I was reading the CBC’s Mary-Ellen Lang’s column today on special needs students in the classroom. Mary states that perhaps some children should be segregated into special schools because they can receive more help than overworked teachers in typical classrooms can provide. She says the gifted students are suffering because the special needs students require most of the teachers energy and attention.
I couldn’t disagree with Mary more on this issue. Has she read Bandura (UBC), and Vygotsky? One of the main ways children learn is through observational and peer mediated learning. If you segregate special needs children into special schools, they will still learn through peer observation; but the peers they are learning from will now have the same learning and developmental delays they have. What are they going to learn from this type of education situation? Not too much I think.
Mary’s solution is a cop out; inclusion isn’t working so let’s quit trying and go back to segregation for the kids with high needs. Why isn’t “let’s fight to ensure teachers have the resources required to ensure inclusion is supported properly” the solution to this issue? Why isn’t the answer, “let’s ensure all teachers receive the special education instruction support they require, for both special needs and gifted students”? When will we learn that when we isolate children (and adults), out of sight and out of mind, it harms our society as a whole? Have we learned nothing from the BC Woodlands tragedy about the harm of segregation?
Segregation is not cheap either and the developmental detriment of long term placement in these settings for children with special needs can never be undone. These children need to be in inclusive settings, where they can be with all of their peers that represent a rainbow spectrum of different cultures, and abilities. I believe the answer is to fight for the funding to properly include all children in typical settings.
Sometimes it seems like we have made so much progress in our society. When I see discussion suggesting segregation at the CBC, it seems like we could so easily take 10 steps backward if we are not careful.
April 4th Update: Check out this article in the Vancouver Sun today on the issue of creating these special schools. An excellent read and L. Siegel is co-author on this news item….I know her work because I have studied her research in my program. Hat tip to Where the Blog has No Name for the link.
Note June 19, 2007: Mary-Ellen Lang has made a point that she did not explicitly state separate facilities as meaning “separate buildings” in her column.
This is the piece I did not interpret correctly,
It is fair to wonder sometimes if severely handicapped students might do better in some more protected or appropriate setting (at least sometimes). And certainly, many school districts strive to provide some special needs kids with separate facilities and classes. At some point, then, it is also fair to ask to what degree the needs of the many are being sacrificed to accommodate the needs of the few.
I agree with Mary-Ellen’s point (in her subsequent comments on this post) that facilities has many meanings and I interpreted facilities=buildings. I apologize to Mary-Ellen for jumping to that conclusion. I do agree children need spaces and some opportunities to work one-on-one with an education assistant and resource/special education teacher and schools need quiet areas when children who have sensory issues/challenging behaviours can go when they are overloaded.
I also still believe that more resources including a special education instructor in every classroom would ensure children could ideally remain with their peers as much as possible.