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THE UNIVERSITY OF MANCHESTER
Profound Learning Disability and Multi Sensory Impairment
Assignment Code: MD6020/1
‘Integration is not Inclusion’. Consider this statement with reference to a number of types of provision for a child or young person with profound and multiple learning difficulties who may also have sensory impairments.
Course Unit: Education
Course Unit Code: MD6020
Registration Number: 0259156 (Kouka Antonia)
Date: March 26, 2004
Most people involved in the lives of children and adults with profound learning disabilities and multi sensory impairments would agree that in the last years there has been an obvious shift towards inclusion, especially in the areas of care and education. More and more children with learning difficulties and/or sensory impairments are admitted into mainstream settings as more and more educational and care institutions are opening up to accepting and valuing difference.
Parents and professionals have stressed the importance of forming inclusive societies in which all citizens share equal rights and opportunities. A series of laws and acts have set the foundations towards inclusivity by supporting the integration of people with disabilities into mainstream care and education. However, placing people into mainstream does not necessarily mean that we have achieved inclusion. ‘Integration is not inclusion’ and our responsibilities towards people with profound learning difficulties and sensory impairments do not stop just because we managed to give them what was undoubtedly theirs; the right to equal education and equal opportunities for life.
Integration is the process under which people with disabilities are positioned in the mainstream system of provisions and therefore, it is only one step towards the total inclusion of a person in society.
“Inclusion means that all children have the right to have their needs met in the best way for them. They are seen as being part of the community, even if they need particular help to live in a full life within the community. So, whilst integration is about bringing people who are different together, inclusion is about providing the support that is needed to enable different people to be together in a community” (Bruce and Meggitt, 2002).
In this assignment I will try to show that integration is just one positive step towards inclusion which is beneficial but not quite sufficient. The concept of inclusion is a much broader one and it entails all aspects of a person’s needs and desires. Inclusion is the aim and integration is a part of it but not its synonym. The emphasis of this paper will then be to show that although people with profound learning disabilities are getting more and more integrated in mainstream settings they do not necessarily have their needs met and they are still quite far away from complete educational and social inclusion.
One of the most important types of provision for people with profound learning difficulties is education. All people disabled or non disabled have the right to access education. According to the Education Reform Act (1988) access to the National Curriculum must be provided to all children including those with special needs (Bruce and Meggitt, 2002). The integration of children with additional needs into mainstream schools is a fundamental right which can take place on three levels:
“The first is Locational integration which is the placement of a child with special educational needs in a class for disabled children inside a mainstream school.
The second is Social integration when the children in a class mix with mainstream children for a range of non-academic activities.
And the third is Functional integration when children with special educational needs follow courses, or elements of courses, with their peer group, benefiting from any necessary support they require”
(Bruce and Meggitt, 2002)
In the three types of integration, we clearly see that the idea is to bring together children and children with learning difficulties in the same environment but there is no point made on how this coexistence can become educationally productive and beneficial. What is evident then is that integration in education is just a strategy to avoid segregation and separation from the mainstream (May, 2000). It means that all children are directed towards following a curriculum that does not fully account for their individual needs. May (2000) in discussing the effectiveness of integration mentions that “the danger is that ‘integration’ is seen as ‘mainstreaming’ of pupils in terms of curricular access” and that this can result in an education that is nothing but appropriate to the individual needs of the disabled person. What he emphasizes is that there is high risk of neglecting the person’s needs in order to offer him/her access to the National Curriculum.
It is apparently an overgeneralization to claim that the National Curriculum is a ‘curriculum for all’. Children with learning difficulties and/or sensory impairments require special attention, adapted and appropriate environments as well as appropriate educational targets. “Certainly, producing a National Curriculum for everyone does not guarantee that what will be delivered will be right for every pupil and his or her needs” (Lacey and Lomas, 1993). As it seems then, when children with disabilities are placed in mainstream classes they are faced with quite many problems. Their full inclusion would mean that they share the same rights, opportunities and even problems with everyone else in the class, in addition to having their individual needs met. The focus should not be on whether or not someone has access to the National curriculum but if the person actually benefits from the education he/she is receiving.
The child’s needs are of central importance so with individuality in mind we should make provisions for his /her person-centered plan in the educational field. What people with learning difficulties need and should have is an effective whole curriculum that can blend the positive aspects of special education with those of the National Curriculum. The integrated student becomes included only when the system offers him/her the best and not just the basic. As May (2000) puts it, “it must remain the central, moral obligation of society to distribute resources in a manner which will enable dependent individuals to grow, develop and lead fulfilling lives. No less is expected of a nation’s education service.”
What May describes above is not integration; he describes inclusion. Inclusive educational organizations are based around the mainstream curriculum and teaching but are also responsible for making special provisions for children with learning difficulties and/or sensory impairments (Clark, 1995). An inclusive school is one that not only allows difference in its premises but one that cares and provides for all learners, in the same setting but at the same time in a highly specific way for every student separately. Inclusive education “refers to the level which the learner is involved in the life of the school” (MD6020, 2002). It refers to the level which he/she feels part of a peer group and to the level which children with disabilities are finally seen as classmates and friends from school.
Being included means being a typical student or a typical citizen who can easily be identified as a full member of any social group. Claiming the right to be equal to others is what inclusion is all about. Barry Carpenter, Rob Ashdown and Keith Bovair (1996) in their book “Enabling Access”, have set up a list that includes some of every learner’s educational expectations. Through educational experiences, every learner, disabled or not, should expect to:
- Gain self-esteem
- Increase independence
- Develop knowledge
- Make choices
- Express preferences
- Be active participants
- Gain communication skills
- Broaden their horizons
- Gain access to a wide variety of resources including IT and multimedia
- Have expectations of themselves and of others
- Develop awareness of themselves and of others
- Have opportunities for socializing and socialization
- Develop their citizenship, and finally,
- Develop their self esteem
The first step is to ensure accessibility in terms of specialized equipment such as ramps, lifts and toilet facilities for all students. Access also refers to computer and play equipment that must be adjustable and therefore available to all. Learning material should also be offered in audio, Braille or in any other possible format according to the learners’ needs. Accessibility seems to be quite rudimentary and of common knowledge but it is the basis for inclusivity since it makes possible for all students to coexist harmonically in one setting and to feel equal members of their school and not quests in it.
The second step is that of information gathering. Teachers and caring staff in mainstream schools need to have as much information as possible about specific disorders, disabilities and learning difficulties so as to be able to plan realistic learning goals for each individual in the school. Apart from teachers, fellow students need to have access to such information in order to understand and learn to appreciate difference. A well informed school is a school that promotes inclusion in people’s minds and one that sets the basis for the formation of an inclusive society.
The third step towards inclusion is quality training. In addition to specialist teachers, all teaching staff of mainstream schools must be trained in disability awareness and be advocates of equality in education. One of the most important variables of successful inclusive education is “high quality professional preparation of teachers at pre- and in-service levels to equip and update them in meeting the needs of a diverse classroom population.” (May, 2000). Many teachers express fears for inclusion because they have not received the information and training needed to work effectively in a classroom that is characterized by difference and multiple levels of ability. “A Canadian writer, Norman Kunc (1987) advised teachers that the only way to learn about inclusion is to do it. Knowledge, understanding and skills derive from participation. People will conquer their fears only by actual involvement in the activities that they think of as too difficult, too different or as requiring too great a change in their part” (Clark, 1995).
Finally, inclusive education must strife to make learners become involved in school life. The system must help children with learning difficulties and/or sensory impairments get involved in everything that would promote socializing and interacting with others. Disabled learners need to learn to see themselves as learners and not as a disability category. They must improve the way they see themselves and their position in a mainstream school. Such an improved self-concept can only be accomplished if they feel in place and if they feel that their needs are fully covered in the same manner as they should be covered for all the school’s learning population.
According to Tomlinson (1997), “a good education system is not merely about offering access to what is available, but also the making of what needs to be available accessible: the moulding of opportunity” (May, 2000). Equal opportunity is what characterizes the notion of inclusion. It is the sense of feeling a unique but at the same time unified part of an inclusive whole that does not recognize you because of your differences but rather values you for them.
Legislation in the last decade has set the grounds for inclusion by empowering integration to mainstream schools and other institutions. The most recent legal act is the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act (2001) that “aimed to strengthen the right of a disabled child to be educated in mainstream schools, although there will still be a vital role for special schools” (Bruce and Meggitt, 2002). Such legal documents have increased the numbers of children with learning disabilities and/or sensory impairments that have been integrated into their local schools. However, ‘integration is not inclusion’ so we cannot infer that a person is included in education and society just by enrolling him/her into mainstream schooling.
Inclusion in education is the essence of inclusion in society. It is a process of enabling all people to participate in education and socialization. While integration is about placement and positioning, inclusion is about being a social being enjoying rights and obligations in human society. Inclusion needs organization and constant evaluation in order to be practiced realistically. Providing adequate resources to increase accessibility of mainstream schools is of highest importance as well as making sure that parents, peers and professionals receive adequate information and training in the issues disability in order to be able to appreciate the benefits of inclusivity.
Integration or mainstreaming is just not enough for people with learning difficulties who may also have sensory impairments. As Tomlinson (1997) notes, “the concept of inclusiveness is not synonymous with integration. It is a larger and prior concept. Sometimes it will be a mixture of the integrated and the discrete. And sometimes…it will be discrete provision. No apology is necessary for the paradox…that…the concept of inclusive learning is not necessarily coincident with total integration…into the mainstream” (May, 2000).
What we can claim is that indeed the numbers of children with disabilities that have been integrated to mainstream have risen in the last years but unfortunately we cannot make such a claim for inclusion. Being included is much more than being integrated and we certainly have a long way to go before we can call our society an inclusive society.
Bruce, T. and Meggitt, C. (2002) Child Care and Education –Third edition. London, Hodder and Stoughton.
Carpenter, B. (1996). Enabling Access Ashdown, R. and Bovair, K. London, David Fulton.
Clark, C. Dyson, A. and Millward, A. (eds) (1995). Towards inclusive schools? David Fulton.
Lacey, P. and Lomas, J. (1993) Support Services and the Curriculum. David Fulton.
May, D. (2000) Transition and Change in the Lives of People with Intellectual Disabilities. Jessica Kingsley Publications.
MD6020 (2002) Education –Infant, Child and Adult Issues (Book 4). The University of Manchester.