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Inclusion Matters to Everyone!

11/29/12
by Wrightslaw

Inclusive Schools Week, December 3-7, 2012.

Theme: building authentic friendships for students with disabilities and their non-disabled peers.

From Jim Comstock-Galagan -

If you want people to understand the matter of inclusion, you make them understand it for themselves.

How would inclusion relate to them?

Jim understood when his mother first walked him to elementary school.  He was told he could not attend – he needed to go across town to the “crippled children’s school.”

Jim’s mother said, “I’m telling you, he is NOT going to crippled children’s school.” Inclusion mattered to Jim’s family.

Jim knew he was not going to the crippled children’s school – the only school he knew he would attend was college.

His family adjusted so he could attend a Catholic school nearby.

“Why can I not go to school with my brothers?” Jim wondered. He was sad.

“Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering and struggle.”  – Dr. Martin Luther King.

So Jim’s family adjusted again. They sacrificed and struggled in order to allow all the brothers to go to the same Catholic school.

Jim says he is here today because – inclusion is really important.

Words to describe the feeling of being “included”:

  • belonging,
  • value,
  • acceptance,
  • happy…

This is what children feel when they are included.

Words that might describe feeling excluded, segregated:

  • rejected
  • hurts in the pit of your stomach
  • inadequate
  • devastating
  • abandoned
  • unsupported
  • resentment…

What does this feel like for kids who are excluded?

How do kids feel when they are stuck in the trailer, in the room down the hall, when they are segregated from others?

What do the other kids say about these kids? “We never see them.”

We need to be aware of how we are educating kids, kids with and those without disabilities.

Inclusion Matters to Everyone!

Doesn’t everyone have human limitations? We all need and have accommodations.

Accommodations are the DNA of community life. We all need accommodations to be included.

Things are only perfectly good for people with disabilities when they are perfectly good for everyone else.

Schools use 17-20 accommodations in classrooms so that teachers (like Jim’s wife) can teach.  What happens when the school is asked to provide several accommodations for a child with disabilities?

Part of being a good advocate is to create the connection between a child, the principal, the school attorney, the IEP Team.

Make people see these issues in ways that would “not be OK” for them. Passion and emotion count!

No one should be comfortable when they propose to segregate a kid.

Inclusion matters to everyone!

Jim Comstock-Galagan is the Executive Director of the Southern Disability Law Center (SDLC), New Orleans, LA and a faculty member at W&M Law School Institute of Special Education Advocacy (ISEA).

Jim shares his own story as he explains how his personal experience shapes who he is today.

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