Inclusion of students with disabilities is a civil right that is rarely mentioned in the equity conversation. As professionals working in special education, there are a myriad of opinions on inclusion that are often based on emotion, rather than research. Over the last 40 years the research overwhelmingly supports the notion that children with disabilities, and their neurotypical peers, have improved academic and social outcomes when they are educated together in inclusive settings.
Currently, I am part of the Inclusion Leadership Development Group. This group was started as a partnership between the New Jersey Department of Education, Montclair State University and NJCIE ( New Jersey Coalition for Inclusive Education). New Jersey has some of the lowest inclusion rates in the country so there is much work to do to improve that rating. To find out more about NJCIE see here.
I am also proud to be a new board member for Changing Perspectives, a company that supports social emotional learning and disability awareness through educational content and consultation to schools and communities. The way to a more equitable society is by educating children that everyone belongs and we all matter. Changing Perspectives is a non-profit that depends on donations. Consider donating here.
Neurodiversity/ Advocacy Resources
NJACE- New Jersey Autism Center of Excellence- I cannot say enough about this
organization that is committed to research and advocacy for autistic individuals. They offer free webinars and resources that target both families and professionals working in the autism field.
Summary of evidence on inclusive education
Not Special Needs- video of adult with Down Syndrome talking about her very human needs
Autistic Self Advocacy Network- (ASAN)
Revelations in Education- The wonderful Lori Desautels's website that is full of amazing resources for educators
Policy Statement on Inclusion in Early Childhood Program US DOE
Cheryl Jorgensen is a leader in all things inclusion-especially inclusion for children with complex needs
10 Steps to Starting Inclusion based on Jorgensen's work
Paula Kluth is a teacher who radiates joy and fun. She is leader in inclusion and she makes you believe in possibility
LeDerick Horne is a spoken word poet and learning disabiltiy advocate who also raises important questions about race and disability
Shifting Focus from Impairment to Inclusion- by Yu-Lun Chen and Kristie Patten. This article is a roadmap for school based OT's to support neurodivergent students in inclusive environments
Podcasts that support inclusion and neurodiversity:
Inclusive Occupations: (Stories of not just being invited to the party but being asked to dance)- This podcast was created by Savitha Sundar who is a passionate occupational therapist and advocate for disabled children's right to be part of the mainstream. The episodes are full of easy ways that therapists and teachers can move the needle towards more inclusive schools
Two Sides of the Spectrum- Meg Proctor is an occupational therapist who has become a leading voice in autism. This podcast showcases many autism self advocates who are highlighting neurodiversity.
Interview with Norman Kunc- The stairs didn't go anywhere - all therapists need to read this perspective of a man with cerebral palsy and getting therapy
Dear Parents Who Want to Keep their Nonspeaking Children Safe as They Go Out into the World This honest, eye-opening essay written by autistic self advocate, Cal Montgomery, challenges all of us who work as therapists and teachers to take stock of how we, yes we, contribute to a culture that abuses non-speaking children. Really these types of essays should be required reading for anyone working with children with significant support needs.
This is Not About Me is a monumentally important film about the incredible non-speaking Jordyn Zimmerman. If you are a teacher or therapist who works with disabled children then you need to see this film. There are so many Jordyns out there who are being hurt by well-meaning, but misguided professionals who are stuck in a deficit-based medical model that does not serve our students.
Shelley Moore is an inclusion advocate who is fun and practical. She has wonderful videos that you can access on Youtube. This talk was a great overview of ideas that are worth sharing about how to spread inclusion to less enthusiastic stakeholders.