“There needs to be a lot more emphasis on what a child can do instead of what he cannot do.” Dr. Temple Grandin. In light of these words uttered by Dr. Temple Grandin, the concept of inclusion comes to mind if we are to place more emphasis on what children can do instead of what they cannot. With that being the case we cannot separate our disabled children from the general education classrooms, they must be included so that they can enjoy the benefits that are to be had. Inclusion is referred to as, the educational practice of educating children with disabilities in classrooms with children without disabilities. The concept of inclusion takes on two general models, namely; “Push in” and “full inclusion”.
The concept of inclusion, works in tandem with mainstreaming. Subsequently, advocates of mainstreaming did not want to see students with disabilities placed in special classrooms for an entire day. Rather, they developed the belief that more exposure to the general education classroom would be beneficial to everyone. Similarly, inclusion speaks to children with disabilities being included in the general setting under the responsibility of the general classroom teacher. Inclusion is considered to be flexible because students with disabilities can receive their instruction in another setting such as a resource room with additional support been provided by “paraprofessionals ”. (this is special-education worker who is not licensed to teach, but performs many duties both individually with students and organizationally in the classroom). When considering inclusion, there are characteristics that must be observed and these include; all students been welcomed in the general classroom regardless of their disability or the severity, the proportion of students with and without disabilities are proportional to each other, students are educated with peers in the same age grouping available to those without disability labels, and students with varying characteristics and abilities participate in shared educational experiences.
As mentioned earlier, inclusion has two main models: “Push in” and “full inclusion”. “Push In” recommends that the special education teacher enter the classroom to provide instruction and support to the children. The “push in” teacher will bring materials into the classroom. The teacher may work with the child on math during the math period, or perhaps reading during the literacy block. The push in teacher also often provides instructional support to the general education teacher, perhaps helping with differentiation of instruction. On the other hand, full inclusion refers to the practice of serving students with disabilities and other special needs entirely within the general classroom. Consequently, all students with disabilities are served the entire day in the general classroom, although special education teachers and other personnel may also be present in the general classroom. (Knowlton, 2004 ).
Is the concept of inclusion applicable within the Jamaican context? In response to that question, we ought to consider the benefits that can be procured from the inclusion of students with disabilities in the general education classroom. The benefits for students include; a greater emphasis on students strength as opposed to shortfalls and limitations, students with disabilities demonstrate higher level of academic performance in inclusive setting, and students with disabilities have a greater opportunity the develop social skills from other students. Inclusion is applicable in the Jamaican context because there are students in our Jamaican society that are diagnosed with disabilities of one kind or another and we want then to be able to enjoy the benefits that were outlined earlier. In an article published in The Gleaner dated May 2, 2013, the author is quoted as saying “PEOPLE with disabilities (PWD) represent one of the most vulnerable and marginalized groups of people in Jamaica. They are often uneducated, live in extreme poverty and hunger, and are often at serious risk of discrimination and violence.” Consequently, it is applicable and wise to promote inclusion in the Jamaican context. UNICEF (2004) (as sited in the The Gleanre may 2013), disabled children have little opportunity to enjoy their right to an education, as stipulated in the Child Care and Protection Act as well as the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, because less than 15 per cent of these persons are enrolled in government operated schools. In addition, Susan B. Rifkin and Pat Pridmore (2001) (as sited in The Gleaner may 2013), argues that “education is a powerful tool for the economic empowerment of people with disabilities because people who lack education/information often lack power and lack choices about how to improve their lives.” This is goes to show why inclusion is applicable in the Jamaican context. It is heartwarming to know that in Jamaica the national disability policy stipulates that no child shall be denied access to any public education institution on the basis of a disability.
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