In literature, ‘fear’ is a theme that is often is exploited by writers to describe the peril that lives in the mind and lives of characters. This is often the social commentary on our own lives. And how appropriate too at some points.
And maybe that is why Renay was thinking the answer to a Tweet we received this week was simply that the idea of ‘fear’ was preventing a more universal approach to inclusion in schools. We have good, reliable data that proves campuses with inclusion encourage successes for all students no matter their barriers (Socio-economic, language, and disability). So the idea of fear was rolling around all week while we thought about Inclusion.
While we don’t really think all barriers to inclusion live in the idea of fear, fear is an interesting backdrop to the challenges faced by people wanting inclusion or the implementation of inclusion. This isn’t to ignore the inroads that every single person wanting inclusion or receiving inclusion for the person with a disability in their life hasn’t been useful. It has. But it has probably been a hard won fight in some instances with moments of just pure excitement because there has been a great success.
Fear exists. Fear exists because of doubt. And not all fears are easily assuaged by the idea that “it’s going to work, I promise.” So I offer up a few categories of fears that seem to cling to the barriers.
Fears from the Teacher
- “I don’t know how to help this student be successful.” And this isn’t the same as “I’ve tried A, B, and C, and I still don’t know how to help this student be successful.” But this is looking at a student with known challenges [behavior, academic, social, physical] and throwing up your hands immediately. Try tiny steps, even on the academic end. You’d be surprised when the leaps will happen.
- “We’ve never had a student like yours.” Great. And honestly: You’ll never have another student like this one because guess what, this student is one of a kind. Just like every one of the other 20-30 other students in your class. Yes, this student comes with challenges and there will be hard days. There may be a lot of hard days. But as long as you remember that the new day is a new day, the challenges will be such a small part of the whole picture.
Fears from the School
- We don’t have a place for your student in case of [insert specific behavior/medical issue]. Well, no one does. And it can be frightening to school staff. But every school has a response plan. And with some help, one can be developed ‘just in case’. We should note that it should also be addressed what behaviors will not be tolerated and potential expected consequences that are appropriate for the student.
Fears From Parents
- What if inclusion isn’t right for my student? Can’t the transition to SDC be much harder then? It might, depending on the student. But think about the age level. Think about the expectations of a student without an IEP. Maybe the challenge of trying inclusion might not be such a bad thing. If it doesn’t work, yes it will be hard to make a transition to a different setting, but you don’t know if you don’t try.
- The campus is set up that may give my child too much freedom. Well, this is probably age appropriate freedom. Certainly if your student has a tendency to run for the parking lot and then the street, the staff and administrators are going to find out very quickly. But with independence comes for opportunities to grow socially. And there will be a lowered drive to go to that parking lot when the interesting people are on the inside.
- Will my child be a target of bullies? Be caught doing something wrong? Many campuses have strict rules on bullying. Some states even have legislation that defines bullying and that becomes a bigger issue with a person who has a disability. They aren’t allowed on an inclusive campus, they aren’t welcome in a community that works for inclusion for all. Everyone learns and everyone grows at different rates.
Fears From Student
- Fear that the student will be found out that they aren’t as successful as their classmates. This has been a long troubling challenge of inclusion. Part of the answer lies in telling the student that they need to be successful at the things they are going to be good at and that their work shows their teacher that they can be successful because behaviors/academic demands/physical demands are going to make the challenge of doing things like their peers less about a challenge and more stressful. The lesson for the classmates: everyone does their work in their class to the best of their abilities. Some students, due to age, just don’t care. This will last a little while.
- “What if I’m the only one who is different?” You’re not. Not everyone’s challenges can be seen. I promise you. If you had an idea of the types of challenges faced by even a fraction of your peers, your teachers, or even your principal, you’d be floored. Your challenges are only one small part of you. They may be visible and they may not be. You’re going to be just fine.
Fear is a hard challenge. It would be great to stay huddled in bed and never to face the fears that arise with every day. But great things happen outside, and those steps you take are going to be hard. But you need to at least try. You never know until then.
Are you interested in participating as a Guest Blogger for ParaEducate? Do you have a question for us? Find ParaEducate online here, here, here and here. ParaEducate is company interested in providing materials, information, and strategies for people working in special education inclusion settings for grades K-12. ParaEducate, the blog, is published weekly during the academic school year on Thursdays, unless a holiday. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.