Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Inclusive Education: An Overview

Greetings!  I am Shana Soucy, Manager of Inclusive Education for the New Brunswick Association for Community Living (NBACL). This blog post will be concentrating on general information on inclusive education.  In later blog posts, I will be going into more detail on certain aspects of inclusive education, for example:

·         What is inclusive education (what it’s not)
·         Myths and facts about inclusive education
·         Various roles in New Brunswick’s education system
·         How NBACL supports students and families
·         How NBACL supports principals, educators and educational assistants

Please feel free to share your experience and contribute to the dialogue by signing in.  However, remember that this is a public blog and the information you post will not be confidential.  I look forward to hearing from you!

One of the biggest myths regarding inclusive education in our province is that because New Brunswick is the leading province in Canada when it comes to having an inclusive school system, we have it all figured out.  While we certainly are a leader nationally, and we have developed many best practices, we still face many challenges in implementing good, solid inclusive educational practices.  We still have a lot of work to do to ensure all students are participating in regular classrooms, surrounded by their same-aged peers of different abilities and receiving the proper supports that will help them achieve their full potential. 

Even though Bill 85 was introduced in 1986 stating the full participation of all students in all aspects of school and community life, without regard to their disability or difficulty, (http://www.gnb.ca/0000/publications/mackay/appendixk.pdf) we are still coming across many issues regarding exclusion:

  • Segregated classrooms and segregated programs across schools in New Brunswick
  • Modifications and accommodations are not being properly done to students’ lessons as noted in their Special Education Plans in order for them to have success in school
  • Some students are being excluded from school activities (ie: field trips)
  • Students are not only excluded from the regular classroom, they are not able to have lunch in the school cafeteria, instead, having their lunch with other students with a disability and Educational Assistants in the Resource room of the school
So, what IS Inclusive Education?  What is it supposed to look like?

Inclusive Education is feeling welcomed and having a sense of belonging in your school.  This can only happen if you are part of the school community and included in as many aspects of school life as possible:
  • Regular classrooms
  • School activities such as assemblies, field trips, sports, etc.
  • Breaks, recess, lunch time (cafeteria)
Inclusive Education means that every student is:
  • Going to their neighbourhood school
  • Participating in the regular classroom to the fullest extent possible
  • Receiving the proper supports
Inclusive Education does not mean that students are:
  • Spending most of their school day in a Resource room with an Educational Assistant or with other students who have a disability
  • Placed in a regular classroom, but not engaged in learning with the other students
  • Are spending 100% of their time in the regular classroom**
**Some students do and will benefit from one on one attention from a teacher,  an Educational Assistant or an other professional, however, if pull-out of the regular classroom is necessary, it should be time limited, for specific reasons and come with a plan on how it will support the student in a way that cannot be accommodated within the regular classroom setting.

In 2009, the Department of Education published the Definition of Inclusive Education document.  This definition states that while, type of disability and medical diagnosis provide important information, learning environments are never developed or assigned on the basis of disability or label. (http://www.gnb.ca/0000/publications/Definition%20of%20Inclusion.pdf)

Resource rooms or other rooms are not the place for any students to spend his or her days during the school day.

The New Brunswick Association for Community Living (NBACL) has been supporting children and adults who have an intellectual disability and their families for over 50 years.  When it comes to Inclusive Education, NBACL supports students who have a disability and their families to ensure that students are receiving the proper supports in and out of the classroom in order to reach their full potential. 
Education-related resources for families that were produced by NBACL are:
  • Achieving Inclusion: A Parent Guide to Inclusive Education in New Brunswick
  • Taking the Journey: An Information and Advocacy Guide for Families Supporting a Child with a Disability
NBACL has also been training principals, educators and education assistants on inclusive practices and strategies to ensure that our leaders also have the proper supports in order to make sure their students are getting a quality education. 

An important aspect of quality inclusive education is following the appropriate roles.  For example, educators should take full responsibility for all of their students’ learning.  Students with an intellectual disability should not be the sole responsibility of the Educational Assistant.

Educators should:
  • Refrain from sending students out of the classroom too often
  • Encourage students to become independent
  • Facilitate group work
  • Work directly with all students daily
  • Create lesson plans
  • Supervise the Educational Assistant
Educational Assistants should:
  • Support the student needing additional supports
  • Support the educator with all students in the classroom needing supports
  • Be a key player on the team that supports the student
Educational Assistants should not:
  • Create lesson plans
  • Be in charge of students’ learning
  • Teach children who were pulled out of the classroom without direct supervision and guidance from the educator
Education-related resources for school personnel that were produced by NBACL are:

**NBACL has trained facilitators who are invited by schools across New Brunswick who want to participate in our self-reflection questionnaire process.  The document Creating an Inclusive School goes through the 9 necessary indicators needed to create an inclusive school.  By participating in this questionnaire, the schools are able to see where they are achieving success with inclusion in their school and where they might need additional help because of challenges they are going through.  A plan is then made with short and long-term goals to improve the school’s inclusiveness.

Interested in learning more about Inclusive Education?  Tune in for my next blog post where we will take a more in depth look at the history of Inclusive Education and specifically, what it can look like for students who have an intellectual disability.


Darcy said...

Congratulations on you first blog post!

FADSS said...

Congrats on starting this blog. My son is 4 with Down Syndrome and Autism. He used to go to daycare but we took him out cause he didn't thrive in a classroom environment. He was supposed to start kindergarten this fall, but we've decided to delay him for a year. I'm looking to seeing how NB's inclusive education system handles him.

nbacl said...

Thank you!

Good luck to you and your son. We have a resource you might find helpful when he does start school. If you are interested, email me at ssoucy@nbacl.nb.ca and we can send it to you.


Anonymous said...

This is a well written article and I agree with what is being said. I am happy to report that our daughter's experience at her school is that of inclusion and we are very happy with her teachers, educational assistants and resource teacher- they all seem to be on board with inclusion and that is reflected in our daughter's sense of belonging.
I would encourage any parent whose child is struggling with inclusion that they ask to meet with the teachers and principle, and bring along a member of NBACL for support to help iron out the issues.