What is inclusion?
August 6 2020
Crystal Hart talks about inclusion and asks if our current understanding of inclusion and our practices are really inclusive.
What is inclusion?
My partner has a hidden disability. It means that as a couple we face the problem of inclusivity in all aspects of life.
Working in a primary school, I see inclusion delivered on a daily basis and practice it daily in my job. Although it is usually positive, how do we actually know we are being inclusive?
Just following the guidelines?
Most of the people practicing inclusion have spoken about just following guidelines. They don’t actually understand the concept of inclusion to be able to put it into practice for the benefit of all who need it.
Guidelines on inclusion normally talk about adapting the curriculum, but what about physical and mental needs within inclusion? Take for instance, a teaching assistant who tells the child they need to sit down, stop humming and pick up a pencil to be included in class learning. If the child naturally wants to hum and stand while writing with a finger in sand, then is stopping them from doing it really inclusion? Or would it be the opposite? The child would still be learning and stopping this way of learning could mentally affect the child. Which then makes us ask the question, is inclusion used as a way of conformity?
Who is including who?
But who is being included here? Is it the one child who is learning differently? Or is it the 29 other children who are all learning the same way?
We normally think of inclusion as including the one child with the 29 others. But what if the one child is including the 29 others by bringing them into their way of understanding the world?
Teachers normally assume the inclusion of one child would interrupt the other children learning. However, I like to think of it as a learning curve for the 29 other children. Helping them to understand this other world within which the one child experiences.
Including the 29
For example, one child uses a sensory room for their emotions. A teacher brought the other 29 children into the sensory room to engage with the one child. They allowed the other children to use the equipment alongside the one child to experience the regulation of emotions together.
Now when emotions need to be regulated, all the children understand. They are in that world together, being able to help each other as well as helping the one child. Teaching them true inclusion and compassion. Which can be very positive for all.
But in such a culturally and religiously diverse world, how are adults going to truly understand inclusion? The children themselves may just be the answer.
Crystal Alice Hart works as a teaching assistant (TA) in a UK primary school, teaching children who are on the autistic spectrum. She has just completed a bachelors degree in special educational needs.
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