Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Friday, February 27, 2015

JDAM - What is inclusion?

In the 70's and 80's, the buzzword was "mainstreaming".  Children with disabilities would be placed in "mainstream" classes instead of in isolated "SPED" rooms.  In the 90's and 00's, awareness developed that mainstreaming is not enough -- we must not simply place children with diverse needs among their peers, but they must be actively included in order to have their needs met.  A new alphabet soup was created, from IEP's (Individual Education Plans) to FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education) and LRE (Least Restrictive Environment), schools grapple with how to serve all children, both academically and socially.

As this mother points out, however, true inclusion is not about procedure, but about expectations.  If a student is seen as deficient, through the lens of a diagnosis, no service or classroom environment will allow him or her to thrive. "Presuming competence" is the key to enabling all students to set, meet, and exceed high levels of performance in all areas.

Jewish tradition has a mixed record on this.  On the one hand, the Jewish emphasis on education creates an environment where all children are held to high expectations.  On the other hand, children who struggle with traditional educational frameworks suffer feelings of shame and failure.  Religious education often lags behind secular education in providing appropriate differentiation for different learning styles.  Creating true inclusion for all, children and adults with all abilities, is a challenge for our communities today.


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