One of my biggest disappointments growing up in the small town of Ogdensburg was that while inclusion was so important, there were always pieces missing. Inclusion is so much more than just putting us with regular peers; it is giving us equal opportunities to achieve our full potential and to connect with others.
What I mean by this is that we are rarely pushed to pass the regents (NYS high school exams), take math or science beyond 10th grade, or join an activity such as a sports team or a service or arts club. Personally this is so important to me and I sincerely hope that today’s youth with NVLD or similar disability understand what inclusion truly is. For example, I chose the college prep track, while the rest of the disabled students I was with decided to take lower track classes as the Special Education teachers and counselors believed this would be easier for them and wouldn’t cause them as much stress and anxiety. For me personally, this would have led to lower self-esteem and a loss of friendships. To me, this is a big reason why those with NVLD need to be in as challenging of courses as possible. By doing this they will develop strong social skills and have great role models and generally speaking there are more supportive peer groups in the regular track classes. This is one reason why I could keep connections with my grade school friends and later on could connect with other students as they got to see that I too could perform academically at a high level despite my NVLD and thus see the true me.
It was hard for me because I had so much more work compared to the other resource room students especially by my junior year. I didn’t really get it at first as it seemed I was in these courses only because I had parents who knew how to advocate for me as both were educators, one a school counselor and the other a special education teacher. It was hard for me to comprehend why the other LD students weren’t given another chance to pass the regents like I did. However I eventually learned from attending Dean College after a lot of great conversations, regretfully, there is still confusion as to what inclusion is and so many districts don’t see one size doesn’t fit all.
Besides academics, the message was always sent that for students like me who had a NVLD or an similar disability couldn’t be a fully inclusive athlete. My school was in the mindset that inclusion is for the classroom and I never understood why my parents had me stay in varsity sports until the middle of my junior year. What led them to believe having me stay with sports was a good decision was seeing a newspaper article that included a picture of me with two top runners as they were discussing the awards we received.
To me this is something that needs to change as most swimming and track teams don’t have cuts and many communities now have sports via the town or an organization like a Boys and Girls club for high school students. Both settings lead to stronger social, fine motor, gross-motor and communication skills and more importantly a better self-concept as they develop an interest and a purpose rather than just going to school to take classes.
In order to be fully included in academics and sports you will need to be able to work hard at home too. Each class period is only 45-60 mins per day and practices are about two hours a day for each season so you will need put in time above and beyond the school day and practices to maximize your chances of being successful. Also you need to be able to handle failure in a healthy and mature way as sometimes being included means you will be taking on more challenges which can lead to some frustration. While this may seem hard if you do these things it can lead to great results and tremendously increases your self-esteem.
So if you ever have the opportunity to be a fully included I strongly encourage you to choose this path as the positive benefits are endless. The biggest benefit is it will lead to a much higher level of self-confidence as through your hard work and dedication you will experience great academic and personal success.
I will always think the world of my former coaches and my high school teachers for making sure I was a fully included student.Share your own story