Inclusion: It Isn't Just for Families Anymore

January 23, 2012
Chelsea Budde

I adore Paula Kluth.  Before this starts to sound like a weird stalker post, let me give you some Kluth-isms to provide an evidence basis for my declaration so you can join the club:

-  "Inclusion isn't a place. It's the work that we do."
-  "Dwell in possibility." (borrowed from Emily Dickinson, but applied to successful educational inclusion, therefore a Kluth-ism)
-  "Don't stop trying 15 minutes before the magic [of meaningful inclusion] happens."
Plus, she's from Wisconsin.  I'm just sayin'.

The point is that Paula's positivity is inspiring.  She's full of best practices and classroom-tested differentiations that make learning fun and accessible for students of all abilities.  She practices and promotes inclusion.

Inclusion is vital in our communities.  Not just in our homes as families who care for someone with autism or another diff-ability, but also in education (whenever possible -- and Paula and her colleague Patrick Schwarz would likely argue it's always possible!), in the workforce, and in recreation and leisure opportunities.

Even before a child gets an autism spectrum diagnosis, families are often making accommodations (consciously or without even realizing it) to include their child in household happenings and outings.  We may bring a particular food item or some fidget toys when visiting relatives; or arrange our schedule around a favorite TV show; or closely monitor the weather to decide what activities would be best suited to our loved one with autism's quirks.

Many administrators and educators (not necessarily in Wisconsin, where the Department of Public Instruction supports the inclusive educational model) have not been trained properly in the inclusion of students with special education needs in classrooms.  They may adopt a practice that looks more like mainstreaming, where the student with an IEP is in the regular education classroom, but is lacking the curricular or instruction modifications that would make for a truly inclusive experience.  Perhaps the peers in the class didn't receive any training either, which makes social exchanges awkward at best and non-existent (or damaging) at worst.

If we want to prepare today's students for the increasingly integrated future of work and play, then we as parents and professionals need to model acceptance, inclusion, and flexibility.  It doesn't have to be expensive or complicated, but it does have to be prioritized and open-minded.

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