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Friday, September 15, 2017

Inclusion is for the ‘brave’ — and the stupid

My mother did it again. She got on a soapbox and ranted a bit about my "situation." Here's what she had to say, originally published at this link at the Times of Israel:

Inclusion is for the ‘brave’ — and the stupid 

As we navigate the school system here with our child with special needs, many we encounter in the education world constantly remark, “You are so brave!” 
I never associated “brave” with our decision to mainstream our child in a regular school. The law supports our decision. Research supports our decision. You mainstream or you don’t, and it is simply a decision parents make for their children, not an issue of courage. 
Brave is bungee jumping off a bridge. Brave is facing an enemy in battle. Brave is watching a loved one undergo surgery. I didn’t see the connection to our situation, but for a few moments I’d feel flattered. 
Not to be left out, I joined my siblings at their school this year.
Fully, and, apparently bravely, included.
But this supposed compliment nagged at me until I finally realized why. What they were really saying was: You must have a lot of courage to embark upon something that is destined to fail. 
You are so brave! While you must realize that your child will never be good enough and probably can’t last in mainstream education, you are taking a few years off from reality to try it out! 
You are so brave! There you go including your child with no support system and an extra financial burden while we in the system sit back and wait for you to come back to your senses! 
You are so brave! Good luck chasing down all your rights and services since no one in authority is going to lift a finger to help you get them. In fact, we may work against you! 
The attitude here toward mainstreaming really sucks. It is antiquated and pathetic. Low expectations dominate both for our “special” children’s success and our “regular” children’s acceptance of them. And these low expectations are killing our children’s advancement. 
Mainstreaming is discouraged from the highest levels. This is not reflective of a progressive, first world society. 
All of the burden falls on the shoulders of the parents, the schools and teachers willing to include a student with special needs in their class, and a few organizations, such as Beyachad, that promote inclusion. 
And those who are the system are the very ones who call us brave — because they know their own shortcomings. They know we’ve entrusted our child to their unable and unwilling hands. As my husband said, it’s not “brave,” it’s stupid. It sometimes feels like a stupid — and exhausting — decision to mainstream. 
Israel, you need to get your act together. 
Currently there are dozens of children with special needs still awaiting placement in a school for Sept. 1. Beyachad is aggressively case managing for nine “inclusion kids.” After placement these kids will need an aide — most likely someone the child has never met before, will be paid a minimum wage salary and work fewer hours than the child has school. 
I watched as representatives from a kindergarten and the Ministry of Education bullied a friend into enrolling her son in special education rather than put up this doomed fight for inclusion. They pointed out every possible problem the child would have and emphasized that there would be no support from the Ministry of Education for this child. They clearly had no hope — or desire — for success. 
How can that be? Why not solve these problems together rather than be intimidated by them? Is it laziness, incompetence, ignorance or all of the above? 
Where is the bravery on your side? 
One friend whose daughter was mainstreamed after they moved here from America said that the teacher assured her at the beginning of the year, “I am not afraid of the challenge.” 
That is bravery. That is courage. And that is honorable. 
We as parents should not have to decide to leave mainstream education because the system cannot provide the basic right of education for our child, in addition to simple services such as substitute aides, subsidized after-school programs and basic therapies. 
We should decide to stop mainstreaming when it suits our child, not when circumstances become untenable for our wellbeing. If the system really cares about our children and their education, then support the parents, support the teachers and support the child — wherever he may go!

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