• Timothy Lister

    Prior to the move towards the full inclusion of persons with disabilities in society, the default starting point for a person with disabilities was full exclusion. Literally excluded to front porches and institutions. No education was being offered at all. Schools merely had to say, “Your child is disabled, we won’t be able to educate him.”
    The default value of full inclusion for all students was put in place to ensure that educators and school districts start by assuming that all students can be successful.
    Not all students will achieve 100% inclusion in general education classrooms. Some mixture of general education and separate special education is common for students with disabilities. A well written Individualized Education Plan, flowing from skilled assessments, will set the level of inclusion for each student on an individual case by case basis.
    Many school districts would like to change the default setting back to full exclusion. So they could simply send children with disabilities back home to their front porches. I have read the writing of a school administrator who used statistical analysis to declare that the schools ranking would be higher if they didn’t have to educate students with disabilities or children who do not speak English as their first language.
    The NPQ article author’s assertion of an “inclusion delusion” does not connect to the current best practice of assuming that each and every student can reach their highest level of success through full inclusion – adjusted by a well written Individualized Education Plan. The author’s aggressive negative labeling of current best practices is puzzling. It is well within her right to choose a fully segregated education for her child, even to keep her child at home. If assessments concur, the parent can become a CNA and be paid to provide the child’s care (in Colorado).
    So why take a stance that can potentially jeopardize the full inclusion of other students?

    • Dane Overfield

      Hi Timothy,

      I think you may have missed the point of this article.

      As a parent of a 19 year old with severe mental and physical disabilities (think 6-9 month old both physically and mentally, 100+ pounds, non-ambulatory with a serious seizure condition, feeding tube, …), I read this article and thought “Wow, this is exactly how my wife and I feel.”

      For a large majority of people with disabilities, inclusion can be a very positive thing. Assistance at a regular school, and assistance when they are older for living and working allows many disabled people to lead lives which are much better than they could have in the past. That is a great thing.

      Yet caught up in this are people like my daughter who will never live on their own with assistance, will never work at a normal work place with or without assistance, and would benefit from a “segregated” home with the necessary supports and community activities.

      Unfortunately the options which were available for our daughter 10 years ago in our state (New York) have almost disappeared because these options are seen as non-inclusive. Group homes are called non-inclusive institutions, and workshops are segregated and non-inclusive and therefore being closed. So the only option is for my wife and I to take care of her in our home as we have done for the last 19 years.

      Fortunately we currently have the option of a wonderful segregated school but once she ages out of school at 21 her future does not very good. Without group homes and workshops in our community she may end up spending her time alone in her room at home – alone except for her parents and caregivers. Is that a better life for a disabled adult who currently thrives at her segregated school?

      The “inclusion delusion” is not that inclusion is bad, and I (and I assume Jill) do not believe this. The delusion is that inclusion is good for all levels of disabilities. This delusion is being used by states to reduce or end non-inclusive options that have great benefit for a minority of the disabled community. The one-size-fits-all mentality is causing serious harm to some disabled people and their families – and usually the most severely disabled.

      Without segregated options these adults will live with their parents until the parents can no longer do it because of age, sickness, or just giving up from the stress and physical exhaustion. At that time the disabled adult will be “emergency-placed” into a segregated living situation without the input of the caregivers who understand them the best and spent decades ensuring that they were taken care of properly.

      I hope that you will re-read this article with my comments in mind. I applaud the Jill writing this article to give voice to a minority of disable people who are being harmed by the current wave of inclusion for all.

      • Angela

        Absolutely agree with the article! I also agree with Mr. Lister that the school posture of full exclusion was the starting point for change. Isn’t it possible that we find a middle ground- A place where inclusion is prefaced with the question of what’s actually in the best interest of the individual? As an educator and sibling of a disabled person I see both sides of the debate. No, we should not summarily exclude students based on the presence of a disability, but we should at the very least look to the full spectrum of students (and adults) to find what really is best for them. Like many debates- I believe the right answer is hanging in the balance between the two views. How we navigate the in-between is the difficult challenge that hopefully we are now ready to tackle. No, we won’t ever make everyone happy, and no not everyone will agree to the exact fulcrum of the balancing act, but does that exempt society from trying? I hope not. Thank you Jill for opening up the conversation. It is time to confront the ills we have “accepted” and make the change regardless of the difficulties in the way.

      • Timothy Lister

        I will reread the article.