The Minnesota Governor's Council on Developmental Disabilities
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The Top Questions Asked About Inclusive Education

Patrick Schwarz

Question Six: The best way to include someone is to put them in classrooms with younger peers who are at their level right?

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Patrick Schwarz: The best way to include someone is to put them in classrooms with younger peers who are at their level right? Wrong. Is first of all, we need to promote student supports at their chronological age. And so, for example, is somebody might say, Well, the student is at a different reading and literacy level, what are we going to do about that? And the books that are at that reading and literacy level are for much younger students.

Well, one of the things that we can find in schools is leveled books. So you can have students all carrying what appears to be the same book but they're at three different reading and understanding levels so everybody can participate, and also the main points of the story are in each book.

Thinking about that, remember using Cliff Notes at some point? Thinking about that idea, people used to say, Well, that's cheating, and now I say it's cooperative learning, when you think about that. It's an important support for everybody. For students who may need some additional support, you can take those same books and put inserts so there is software that will also put pictures to text and things like that, which may help learners to be able to access. There is also software that provides audio, provides highlighting, all of those things.

One of the students that I met recently, he liked Barney a lot, yet Justin was nearing middle school and nobody else was seeming to like Barney at that point. And what do we do about that? So I went to Justin and I said, Justin, what it is about Barney that you like? And he said, he was very honest with me, he said, I like that he's purple and I think purple dinosaurs are very cool. And I said, Wow, that's interesting.

So I thought about it. And I actually asked Justin and talked to his teacher if he could be involved in a project in school, and that particular project was to research if any real dinosaurs at the time dinosaurs lived were purple. And so he did that research. By the way, he found out that some actually had that color, which was interesting. And so how can we take some of the topics or the interests of the students and bring them at a chronological age appropriate type of level for students?

Another one, for example, is music. So if somebody likes Disney music, I think sometimes that can be lifelong, but if that's the only thing somebody's listening to, is we can promote other types of music, maybe about songs that have similar themes but different types of musical artists and the student using them, for example, with an iPod or a docking station, which people use that today. And so that can be also a really big help for students.

Also, Trevor is a student that I have been working with over the last few years. And Trevor is a student who has Asperger syndrome as an attribute. And in school, Trevor is brilliant with mathematics. He's in elementary school, yet he's doing college age mathematics, yet I wouldn't trust Trevor to cross a street on his own.

And so one of the things, thinking about Trevor, is that in certain areas is he may need some extra learning support and other areas he excels. And what we've got to do is find out what are the abilities, passions, interests, and capitalize on them for that particular learner. Everybody has a gift in the world. Everybody has challenges in the world. How can we make these things come to life? And if you think about this is the results of a segregated education have not been good. So 75% of people with disabilities are unemployed and over 90% of people with autism are unemployed. Nobody wants to hear that. And I think the reason that that happens is because of all of the separate that goes on in school.

When I talked about the separate bus, the separate entrance, the separate place people were educated, the separate lunch table, all of those types of things. And what happens is kids learn in the school that people with disabilities, even though we're in the same school belong in a separate place, they graduate from the school thinking the world should be arranged that way.

So these types of things is really promoting learning and people with disabilities not being perpetual children but being individual adults that are chronological age. And how we provide supports at that will do a great service if we can learn together to changing that paradigm, that people with disabilities belong in a separate place.

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The GCDD is funded under the provisions of P.L. 106-402. The federal law also provides funding to the Minnesota Disability Law Center, the state Protection and Advocacy System, and to the Institute on Community Integration, the state University Center for Excellence. The Minnesota network of programs works to increase the IPSII of people with developmental disabilities and families into community life.