I recently had the good fortune of getting to visit a few centres on the business of disability. I was primarily an observer – and I'm a bloody good observer – but I also got to talk with the experts and get the inside story...
To be honest I'm really disappointed at the piss-poor effort to include children with disabilities. In fact some centres were like the dark ages with teachers (yes qualified and under the dictate of Te Whāriki) refusing to work alongside these children. What the fuck?
Ignored, left sitting alone for long periods, denied resources (“She just spills paint so we've stopped giving her any”), or subtly placed into an 'island of inclusion' where they are of course welcome, but we'll get in an expert to look after them and essentially they'll have their own 'special' curriculum and have sweet fuck-all to do with the centre community... (as long as they're quiet eh?).
Too often 'inclusion' came across as a product rather than a process with responsibility abdicated to support workers and specialists. Part of the problem is the curriculum, Te Whāriki, loaded as it is with deficit discourses concerning disability, it essentially provides an opt-out clause to establish a separate, adult-controlled curriculum for disabled learners. It also uses that fatal word “assumes”.
“The curriculum assumes that their care and education will be encompassed within the principles, strands blah blah...” It talks of “activities” (read: teacher controlled, not self-initiated), IEP's with “realistic objectives” and finally puts the boot in with the term 'special needs' just in case those personal discourses weren't already peaking about how some freak is going to totally fuck with your morning session...
Back to school you lot, or back into your closet.
Oh, it's not all doom and gloom. I witnessed some beautiful relationships, some joyous friendships and heaps of laughs... what inclusion is all about.