Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Reverse Inclusion


I read this story about a special ed teacher (who is qualified by certifications & degrees, no doubt) who put together a club at her school, "Creating Exceptional Character" which is a "local chapter of the Council for Exceptional Children, a national organization devoted to special education. The club brought typical students into classrooms after school to work with students with special needs." You can read about it here.  She then created an elective course offered to the general education juniors & seniors that "would follow a goal related to the club, which is to introduce the history and interaction of individuals with disabilities."

The article called it a "reverse inclusion" class. I have severely mixed feelings about it. In fact, the more I think about it, the more it pisses me off! I would like to start off by saying that I am very, very sure this teacher had good intentions in creating this club & elective course. And maybe I'm being overly sensitive but a couple things really get me going.

First of all, the typical kids who take this elective course are referred to as "positive-peer role models". Excuse me, but why are the kids without disabilities the "positive role models"? Don't you think that those kids stand to learn a lot from the kids with disabilities? Why aren’t the kids in wheelchairs considered role models? I would say that my daughter models ultimate levels of patience, kindness and immeasurable love, for starters.

The teacher stated in the article, “I saw really good students not knowing how to interact with special-needs students, and it gave me an idea to design a course that would educate typical students." That's great. I really like the sound of that. Then she goes on to say, “You can’t imagine what it’s like to watch a football player who’s popular and has a girlfriend, to feed a Thanksgiving dinner to a student in a wheelchair.” WHAT?? So a POPULAR kid with a GIRLFRIEND feeding a kid in a wheelchair at dinner....THAT'S the standard of successful inclusion??? WTF!!!

Why do people automatically assume that people with disabilities should be pitied and have people around them saying things like, "awww...look he's so cuuuute!" when he's trying to tell a joke or flag a taxi or just wanting to socialize...you know, things that everybody else on the planet does!

We need to look at people with disabilities with the SAME EYES we look at people without disabilities. If you wouldn't say, "awww" to a man in his 30 who is not disabled, why would you do that to someone who is? That's called INFANTILIZATION. Yes, it's actually a real word and a real occurrence. And it's also really annoying.

When I went to the Down Syndrome conference a few weeks ago, one of the self-advocates there was a young man who is 21 years old and he gave a power-point presentation entitled, "Why We Are More Alike Than Different", comparing people with Down Syndrome to those without. I was sitting at a table with a bunch of college girls and all they kept saying, Every. Single. Time. this man said anything was, "awwwww! he's so cuute!!" and they all looked at each other, with their shoulders raised, eyebrows up, corners of their mouths turned down...you know, that dumb "aw shucks" look girls get sometimes. I wanted to slap them every time. But I didn't want to get fired that day so I held off on that. I mean, he was making sense, putting forth a very reasonable and logical argument: he IS more alike than different! But I have this nagging feeling that they didn't hear what he was saying. They were just thinking how "cute this boy is, standing up there, in his cute shirt and tie...oh and look! He managed to tie BOTH his shoes!" AWWWWWW!!!

So back to the “reverse inclusion” idea…I know some of you out there will wonder, “What’s the big deal?” Well, here it is: why is it, that when a program, social activity, fun gathering, whatever, is organized for people with disabilities, it seems like it’s a great big pity party? I mean, doesn’t my daughter DESERVE to have fun stuff to do – not because she’s disabled but because she’s a great kid! Take the Girl Scouts, for example. Is it an organization that gets girls together to “give those poor girls something to do”. No! They teach them things; the girls get to make friends, have fun; they impact others around them because of their different strengths & abilities. There’s a purpose behind it. Something bigger than getting the crippled kids in a big room and getting the cool kids to smile at them and feed them mashed potatoes.
Anyways....this program, the "reverse inclusion" one, at the end of the day, although it started out with a good intent, is a piss-poor example of how inclusion SHOULD be done.

Damn, we got so much work to do!!! 


  1. First I'd like to say that this is hardly a rant, I feel your concern come across but not piss 'n vinegar anger.
    I can't say I am overly familiar with the concept of inclusion, coming as i do from Holland where anyone with average intelligence goes to a regular school regardless of the disability but those with cognitive issues have special schools. What the Dutch model shows (with its regionalized central offices for children with disabilities) is that it's not a funding issue but rather an organizational one, IF you accept the de facto division as I mentioned above.
    Back to the article: it reads as though someone in high school had written it so I will assume there are interesting details left out or taken out of context, difficult to pass judgment. The article doesn't really explain any details of what the program includes vis a vis interacting with a child in a wheelchair. What do you do about the STARE, for example? Taken at face value I agree it does look like another case of pandering. Why for example are kids being shown to 'feed' a schoolmate instead of working on just acclimating them to their social circle, i.e. understanding any communication challenges that can be overcome?

    1. Your last question is exactly my point...true inclusion is being a PART of the circle, not just being INSERTED somewhere. I don't know if you caught my previous post regarding inclusion, but I try to differentiate the difference between inclusion and insertion. You can read it here: http://theseed9811.blogspot.com/2013/02/is-inclusion-good-thing.html
      Thanks for your thoughts.

  2. Melissa, I would also agree with Eric that the original article was written poorly and lacks substance. Inclusion is a reality in the U.S., but then, again, I am not sure it is. Planting a kid with special needs in a regular classroom accomplishes nothing unless he or she is communicated with by teacher and students. This is usually not the case, especially on the high school level.
    I am not sure we need reverse inclusion, we need genuine inclusion and the regular classroom is the instructional forum for making all students part of the human circle. The sad fact is that most regular ed teachers do not have a clue about how to include the handicapped which is why this social experiment has failed in many cases. So much work to do...

    1. "Planting" is another good word for insertion, which is how I describe poorly integrated classrooms. Sticking someone in the middle of a circle does not mean they will actually become a part of that circle. Being tolerated is not the same as being accepted.
      (I'm not saying that the kids in this particular program are merely tolerating the kids with disabilities...it IS an elective, after all. I just don't think it really describes an effective inclusion scenario.)