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The Top Questions Asked About Inclusive Education

Patrick Schwarz

Question Two: Are there some kids, for example those that have significant disabilities, that can't be included?

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Patrick Schwarz: Are there some kids, for example those that have significant disabilities that can't be included? And this is an answer that I have for this. It's a real-life story of one of my students. So one of the things, I am a self-advocate. I have ADHD as an attribute. I'm also a parent. I also am currently a university professor and I've also been a teacher in public schools. I have taught elementary, middle, and high school. Because if you have ADHD and a K through 12 teaching certificate, you want to try as many grades as possible. I also have been a school administer too, as well. So I understand the different perspectives and roles that people may have on a team.

But one of the things that I very much valued when I was a teacher, and this is when I was a high school teacher, is some of my students in Madison, Wisconsin, where I taught were residents of the state institution that came to the public schools for their education because it fell within the Madison public school boundaries. And one of the students that I had on my class list, his name is Roy, and he was a resident of the state institution. He didn't come to school the first semester because it said in the file he was too medically fragile to come to school.

So Roy came to school the second semester, and here's some characteristics that I found out in the file about Roy and as getting to know Roy is first of all, he did not have the control to sit up in the wheelchair so he came to school on what is like a side lyer, so he needed to be on his side and had specialized transportation to do that. I like that when everybody can go on the same bus, and so they could potentially hook up a specialized transportation support in a general bus, which would be good. And so thinking about Roy, also in the file it said that Roy only had brain stem functioning. So kind of an interesting paradox, and actually Roy is a student who taught me to not read files before I get to know the person.

So Roy gets to school, and I'm starting to get to know him, and I'm observing him in a classroom. And the role that I was taking on at the time was a vocational transition teacher. So my job was to get Roy in a job experience that was part of his school program that could contribute to a resume. And I know there would be a lot of people if they saw Roy's file they would say, Well Roy is unemployable.

Well, one of the things that I noticed right away is when Roy ever encountered something that involved a little bit of drama in the classroom, one of the things that he would do is – so somebody could trip over something or there would be a loud noise in some way- he would get an ear-to-ear grin. So I knew right away Roy liked drama, so I had to develop something that involved drama.

And so one of the things with Roy is I worked on developing a job. I was kind of going out there and looking. And one of the places I visited was a state office building for the State of Wisconsin. And they had a lot of different departments in that state office building. And one of the places in the office building was a quick copy center it was called, and it's where they made copies for all the other departments. And I went in there and I started to look at what jobs people were doing. And it was in the days before copy machines were quite as fancy as they are now. So typically people needed to collate papers, staple things, such as that, and that was a job that people were doing at this quick copy center.

So one of the things that we had access to at the time was the University of Wisconsin Engineering Department. So I talked with the occupational therapist, the physical therapist for Roy and I said, Is there a way that we could have Roy collate papers and staple papers that would be something that he could access a switch, and we could have a device that could make that happen? And I said, How could Roy potentially use a switch? Because it was hard for him to use his arms and his legs. And so one of the ways they said, they were saying, We're not really seeing any reliable movements but we could use an eye blink and hook up a switch so he's able to do that. And I said, Okay, let's see what we can do, and I'm going to go to the engineering department and talk what's needed at the state office building.

So a student got an A on this project. They hooked up a jig that there were two stacks of papers and it would take one, two pieces at a time, collate them and push them into an electric stapler which was hooked up on it and it would make a loud noise. And it would stay, go into that tray right there. And so Roy would use a switch to be able to activate that. So he was doing meaningful work that other people were paid to do. That's the definition of meaningful work.

So I'll never forget the first day we get into the quick copy center. There are people kind of watching us. And so Roy comes in on a side lyer and we have his equipment and things like that. And what I did is, he was a resident of a state institution, and I wanted to amp up his wardrobe a little bit. So I got a clip-on tie. And so he got the clip-on tie. So I was carrying that with me, and I kind of amped it up. And people were just looking at us. And the head of the quick copy center, whose name is Gordon, he actually has a brother who has cerebral palsy, so he definitely got what we were trying to do, which was definitely a wonderful thing.

So we get set up and here's what happened is every time Roy would do the switch, the paper would move it, it would shove into the stapler, make the loud noise, and Roy would get an ear-to-ear grin each time that that happened. That's one of the reasons we like this a lot because Roy seemed to be having fun with that. And at the end of that first day, a woman came up who worked at the copy center, and she said, Well, I gotta tell you, you know, when I first saw you I didn't know what was really going on, but, Roy, you should be here because you like your job better than we all do. Because of all the smiling and things like that. And so we got an endorsement from them.

Now there are some people in the world that want to draw lines. They want to say, Well, you can work, but you can't work and things such as that. But the beautiful thing about this situation is, I didn't have to draw a line. And something that I'm sad to share with you right now is Roy is actually deceased right now. No teacher wants to hear that their students have passed away. It was a very hard one for me. But I remember a time when I went back to the state institution with Roy, and I went out into the ward, that's what they call the places where the people stay in the institution, where Roy was on. And he was in this bed that was elevated and I had to pull up bars at the end after I did that.

And I looked back, as I was walking out of the room, and I said, See you, Roy. And he was looking out of those bars, you know, when I backed up a little bit. And I'll never forget that. It's just stayed with me how that type of experience can be just like imprisoning for people.

And here's what I want to say is, anybody in the world can tell me, Well, he's unemployable. But I feel Roy was very employable. He had a much better quality of life at his job where he was smiling. He was wearing his clip-on tie, and I know that that was better for Roy when I think about all this. And so I'm not going to draw the lines, and I encourage people to creatively work through situations to look at how we can create supports that make things work for everybody.

You know what Einstein said? Einstein said, Imagination is more important than knowledge, and I feel creativity is involved with that. So sometimes it takes a small group of committed people, like Margaret Mead said, to put their heads together and make things happen. But I know Roy had a better quality of life when he was out there working in the community. And I'm really glad he had that as part of his life. Okay, so my answer to this is Roy.

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