As a student with an NVLD I was very grateful to be in a school district that valued inclusion and that they received all their training from Syracuse University, a renowned leader in inclusion. However like others I am sure, they misunderstood the differences between partial and full inclusion especially for the secondary level.
For example, our high school started “C” courses for English and History. These courses were for resource room students only so it was actually partial inclusion which limits the amount of time students spend with non disabled peers. This especially had a negative effect on students with disabilities like NVLD and Autism since they learned social communication skills through having great role models.. Full inclusion would have been to have co-teaching sections within the regular classroom section which could be a resource room teacher or a Speech Therapist or just having a teacher’s Aide in the class providing additional support to the students with IEPS. The students would have had the support they needed while being in class with non-learning disabled peers and taught by experienced English and History teachers. During my time in high school these teachers weren’t always available so the resource room teacher often had to teach with the support of two teachers’ aides. Thankfully we said no to the ”C” courses so I had a full inclusion experience.
Another example was not staying current on all the postsecondary options available to LD and students with social disabilities thus limiting our college options to SUNY Canton the local college while students without disabilities were presented with many more options. This was truly discouraging as there were ways for our district to know more . For example Syracuse University hosted annual conferences for postsecondary options for us. At these conferences information on both colleges with comprehensive support programs such as Alelphi on Long Island and Dean in Massachusetts and programs for the more complex disabilities like Threshold at Lesley. Thankfully, by attending the Eagle Hill I found Dean College and their ARCH program.
Also, it was rare to have the same resource room teacher all through high school which is an important component of true full inclusion. Working together consistently every year makes the process easier as the teacher develops a clearer understanding of the students abilities and weaknesses whether it’s academic or emotional from working with the students year to year. Having Beth Bresett as my resource room teacher all through high school I believe this is true as by the middle of 9th grade she knew me so well which allowed her to make excellent goals for me and it led to me being a successful inclusion student.
In addition, little was done to expand inclusion outside of the classroom which is a recommendation for full inclusion. As a result it made it harder for some students to be socially accepted. One of the things that could have been done was to expand inclusion to our individual sports teams like track as being part of a team makes it easier to make friends . Being a three season runner with an NVLD I know this is true as my closest friends came from running.
Unfortunately having misunderstandings of what partial and full inclusion is for resource room students brings consequences. First, students don’t gain as many academic and social skills. In addition, not knowing as much about the post-secondary options as the admission counselors for colleges with comprehensive support tend to visit schools that follow the full inclusion model. Also,students with NVLD often have to deal with change more often as with partial inclusion students are less likely to have the same resource room teacher for all of high school. So it is so important to ask questions not only for your own success but also to see if inclusion is grant funded as many want you to use more full inclusion models for resource room students so using partial inclusion more can cause significant cuts. Our high school resource room teachers experienced this and it was devastating as their director said they were doing all the right things and all of the sudden there was less support.
Overall it’s important to remember there are many similarities and differences between partial and full inclusion so misunderstandings are common. So, if full inclusion is what you really want, staying in full communication with your resource room teacher to make sure it is done correctly and to be sure you’re receiving the proper support within the regular classroom is so important. Through experience I know this is true as Beth communicating regularly with my teachers along with my parents and myself having a close knit relationship with her was a tremendous reason for me being a successful full inclusion student.
Eileen is a Project Social Ambassador and blogger for The NVLD Project. She loves helping others understand they can achieve their goals and dreams through hard work and dedication.