It’s not uncommon to enter a school staffroom and hear discussions surrounding the challenges of including children with disabilities in lessons. Mainly, teachers are worried about the burden that accompanies absolute inclusivity (inadequate training, adapting curriculum, and limited understanding of the range of disabilities). They feel strained and sometimes confused at the prospect of having to create new programs or significant adjustments to activities, often questioning their ability to manage the extra demand. Not only are they required to be flexible when presented with unique disabilities (physical or cognitive impairments), but further issues arise without professional support. While some teachers tackle the challenge head on, (alter their teaching styles), others still feel inadequate and rely on teacher assistance.
In Australia, the demand for teacher aides and additional special education professionals for classroom management and inclusion is immense, and the current supply is unable to support the growing number of students requiring specialized attention. The huge cost associated with the appropriate, specific equipment required for each individual also presents further barriers to equal educational access. Another common problem is the annoyance from parents who believe having a child with a disability in the same class as their own is detrimental to their child’s learning.
In reality, complete inclusion is not always possible especially without external support. Total inclusion may be inappropriate in some situations and learning and inclusion needs to occur through suitable approaches. Leiberman (1992) touches on the idea that special education is more effective outside a regular classroom in his book Preserving special education . . . for those who need it. He explains that children with disabilities benefit from being treated as individuals as opposed to being ‘the kid with the disability’, and this most effectively occurs in personalized settings
Now, we’ve all seen students with disabilities kept occupied during HPE doing menial tasks such as keeping score instead of developing their physical capabilities. So, imagine if students with Down syndrome or Autism were recognized by their ‘ability’ instead of their ‘disability’. Can you imagine how much of a difference this could make to a child’s motivation and ability to learn? Specific one-on-one programs tailored to skill and progress levels could provide individualized and personalized content and context for these students. Most importantly, such a program should recognize that all young people are different with different requirements, especially those with disabilities.
So I guess what I’m getting as is that I’d like to work against these traditional practices. I’d love to get the students out of the scorers chair and playing the game. I’d love to find a way to provide personalized, engaging learning experiences. And ultimately, I’d love to construct a way of doing this without relying on permanent teacher assistance.