A while ago I attended a lecture by Dan Habib, photojournalist and producer of the film Including Samuel (https://www.includingsamuel.com/). He began his lecture with this question, “Why do we continue to segregate students with disabilities?” Dan noted that, despite research findings that inclusion benefits students both with and without disabilities, we continue to segregate students with disabilities in many of our districts. In addition to being a film producer, Dan is the father of a sixteen year old boy who has cerebral palsy and learning challenges; his son will be graduating high school in a few years with a regular high school diploma.
Dan emphasized the advantages of inclusion for our students with disabilities which include:
- Better communication skills
- Higher academic achievement
- Wider social networks
- Fewer behavior problems
What surprised many of us in the audience was that all students in an inclusive environment benefit, demonstrating improved academic performance and social/emotional gains.
So what do we need to do to become more inclusive? According to Dan Habib, first all educators need to believe that all of our students can achieve. This will come about only if we change our school culture, provide training for all teachers, and ensure effective inclusive leadership in all of our schools.