Christopher Kliewer’s article, “Citizenship in School: Reconceptualizing Down Syndrome” deals with the issue of inclusion in schools. Interesting, Kliewer never specifically names the issue as such because I think he wants to discuss a broader issue than just meaningful participation of students with disabilities in schools. In this article Kliewer discusses how our society views those with disabilities, specifically intellectual disabilities. Kliewer argues that what we traditionally consider “handicaps” (something that holds an individual back) are just one aspect of who that individual is. In fact, people with disabilities have many strengths and it is a fault of the culture of power that those who don’t have the most traditional, linear set of abilities are excluded from citizenship in our democracy (by this Kliewer means they are excluded from meaningful participation in a community, he’s not talking about voting rights or political participation.) Kliewere includes several success stories about educators who have made it work; they have successfully recognized the strengths of the students they are working with and have incorporated those strengths into the classroom dynamics.
From my own experiences working with students with disabilities I have seen both ways that the inclusion in schools can go. I can think of some really great success stories. For instance, graduating with me there was a student who had autism, but was actually pretty social (he just had some unusual communication styles) and he played on sports teams and went to a lot of classes in general education. He is actually at CCRI right now. I know he works incredibly hard, and as his special-ed teacher has told me, “He’s proving a lot of people wrong right now.”
Sometimes inclusion doesn’t work though. There are a variety of reasons for this. I think the most important point to take away in this class is that ALL teachers must make an effort, not just a special-ed teachers.