Saturday, March 22, 2014

When Political Correctness Turned Ugly

In Australia, I feel like the entire Special VS Inclusive Education issue seems to be less of an issue. I don't say that to sound at all "better than America" because I don't think that's true. We don't have special education classes within mainstream schools, so I think that is why it is less of an issue. You have mainstream classes (with additional support, if required) or you have special schools. You also always have the option to homeschool your child.

Shock horror: it is completely possible to fully support mainstream, inclusive education AND special schools at the same time. I definitely do. Every case is unique, and some children are going to benefit most from being in mainstream schools and some are going to benefit most from being in special schools. There are lots of factors that need to be considered, but having the option for both is something I consider very important.

I support them both, much in the same way I support mothers who breastfeed and/or bottle feed - as well as I support mother's who tube feed and use TPN! Sometimes, I see people get so hung up over the breast feeding VS bottle feeding issue and I simply think: shouldn't we a) be grateful that your child has a swallow reflex and muscles strong enough to take the breast or bottle and b) congratulations! you are giving your child nutrition! you are succeeding as mother! But I digress.

Recently, I got a very angry and very rushed email from one of my employers. It is from a vacation care that I work at, based at a special school and classed as a disability service. It is only for children with a disability. The email was sent to the entire staff and it was from the two supervisors.

They quit. They had been told their contracts may not be renewed.
It sounds like new people had come in and want to dissolve the vacation care program, and hand back the funding. They gave various reasons as to why, which I will tell you now and tell you every reason why I think those reasons are wrong:

"Services that only cater to children with a disability are not inclusive and will not be supported by the company"
1. This is the children's school, and it is their vacation care program. No other schools open their arms wide for children outside their school to attend their vacation care program, so how are those programs inclusive? We already accept children from other special schools as well as mainstream schools, with a diagnosed disability - so in many ways we are doing inclusive.
2. There are heaps of programs for adults with disabilities, heaps of services for them. This is one of the few times when adults with special needs probably get more available to them than children. Nobody ever accuses those services of not being inclusive. Children need these services too! They were created because the children need a high level of care that not average-Joe could provide to them, and parents need to work.

"Services for children with a disability which are based at special schools mean that children never leave that environment and won't be supported by the company"
1. In mainstream schools, children who go to before-school care, after-school care and vacation-care don't get this much concern. Why is suddenly an issue for the company?
2. You have no idea what we do in school. We go on a lot of excursions - definitely more than mainstream schools - we experience multiple environments, so don't you dare say that is the only environment they experience.
3. The children do go home on the weekends you know...
4. The children are in vacation care because they need to be. Their parents work. Not every child from the school is there at all, and rarely are the children in everyday of the week.
5. Some of the children come from different schools anyway, so they are experiencing a different environment.
6. We spend all our time during vacation care in the playground, gym and multi-purpose area, and area that we never get to spend enough time in during school time. We don't even go near the classrooms.

"Services for children with a disability which employ their teachers as staff mean that children never get to experience anything else and won't be supported by the company"
1. In our program, I was the only person who had anything to do with the special school who worked there. I am not a teacher, and I am only in school generally one day a week. There was only one student who I worked with on a regular basis. This student actively sought me out everyday, I was able to stop other workers one time when the student was in a situation they should not have been and if the student did not want to be with me, they had multiple other staff members to go and play with.
2. How awful for someone who knows your child very well to be working with them. What a shame that you feel safe and comfortable leaving your child at a service.
3. Again, we didn't even have any teachers at our program...
4. The chances of the child's specific teacher working there are probably quite slim. And then there are other children there too, so they will be busy with them.

The company has refused to have a forum with parents. I think my supervisors sent out this email to everyone to get them to rally with them.

My problem is: the children really have nowhere else to go. No mainstream school vacation will take them because a) they don't take kids from outside their own school, and b) they are not set up for it. It's not an issue of being inclusive, it's that they don't have a hoist or change tables or training or the staff ratio.
We have the facilities. We have the soft play rooms. We have the accessible playgrounds. We have the training.

What is the real problem???? TELL US.


  1. Sadly, it sounds like they don't want to spend the money on the program to me.

    1. Sylvia, I think you are right. It breaks my heart. They are supposed to be a not-for-profit organization but they have many, many different things they do. And a special needs childcare service is not a glamorous thing to get corporate sponsors for...

  2. That doesn't make much sense at all! How could they deny this to the kids? It sounds like they don't even really know anything about your program, except for maybe a one sentence description. I hope your community figures something out so the children have a place to go this summer!

    1. I agree. In my city (which isn't a small city) there are only 4 special needs vacation care services, all run by the company. I think there is one in the next town over.
      What is going to happen to these kids? I wonder if these people even care...

  3. I think we're too focused on categorizing people to really help them.

  4. I'm all for inclusive practices, but seriously, sometimes disabled kids just need the most accommodating environment! I found benefits in mainstream surroundings and benefits in being surrounding full by people with various disabilities while growing up. Depending on how it's done, providing supports in a specific environment doesn't mean it's somehow anti-inclusive! Glad you wrote this.