Saturday, 23 April 2016

ON INCLUSION

Where is CE now?

From the mid nineteen-sixties I was involved in various matters that might fall under the present rubric of 'special needs', in a variety of contexts and a variety of capacities. 

I am now well out of it. In 2016 I have stopped mentioning special needs on Conductive World, and ditto for inclusion, except for when such matters put a shot across the bow of Conductive Education in ways that seem relevant or interesting to me.

I have no way of knowing what either of these concepts mean nowadays, 'special needs' and 'inclusion', in theory, practice or policy. Whether my ignorance marks me out as different from some of those more closely involved in these sectors I no longer know nor care.

Too good not to pass on

I no longer understand what the word 'inclusion' means (did I ever, did anyone?) but this morning I was sent something that seems to make more sense than much that I have read on this topic over the years. It is too good not to pass on.

This might be radical stuff nowadays or it might be commonplace. Again, I have no means of knowing.

It was written by Nancy Gedge, a practising classroom teacher, in England, a double blogger, and mother of a disabled child.

Here's the gist of what she wrote (NB, SEND is current British officialese for 'special educational needs and disability')

Inclusion is about being included in society as an adult

It is vital that we remember that... inclusion, is not about us, but about setting our children up, no matter what their level of difficulties, with the skills and knowledge that they will need in order to make their way in adult society as independently as possible.

A young person working, making a contribution, having the dignity of a fully adult life (which includes working) [is] what we [are] aiming for... In schools, it’s terribly easy to fixate on the short term, on the exam results and attainment data, and forget what it is that we are really doing – preparing our young people for life...

The first, and to me, the most important, is social development. Many children, my own included, have difficulties socially, and some children need to be taught social skills explicitly.... Recognising progress in this area is absolutely key for many children – and has a direct impact on their ability to learn.

To illustrate... since [my son] started at his special school, he has been to far more birthday parties, and and has far more meaningful friendships than he ever did at mainstream. To be honest, this simple fact is, in itself, worthy of thought.

Next... physical development... self-care... associated health needs...

And finally, attainment. We need to remind ourselves, as a profession [schoolteachers], that SEND is not necessarily about attainment in the classroom. Some children make very significant strides academically – and yet they still have additional needs.  Others, like mine, do not; their progress comes in other ways and needs to be recognised... children are not at school to be patted on the head with the accompanying soft smile of the Poor Dears mentality. They are there to be educated, and that education needs to be useful to them.

Above all, the assessments we make as teachers need to be relevant and meaningful – and that means paying attention to all of these things. ... As a profession, growing a bit of backbone and reasserting what is useful to us as teachers and meaningful to us as parents, would be a change most welcome.

It is always worth remembering that we, both educators and parents, are working towards the moment when our children leave us to pursue lives of their own...

I hope that I have not done violence to her position by summarising it so.

(NB, SEND is current British officialese for 'special educational needs and disability') 

Come on CE, join in

Nancy Gedge's son has Down's syndrome but what she writes seems generalisable to children with other developmental disabilities and to other social contexts. It would be very simple to adapt what she says to the circumstances of children and young people with motor disorders.

I know that there are many different ways in which conductive practice is adapting to the varying requirements of inclusion around the world but reading, some of them quite radical. Nancy Gedge's brief article reminds me that it is some time since I have seen an articulated, principled statement arguing the case and the potential of Conductive Education in this respect in educational terms, what is gained through adaptation and fusion, and possibly what is lost.

I might of course have missed something hidden under a bushel somewhere. If so do please do let me know.

Reference

Gedge, N. (2016) Honest and useful assessment for children with SEND is not just about attainment, Special Needs Jungle, 22 April

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