Source Kids Winter 2019

Page 16

INCLUSIVE CHILDREN: EDUCATION

|

INCLUSIVE EDUCATION

BY ERIN BUIE

INCLUSIVE SCHOOLS

INCLUSION IS THE LATEST BUZZ WORD BEING FLUNG AROUND BY THE GOVERNMENT, SCHOOLS, TEACHERS AND PARENTS. BUT WHAT DOES IT MEAN? ASK A FIVE-YEAR OLD AND IT’S SIMPLE, INCLUSION MEANS INCLUDING EVERYONE. But unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple. So, what does inclusion really mean in practice? How can we make inclusion a reality in schools and society? Is an inclusive society even achievable? Misa Alexander is a mother of three boys and co-founder of Fergus & Delilah, a not for profit organisation focused on helping children belong. She thought she had crossed all the ‘Ts’ and dotted

her ‘Is’ before sending her middle son, who is autistic, to her local preschool. She had met with the teachers and discussed inclusion; how to make the environment more conducive to Hugo’s sensory needs, how to make the curriculum more accessible and how to communicate in sign language to assist Hugo’s speech. As far as she could see Hugo was stepping into an ‘inclusive’ schooling environment. But it didn’t take long to discover that Hugo was having trouble making friends. Quite simply, Hugo was not being ‘included’ by his peers. The gap between Hugo and the other children was just too big. So why, during a time where ‘inclusion’ is a hot topic at most school staff meetings, are children struggling to belong?

This question can best be answered by looking at a philosophy of human development constructed nearly 80 years ago. In 1943 Abraham Maslow outlined the progression of human needs in his paper “A Theory of Human Motivation” in the Psychological Review. He explained how people’s needs begin with physiological (food, water, warmth), then progress up through to safety, to belonging and love, to esteem and finally to the pinnacle; self-actualisation. Needs lower down on the hierarchy must first be fulfilled before progressing up higher.

MASLOW’S HIERARCHY OF NEEDS IS STILL WIDELY REGARDED AND ROUTINELY REFERRED TO BY PSYCHOLOGISTS AND FORMS AN INTEGRAL PART OF TEACHER TRAINING AT UNIVERSITY. So, what does this have to do with inclusion? Inclusion is synonymous with belonging and love. The third step on the ladder. All schools have a legal responsibility to ensure the needs in step one and two are met but the school’s obligations to satisfy the needs of step three become blurry. And yet, according to Maslow we cannot expect students to grow as individuals if they do not first feel a sense of belonging amongst their peers. The New South Wales government just brought out their latest objectives for a Disability Strategy in schools including; strengthen support, increase recourses and flexibility, improve the family experience and lastly, track outcomes (2019, https://education.nsw.gov.au). But they too have forgotten the importance of the third tier on the hierarchy. Children feeling included. How can schools go beyond meeting basic human needs and ensure all children belong? Misa and Erin Buie, a writer and special needs teacher found an answer to this question using a different approach to inclusion. An approach that focuses on fostering inclusive attitudes in children. A child cannot belong in an environment that does not accept him/her for who s/he is. For belonging and inclusion to truly exist; children must be taught how to be inclusive of each other. We teach young children how to share, how to

16

ISSUE 20

|

WINTER 2019

www.sourcekids.com.au


Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.