In ‘The Path to School’ I shared how there is no research showing that segregated education is beneficial for students with or without disabilities and that it is in an inclusive setting where the majority of students thrive.
And I believe it. We’ve sent Harry to our local mainstream primary school and I am certain that it is the right place for him. But deep, deep down in places that I’m sure many special needs parents have tucked away, there is a tiny flicker of fear and doubt. It is the doubt created by decades of expected segregation. It is the unspoken fear in our minds that silently whispers that our kids are welcome, but perhaps not as welcome as others.
Yesterday H and I arrived a bit early for school and, as we sat outside his classroom waiting, he indicated that he would like his readers*. H has shown wonderful interest in them and, whilst he can’t fully read them yet, they’ve certainly been wonderful literacy motivators.
I got them out, he chose one to read and as we were about to start, one of his friends came over.
“Let’s read it together, Harry”, she said. I was already holding the book up in front of Harry, who was sitting in his wheelchair, and I kept it there so that they could both see it.
He then reached across and grasped her pointer finger and started pointing to each word. As he pointed, she read.
Word by word, he held her finger to point to each word and she read the word.
Word by word, he had another opportunity to immerse himself in written words, hear how they sound and look and understand how they’re constructed to form sentences and a story.
Word by word, she received another opportunity to practice her reading and advance her strategies for dealing with the tricky words that she stumbled on.
Word by word, they helped each other to further their individual literacy skills, together.
The school bell rang and Harry, being the good little school boy that he is, insisted on going straight into class.
And as I walked away I knew that, in those few minutes before school, I had seen a glimpse of why the research into inclusive education shows the results that it does.
And those unspoken whispers retreated deeper and further away.