Unable and Unwilling is Unacceptable!

Communications from parents of students with Down syndrome (DS) prompted this blog post.  Students with a label of DS possess different ages, genders, academic, social, and communicative levels, as well as varied likes and dislikes; hence each student is unique.  We cannot allow the common denominator of DS  to  reduce learners’ abilities to succeed in school and ultimately in life. It is okay to reduce fractions, but it is never okay to reduce,  limit, or cap an individual’s potential to learn with preconceived notions that ignore how evidence-based practices apply to learners with chromosomal differences.

A parent of an 11-yr old who has Down syndrome shared that his daughter has significant speech challenges – especially expressive; but has relatively strong cognitive skills and social awareness.  She is currently educated in a 4th grade inclusion class in a public school, but as communicated by her parent the teachers are unwilling and unable to fully include her appropriately. They recommend that she is educated in a class alongside students with autism. She is about three years behind the class in academics like reading and writing.  The parents of a kindergarten student were told by school personnel that their daughter cannot be included in the GE math class because she only received a 78% on a math assessment, which was 2 percentile levels below the 80% mastery required. Another family of an elementary level girl with Down syndrome requested that their daughter is included for more subjects than science and social studies.  Some of you reading this post have had experiences with districts across the country and world who view students with Down syndrome as challenging to teach in the gen. ed classroom, while others have been part of school districts who challenge learners and never cap their potential.

Each child is unique, whether or not he or she has a labeled difference. All learners have strengths, those with dyslexia, autism, Down syndrome, emotional, social,  behavioral, physical, or learning  difference. Neurodiversity values difference as a competitive advantage  with opportunities to challenge-not cure or pigeon-hole individuals. We need not sacrifice our curriculum goals and standards, nor redefine the definition of quality work, but we as a profession do need to rethink how learners with different starting levels can learn side-by-side with grade level peers who will one day be co-workers and neighbors who offer advice, smiles, and perhaps a cup of sugar. 

 Multi-tiered systems of support provide the responsive-never generic interventions that allow educators and students to navigate the core curriculum. How to increase inclusive experiences is never an exact formula, but  determining the general education classroom setting/placement as a student’s least restrictive environment (LRE), with the specially designed instruction need not be viewed as a challenging task. Inclusion principles are basically good teaching practices for learners of all levels.

Academic gaps exist, but so do the practices that figure out how to include learners beyond their labels.  A student who has an extra chromosome, different way of seeing, hearing, communicating, moving, or learning is able to achieve  excellent outcomes when the environment is structured to welcome, embrace, and appropriately include learners to honor their current levels, with an eye on how future advancements are accomplished. Grade level peers are never defined as competitors, but need to be viewed as collaborators and life long partners.  Here are a few thoughts about inclusion that highlight specifics that need to live and breathe in each environment. 

Bottom line-InclusionRules-Figure_15.1-now let’s collaboratively figure out how to make that happen in each and every school for each and EVERY child.

This entry was posted in Collaboration, diversity, Down syndrome, Full inclusion, Inclusion Collaboration, Inclusion Ouches, inclusion rules, Inclusion Strategies, Inclusion: Families Partnering with Educators, multi-tiered systems of support, navigate the core curriculum, neurodiversity, positive disability attitudes, Special Education, Successes of Students with Disabilities. Bookmark the permalink.