Encouraged by Progress
Historically; in Ontario, students with disabilities have been segregated to ensure that they have access to supports and academic materials that closely match their level of academic learning. Over time we have evolved and segregation happens much less often; it still exists but not to the extent that it once did. When we first introduced One Page Profiles a number of years ago teachers, parents and support staff thought they would be great for students in segregated classrooms. Of course we advocated that they are useful for any student and offered workshops for all classrooms. When we started getting phone calls accepting our offer we went into some segregated classrooms and some mainstream. Typically there wasn’t a mix of students with and without disabilities.
The first time I had the experience of attending an integrated classroom, there were three students with disabilities in the class. I fully expected to facilitate the workshop with all of the students in the room and was quite surprised when the three students with disabilities were excused from the workshop and went to another room to work with a support staff on other school work. I left it the first time and made sure that the next classrooms I attended I told the teachers that all students are welcome participate and we are more than willing to make any adjustments to the workshop to ensure everyone can participate. Over the next couple of years our message was received with some protest and some acceptance. We wanted to continue going into the classrooms so we didn’t push too hard. We gently encouraged all teachers to include all students.
I was very excited this year to attend a local classroom where I knew one of the students lives with a disability. I had my fingers crossed that this student would be included in the workshop. Sure enough there was no question. The student participated fully in all activities. We were able to follow the lead of the teacher and educational assistant around the best way to ensure full participation. At the end of the workshop I always offer an array of stickers and other decorative materials to personalize their profiles. This student has a significant phobia around stickers. I was informed of the phobia and took the opportunity to speak to the student about it and give options around how we could handle it. The student chose to stay in the classroom until the stickers were brought out and then leave to decorate their profile in another room. It was the student’s choice to leave the class after bravely going up and looking at all of the stickers.
I was encouraged to know that our message is reaching people. All students can participate in classrooms together regardless of academic levels. All students can benefit from having a One Page Profile. The only time a student should be segregated from an activity is by their own choice directly related to what they have identified as the best way to support them.
We are making progress.