A person can be defined as having a disability if he or she finds it difficult or impossible to carry out some everyday activities that someone the same age, sex and social context would be expected to be able to carry out. This means that they need support to do some things and there are some things that they can’t do, but does not mean that they cannot learn or that they cannot achieve and be successful in school and, beyond school, in vocational training or in employment.
There are some big shifts in attitude that have to be made for inclusive education to succeed. These include:
• The change from thinking that all children with disabilities need separate services that are very different from the services that other children receive. Children with disabilities can often benefit more fully from receiving regular services alongside other children of the same age, with support if they need it. Being included in this way is a better preparation for adult life than being in a service which is totally separate. A few children will always need largely separate provision because of the severity or complexity of their needs, but they can benefit from contact with other children in less formal situations such as games, drama or music – but they need to be properly included, not just present.
• The change from thinking about what disabled people cannot do, to thinking about what they can do – particularly with the correct support.
Once everyone in the education service, parents and members of local communities believe that many children with disabilities should be educated in local mainstream schools and that this can be achieved successfully, they can concentrate on how to do this successfully.
It is important that children with disabilities are not thought of only in terms of their disability or there diagnosis. They should also be seen as individuals who are not necessarily like other children with the same diagnosis. They more like other children without disabilities than different from them, with their own unique personality, likes and dislikes, interests, talents and needs for support. Two children with Down’s Syndrome or with cerebral palsy will be very different from each other and may have more in common with a child without a disability than with each other.
Everyone concerned with children should think about their own current experience, and about what has to be done to bring about the changes in attitude which are described here?
How could the changes in attitude described above be supported? Which people are in the best position to support the changes? What could each individual to encourage attitude change?