Monday 2 February 2015

Unconference on Inclusion

I'm quite excited and also a teeny bit apprehensive.

Tomorrow I will be attending my very first Unconference.

Never heard of one of those before? Don't worry, neither had I! Apparently, an unconference is 
'a loosely structured conference emphasizing the informal exchange of information and ideas between participants, rather than following a conventionally structured programme of events'.

So there you have it. This particular unconference is being led by the Educational Rights Alliance, who are a small parent-led organisation. In their words, they are 'trying to create a space to give a voice to our young people's experiences'.

They explain the whole event very well at their website: Educational Rights Alliance. There will be some great speakers who I am looking forward to listening to, and time for various aspects of inclusion to be debated. In a nutshell, people will be coming from all walks of life to meet and discuss SEN, disability and equality in schools openly. 

Whilst sitting at my computer this evening, I've come across some great blog posts, many of which are noted in the Educational Rights Alliance link mentioned above. They have been from other mums, from teachers at both mainstream and special schools, from academics and more; each one giving their own take on what inclusion does or should mean. 

One of my favourites is from @JarlathOBrien; his post is entitled Entitlement? Yes. Inclusion? No. Another post from @judeenright presents some top tips for teaching students with autism in mainstream, and yet another from @jordyjax discusses Inclusion or Exclusion. Too many more to pick out individually, but each one leads to another one.

I've touched on inclusion before, in my post 'What is Inclusion? Should all schools be inclusive?'

Since then, I've done some more thinking, and more researching of schools, and some more hoping that a miracle will happen. It will take a very special teacher (irony of using those words is not lost on me) to bring out the best in our youngest girl, and to help her achieve her true potential. It's true that the same could be said for all children, but they simply don't have to overcome the same daily challenges which our girl with autism faces. Our eldest, typically developing girl, will be included at whichever secondary she ends up at. She has the skills to make it work. She was born with them. Our youngest girl needs extra support - not necessarily academically, for she is actually quite 'able', but on the social front, the most difficult aspect of life which we are barely taught the skills for at all.

From what I've read, I see that inclusion can be easy and useful for some, but I'd go as far as to say unhelpful and downright hurtful for others. We are back to the 'one size fits all' or 'square peg in round hole' strategies again and they simply don't work. Developing solutions for small groups of children, small (not special) schools may be one option and I'd certainly like to discuss that with others. I'm going with an open mind. 

What are your thoughts on inclusion? Can it work? Is it idealistic? 
Should it be forced upon society?