
or think about that question. Then it’s the team’s responsibility to work those goals
in to the IEP and make sure that parent is represented. So that’s just a few thoughts
about parents. In terms of teachers, I can only speak specifically to New Hampshire,
you know, at the Institute on Disability, where I work, there’s a huge range of training
opportunities for teachers. I know there are national training opportunities, and I
know here you must have some with the Inclusive Schools Network, the ISCI, which hosted
my Boston premiere of “Including Samuel” a year ago, has a huge range of training
opportunities so I think the professional development is out there if
teachers seek it, and principals and Superintendents support it and give
them the time to attend. On April 10, we are having a big
inclusive education leadership summit, and Norman’s going to be there, Keith,
my wife, Betsy, we’re all going to be there doing a day long seminar on inclusive
leadership. So that’s the kind of thing we are trying to do more and more of with this
project is create events and seminars for teacher training.