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What is Inclusion?

Jim Hansen

Jim Hansen, a retired Superintendent has agreed to author a series of articles based on his understanding and learning from Inclusion. Please read, enjoy and then write Jim.

email: jhansen@interlynx.net

The Hamilton Wentworth Catholic District School Board has a policy of admitting all children, able and disabled alike, to inclusion in their neighborhood school. Placement is age appropriate. This policy has been in effect since 1969.

It was my privilege to supervise the development and implementation of this policy from its beginnings in 1969 till my retirement in 1991.

I hope that my contribution to this web page may encourage others to advocate for a "good" education for all children.

Below are several articles by Jim Hansen.

1) The Beginning   2) A Good and Complete Education

3) School   4) Our Self-image is a Reflection of What Others Think of Us

5) My Questions Your Answers

The Beginning

Every child born into the world is a blessing.

Every child born into the world is a gift.

Every child born into the world has worth and is unique and unrepeatable.
Learning begins in the womb and continues till death.(many believe beyond) . Clearly life long learning is a reality for each of us.

Life is the ultimate gift and learning is its crowning.

Learning brings growth and growth brings new life. This circle continues throughout our life.

Much of a child's early learning seems to be random and spontaneous. It flourishes in a warm welcoming and stimulating environment. It can and should be influenced and encouraged in a non intrusive way.

Since learning brings growth ,and growth gives new life all learning is to be valued, not only learning for "earning'', not only learning that is "measured", not only "quick" as opposed to "slow" learning. Remember, learning is not a race. True learning cannot be measured only admired, fostered and valued.

Academic learning is to be valued, but not to the exclusion of other learning. Good manners, proper hygiene, physical skills, artistic endeavours, doctoral studies, service, are learnings to be valued equally with each other and with academic learning. The inability to learn academically should not disqualify any one, able or disabled, from other learnings.

We do not each possess the same skills or abilities. Each of us is very able in some areas and less able in others. Some cannot "see" well. Others may have physical disabilities. Neither abilities nor disabilities should be value laden. They are not "good" or "bad", they simply are. They should not define us a person. They frequently do. They should not determine our inclusion or exclusion from society. They frequently do

Every child can grow and Each Belongs.
Each child belongs not because of what he or she can or cannot do.
Each child belongs not because of what he or she knows or doesn't know.
Each child belongs not because of what he or she has to give or gain.
Each child belongs because he or she "IS".

A Good and Complete Education

The Foundation Each of us, over the years have been asked to express our beliefs about various aspects of life and living. It is easy to "go on" at great length about these beliefs and practices. However, it is both more difficult and more useful to express our core belief, our "philosophy", in a single word.

Most of my life has involved the education of children and young - persons able and disabled alike. The task of choosing the motto for a new school led me to my single word philosophy of education - "GROWTH'' - To live is to grow. If you are not growing you are dying. Learning brings growth and gives life.

Objective evaluation of learning or education in general is not possible. A philosophy, however, provides the basis for reviewing and improving our practices.

Given GROWTH as a valid philosophy of education, it follows that the "job" of the school is to foster growth. All growth not just the three R's.

Psychology tells us that we learn only that which we feel a "need to know". For much of our learning the "need' seems automatic, for other learning we need a push. We need to be ready to learn.

Most of us are familiar with Reading readiness and other similar programs. They have some merit. True readiness comes, not from programs, but from within the person. You are ready to learn when your basic needs are met. Let me share with you my list of basic needs of students able and disabled alike. In fact we each share the same basic needs.

The Five Basic Needs:

1. The most basic need is To BELONG.
We are social beings who live work and learn in groups. The family is the first and most important group. The school is a close second.

It is not simply "nice" to belong, it is crucial to our well being and growth. Most children feel a sense of belonging in the family. Children able and disabled alike are obliged to go to school when they reach the mandated age. They have no choice; they must go. They should, therefore, be welcomed and have full membership in the school community. Children who are different are frequently assigned alternate placements or refused admission totally. They are frequently unwelcome visitors in their own school

Denying or diminishing a child's basic need to belong reduces his/her hope of a good and complete education.

Parents whose child has special needs must insist on their prior right to attend school with their brothers, sisters and friends in their local school. Advocacy groups are ready to help parents achieve this goal.

2. Our second basic need is To Be ACCEPTED - AFFIRMED.
Acceptance by others is easily recognized and appreciated. It could, however be seen as formal or even patronizing. Affirmation is life giving, it goes beyond acceptance. Affirmation is difficult to define but easily recognized when felt. It is a sense of personal worth reflected to us from significant others. We have each experienced persons, whose presence in our life, have caused us to glow. Imagine twenty-five pupils, each convinced of their personal worth because of an affirming teacher. Imagine teachers secure and happy in their role because of affirming pupils. Imagine families where mothers and fathers, husbands and wives and children affirm each other. Affirmation is the icing on the cake of belonging.

3. The third basic need is To Have SUCCESS.
We must not continually fail in our endeavors. It is important that children from an early age experience success. A backlog of success will insure future success and help us meet the challenge of that "rough, tough world" out there.

4. The fourth basic need is To Be CHALLENGED TO EXCELLENCE.
Every child able or disabled needs to be challenged to excellence. His/her excellence not some artificial, external measured excellence. A challenge to excellence does not mean involuntary competition. Excellence is pushing the definition of 'personal best'. Some may wish to compete with others and accept the consequences - good or bad. Involuntary, forced completion is, however, potentially abusive.

Excellence need not be recognized by the difficulty of the task. Each person has his or her own goals. One foot added to the balance beam, or two more pushups mark excellence.

5. The fifth basic need To OFFER SERVICE.
There are many ways to offer service to others. Many offer service daily through their work or family responsibilities. We all need to serve. We are very good at serving those children and others in our communities that have special needs. However, we need to insist that they (those served) also offer service to others. Their need to serve is as great as ours, if not greater. To Belong
To be Accepted-Affirmed
To have Success
To be Challenged to Excellence
To offer Service
These are our basic needs - not optional - necessary. Their presence in our lives tells us that we are loved. To the extent that these needs are met we learn and grow.


Someone asked a little boy, "What is Home?" He replied, "Home is a place that when you go there, they have to take you in."

School should be more like home.

School is an important place of learning. It is, however, not the only or the most important place of learning. A school, at its best, builds on learning already acquired. School broadens and deepens it.

A school is essentially a place where children and young people gather together with teachers who guide them in their learning.

Schooling is the process of organizing schools. It is about class size, the number of grades, the hours of instruction, the provision of materials, etc. Schooling must not be confused with educating. Good schooling assists the learning process; it must not become an end in itself.

School has become a sacred and cherished place in all societies.

Schools can provide a good and complete education for each child. Large, well-equipped schools are not the norm in the world. Many schools are fortunate to have a building and some learning materials. A building is not a school. Learning materials are not an education. Teachers with or without resources will find a way to help people learn. Society should value its schools and provide, according to its means, the materials that will facilitate the role of the teacher.

Every child, able or disabled, can learn. Schools must be inclusive.

Parents entrust much of the education of their child to society through its schools. They trust that their child will be welcomed and will receive a good and complete education. They intend to be more than spectators in the schooling process. They will be involved; they will be informed; they will give advice. Their children, able and disabled, will receive an education.

What is Education?

Education is a precious gift we wish for our children. Education is clearly more than schooling, more than academic achievement and more than preparation for work. Education has two main components, Academic learning and Socialization. Each is important; both are achievable. We easily recognize academic achievement as the "job" of the school. Not all students will achieve academically at the same time, at the same level, or in the same way. However, each will achieve.

Socialization is less understood as the "job" of the school because we don't understand socialization. Socialization is not learning how to get along at a party. It begins at birth and cannot be stopped. It cannot be separated from other functions. It occurs in the home, at school, everywhere. Willed or not, it is ongoing. It can be influenced; it can be directed; but it cannot be stopped. Proper socialization is important for every child. It is crucial for a child with a disability.

Socialization is a growing awareness and knowledge of self, an awareness of others that leads to appropriate interactions. Socialization is learned behavior - both simple and complex. Children in their early years mimic parents' words, speech patterns and actions. They begin to understand rules and expectations. Because the do not always follow the rules, they experience consequences. As they grow older, they become more aware of the need for discipline and order in their lives. Values are developed through socialization. Generally, they reflect the values of the family. Behavior, which causes us to be accepted or rejected by others, can be taught. Parents and teachers, by word and example, help children obtain and maintain the good will and good opinion of others. Socialization must not be left to chance alone.

Each of us wishes to be well thought of and to be accepted by others. We have been socialized to be conscious of behaviors that attract, and those that repel. Most of these behaviors are simple and very practical, for example: good manners, proper hygiene, appropriate dress and age appropriate behavior. Pupils, including exceptional pupils, need to acquire these behaviors to be accepted. Most behaviors are learned by modeling others.

Parent of exceptional pupils are aware of the positive attitudes and stimulating environment provided by neighborhood schools. They want their children enrolled there. School attendance is mandatory for children, able and disabled alike. The right and duty to attend school does not guarantee acceptance. The presence of children with disabilities in the neighborhood school will transform that school. It will be a more peaceful school, where each will be accepted and honored for who they are, and not only for what they can do. The inability to achieve academically must not deprive a child with a disability from the opportunity for positive socialization.

Parents. What do you really want for your special child? Do you want a 'normal' or a 'special normal' child? Choose! One will destroy the other. Do you want regular teachers or special teachers? Do you want the same program as the other children, or special programs and timetables. If you want ''Special", your child will grow, but not much. Your child will belong, but in a limited way. Your child will be "cared for", but his/her growth will be stunted. You may want special because you think it is a promise. It isn't. You have the same right as all parents to be involved, to be consulted, to request and even demand support for your child. Use that right! Enroll your special child with his/her brothers, sisters and friends in the neighborhood school.

Your decision will certainly change your child's life chances and may even change the world.

Our Self-image is a Reflection of

What Others Think of Us

If you see yourself as a happy, outgoing person; if you see yourself as caring, helpful and attractive; if you see yourself as competent and able, others and particularly significant others mirror and reinforce your positive self-perception.

If you see yourself as burdened, unattractive, of limited ability, unappreciated, unloved and unhappy, these negative self-perceptions are also mirrored and reinforced by your significant others.

Our self-image has a real effect on our learning and growth. It is a generalization, but only a slight one, to say that happy children learn and unhappy children don't learn. Further, children who are perceived to be capable are, and those perceived to be incapable, also are (incapable).

Who are these significant others that have such an effect on our self-image. They are parents, spouses, brothers and sisters, caregivers, principals, teachers and other pupils and friends. Their influence goes beyond simply reflecting, to shaping our self-images.

It is safe to say that most families foster positive images for their members. Children with disabilities start at a disadvantage in self-image. Even before they are aware, their disability is labeled and seen as limiting. Disability labels are never positive.

Pre-school children, able and disabled, have a positive self-image and a positive view of their ability.

Pupils, teachers, principals and other school personnel who relate to children must be aware of their power to shape self-image. Parents and educators know that praise is more powerful than blame. Why then do we praise less than we blame. Parents and educators know that success is a more powerful than failure. Yet we often dilute the effects of success by diminishing or denying it. An outstanding report or test result is frequently greeted not by "well done," but by "you could have done better". Teachers are not always fully aware of the power their words have in forming self-image. Those who were told by a well-meaning music teacher to "just mouth, don't sing", frequently gave up on music.

Little children who see themselves as "smart", and who believe that their mummies and daddies and teachers think they are smart, acquire skills and knowledge with ease. They are smart.

It is a comfort to know that almost 100% of early childhood and kindergarten (4 and 5 years of age) believe that they are smart and that their parents and teachers agree. Unfortunately the percentage of believers drops off as we go up the grades. It is possible that we could reach a grade level where more than 50% of the pupils would see themselves as not smart. If the image we have of ourselves is a reflection of what others think of us, whose negative image is being reflected to those who have learned to doubt their abilities. What are we doing in our multi-million dollar institutions that cause children, who begin certain of their ability, to become doubters.

Children in the early school years generally see themselves as loved and capable. Children with disabilities will share this if they are loved in the family, and included in their local school. There they will acquire learning and new life.

My Questions Your Answers

September marks the beginning of a new school year.

Most parents are quite content to send their child off to school day by day. For the most part, parents have little contact with the school and are happy if their children enjoy school and appear to be learning. They trust the Principal and teachers to keep their children safe and challenge them to learn and grow.

If concerns are expressed by the school concerning one of their children, parents generally, as they should, become actively involved. When the concerns have been addressed home school relations return to their state of acceptance, lack of concern, and minimal involvement. This is not from a lack of concern or interest. It is generally an indication of confidence in the school.

Does past experience justify this trust? Yes, for the most part. However, is this trust based on a knowledge of good practice in education? Is it based on a knowledge of the programs and practices in and the educational philosophy of the neighborhood school? Knowledge of both will increase trust and lead to greater and regular involvement with your school.

Read, think about, and answer in your own way the long list of Questions that follow. Don't worry the answers will not be recorded or graded, nor will they count for your report card.

(Early Childhood Education to Grade 8)

Are the school grounds attractive, well maintained, safe and attractive?

Are the children supervised when they are in the school grounds?

Is the school building, well constructed and esthetically pleasing?

Is it welcoming, does it invite you to enter?

Are the school grounds and school building accessible to those with disabilities?

Is the interior of the school clean?

Is there sufficient space to move about in comfort?

Are the washrooms clean supervised and user friendly?

Do the bulletin boards and corridor walls display student work? Is it changed regularly? Does it indicate the priorities of the school?

Is music and laughter heard in the background?

What would you like to see changed on the grounds and in the school building?

Is the caretaker treated as a colleague? What are his/her priorities?

What is the leadership style displayed by the Principal?

Is he/she available and approachable to students, staff and parents?

Does he/she enjoy being in charge?

Does he/she share his/her authority?

Is he/she firm when necessary?

Is he/she respected by staff?

Are the teachers confident in their abilities?

Do they make provision for differences in each child?

Do they insist that their pupils strive for excellence?

How do they define excellence?

Are their classrooms open to the pupils, parents and others?

Do they encourage and welcome volunteers?

Do they have fun?

What is their first priority?

Are there substantial programs in Music and Art?

Are these valued equally with reading, maths and Science?

Is there a Gym in the school?

Is it used for more than Phy Ed instruction?

Does the school allow involuntary competition?

Does the community use the school facilities after school hours?

Does your school have a parents' council and a parent teacher association?

What is their role?

Are they effective?

Do they spend more time raising money than raising issues?

Who monitors the amount of homework assigned?

Do you approve of homework below grade 7?

Are some students retained (failed) in your school?

Are some students skipped ahead (accelerated) in your school?

Do you know the effects of retention?

Are you happy with your son's /daughter’s experience in your school?

Do you affirm the Principal and Staff when you visit?

Do you seek and build a partnership between home and school?

What would you like to see changed in your school’s programmes?

It is not intended that the task of reading and answering the questions in your own mind be a great burden. It should be interesting and even fun. The exercise will certainly encourage you to engage in discussion with your children and even the school staff.

I have fairly strong opinions about the issues raised in the questions. I will share them with you if you wish. Send me an e-mail at jhansen@interlynx.net and I will reply.

If your school is a healthy, happy place that accepts and nurtures every child able and disabled alike; if it emphasizes the things of the soul, music, art, drama equally with the three R's, you have a good school.

School Trustees are elected in October this year. Seek out the candidates and ask them some questions.

Your children need your involvement and expressed concerns and the schools deserve our support.

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