From Section 3, idea #16 of Don’t We Already Do Inclusion?
My first boss, a director of special education, had a sign over his door declaring “Special Education is Not a Place”. His philosophy was clear to anyone who visited him.
This motto is clever but it also communicates a “big idea” that is commonly lost in conversations about inclusive education. Some stakeholders, for instance, believe that students must go elsewhere if they need special supports, instruction, curriculum, or assessments. It isn’t uncommon to hear statements such as, “Well, we can include him for art class but he isn’t at grade level for reading, so we will pull out for that.” This statement illustrates a misunderstanding of inclusion.
Inclusion is not about “keeping up”, participating in the same tasks as others, or meeting the same goals as one’s classmates. It is about using the inclusive classroom and all that it offers (e.g., rich curriculum, high expectations, communication models, peer support) as a context for learning grade-level content and meeting IEP and other personal objectives. Any number of supports and services might be utilized to help students participate and learn effectively in an inclusive classroom. These supports and services ARE special education and just because a student may need more of them or more thought put into designing them, he or she should not be sent elsewhere because “that’s the way we have always done things around here”, because other spaces exist to meet these needs, or because it is easier.
Special education is not a place. How does your school understand this statement?