Back in elementary and high school, I never had anybody with a visible disability amongst my peers in the classroom. Students who struggled in class were taken out of the classroom to take lessons from educational assistants who could work with them in smaller groups or individually. I noticed this, but never gave it much thought until high school where all students who had some form of disability that made academics challenging had been set aside in their own wing of the building. We had very few interactions with these students unless they came around to the classrooms to collect attendance or take the recycling for their work experience. I did have the good fortune to get to know one of the girls during an afterschool program called “Cooking Club” where we were taught how to make different recipes. She was slower to respond to questions, but if given enough time to answer questions, she always had something interesting to say. She is an extremely kind and compassionate girl and I was happy to get to know her. I came to understand that she often had trouble in conversations because some people didn’t like to wait for her responses or became uncomfortable around her due to minor differences.
In Dan Habib’s talk, he discussed the positives of having inclusive classrooms and the downsides of segregation. When a youth feels included- like they belong- their self esteem increases along with their social skills and academic performance. This is true for all students; able bodied or not. Those who are differently abled are aloud to find purpose for themselves and the students around them also benefit from the collaborations and friendships that occur. Inclusive Education classrooms are effective because all students have more motivation to help each other and be engaged in the learning. On the other hand, youth who find themselves cut off from social interaction get no benefits from being alone. If they are unable to communicate their thoughts and feelings, they become trapped in their own minds. This can also be related to how expectation can affect the achievements of an individual. For example, if the expectation for a student is higher, they will try to rise to meet that challenge. However, if the expectation is lower, the student isn’t given room to grow. This is an issue that can be easily fixed in most cases if the knowledge of this factor exists.
Why do we find dealing with disability so difficult? People often fear what they do not know. I feel like this is a large factor in why there is still such large percentage of youth who are segregated from the classrooms. Guest speaker Kelsey Culbert stressed this knowledge that humans avoid what they don’t understand, she also tells us that having a disability does not make them any less human. I agree with her. I found in my own experiences that I did not always know how to talk to somebody with impaired sight, hearing, mobility, etc. for fear of offending them in some way. For this reason, I really enjoyed reading Kelsey’s blog because she details a few of her own struggles and then details what she called “Disability Etiquette” which reminds the world that they are human too and gives tips for minor changes in conversation that will help everybody to engage in conversation more fully.
My Question: What are we waiting for? Inclusivity is a benefit to everybody involved.