“No one was talking to him, and the parents were staring at him with sad eyes as if to say ‘that poor little boy,’” she wrote, recalling how things were different for her and Brennen that day.
Brennen has cerebral palsy, seizure disorder and a cortical visual impairment.
His mom has been sharing some of her life experiences (at Tiptoeing Through the Tulips), including how Brennen has been faring in the local school system.
Brennen is in a special needs class and has a personalized education plan. He joins the larger classes for gym, music and field trips.
The writing has earned his mother recognition from the Coalition for Persons with Disabilities, Newfoundland and Labrador. In it, she cheers engaged teachers and administrators, while highlighting some attitudes persisting in the broader community.
Things have improved for her son, she notes. He’s made friends.
Inclusion a far-reaching topic in education
The word “inclusion” sparks discussion, whether you’re talking about socially inclusive schools or accessibility at school for people with disabilities. And not all students’ needs and experiences are the same.
Most students with disabilities do not have special needs.
There are plenty of students using some form of accommodation in the classroom, such as an assistive device, but they move through their grade levels with the larger classes, and in some cases, disabilities go unnoticed.
“I find if I wear my hair up sometimes out in public, or at school, people kind of go into a little shock because they always assume and correlate hearing loss with the older generation,” said Shauna Bradbury, an 18-year-old student from Flatrock who relies on lip reading and a hearing aid.
“Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t meant the struggle isn’t there,” she said in a recent interview.
She’s been able to do well in the K-12 system, and also gives credit to teachers and administrators for their acceptance.
“The administration at my school has been really good for the most part when it came to stuff like that — like, they would always make sure I had my FM System. If I needed any accommodations for my test, they were really good. There isn’t a lot that I know of that could make it better besides helping students get more technologies,” she said.
She had support, she said, on a school trip to Europe over the Easter break, when she was concerned she might lose out on information being conveyed during group tours, particularly outdoors.
“The teachers were so, so good to me,” she said. “They made sure me and my friend with a hearing loss, they made sure we were at the front of the group and if it was an audio tour, they tried to get us one with Bluetooth, so we could sync up our hearing aids to it.”
Acknowledging that high school is not always a great experience for students, she’s said it’s often other students who fail to understand at times.
“For the most part, I think the lack of inclusion is because of lack of knowledge. They don’t really understand. They just kind of see it as oh, there’s something wrong with you,” she said.
Bradbury’s been accepted into a five-week program to study French in Quebec, and is considering a career in the medical field, perhaps pharmacy. She plans to attend Memorial University of Newfoundland.
A policy of being inclusive
At the English School District, CEO Tony Stack said education brings change, and schools are evolving when it comes to providing accommodations for student learning.
“We’ve made great strides in recent years and I think there’s great acceptance on the part of our teaching staff,” he said in a recent interview, also crediting student assistants and other professionals with making advances in the formal plan for inclusion in education.
“We don’t operate in an unlimited resource environment, and it would be unrealistic to think that we could,” he said. “(But) I think, generally speaking, our schools are very good.”
He said the public can expect to hear more on inclusion in the year to come, from the premier’s task force on education.
By Ashley Fitzpatrick
and Louis Power
Read Brocklehurst's posts at Tiptoeing through… (A blog)