If you are reading this blog, you probably follow me somewhere on social media. I post daily. I
don't record daily or even check social media daily as I would go insane, but I do post daily to keep up with the algorithm. Sometimes this is great as I get connected to amazing people who are fighting the same fight and we get to work together which brings me so much joy!
Other times, I am discussing with people why their comments are so ableist and why that way of thinking is so dangerous for people with disabilities. As a reminder, I do not have a disability. I am speaking from my own experiences of working with people with disabilities and having friends with disabilities.
I cannot speak for people with disabilities but I do view myself as an ally and I hope that is how you view yourself too (disabled or not)!
Back story: I posted a video on tik tok that you can watch here about me saying how upset I was after an administrator sent a student of mine home after he hit an aide without having a conversation with me. I had a confused and saddened mom calling me, a frustrated aide telling me how out of line it was, and an administrator telling me that they have to treat the student like "any other kid."
Now I am not saying there shouldn't be a consequence to a behavior, and yes, maybe that consequence will be being sent home, BUT there was no discussion with the team. To my knowledge, this aide who wasn't normally working with my student, wasn't giving him attention, and he got slapped. I am not sure if the student was trying to get his attention, but if I was using all of my energy to try to communicate with someone and they were ignoring me, I would be pretty upset too.
No, I wouldn't have hit them, but that is because I have been taught all of my life that hitting is not how we communicate and to use my words or walk away. Which I am able to do. A lot of children with disabilities can't do either (or at least not yet). If the child communicates differently, it is already more challenging to express themselves. And I am not sure if you have every thought about this, but children with disabilities don't get a lot of alone time. My student couldn't have just excused himself, the aide had to be there.
This situation could have been prepared for. The aide could have known the students behavior intervention plan and the teacher (me) could have talked to the aide about expectations during this transition and how the student communicates. But that did not happen.
How I wish the aftermath played out:
It would have been so great, if the aide said something along the lines of, "hey, we don't hit, would you like to try again or do you need a break?" If that didn't work, calling out for another aide to come help the situation (with a walkie-talkie that everyone had or by going to get them as they weren't far).
Bringing the student back to my classroom (or to the office) to discuss the behavior. Follow through with the behavior intervention plan (this is something in the individualized education plan which every student with a disability legally has to have) if the student has one. If they have behaviors like this, they should have a behavior intervention plan.
Come to an agreement on the punishment after discussing the situation with the aide and the student. If the behavior intervention plan has to be used, there is a form that the case manager has to fill out to then send home to the parent and attach to the individualized education plan so everyone is up to date.
I think why this is all so frustrating to me is because I sat there and begged this school to include my students and had teachers (special education and general education), administrators, and service providers tell me that my students are too hard to be included and it's not for them to then turn around and "include" them with the same punishment.
How is it fair that my students get the same punishment as all of their peers but not the same education? Same access to their school? Same support from the staff??
Of course, I told the tik tok user that their comment was ableist, but her response was that this student didn't have a disability. Others responded saying that teachers have the right to feel safe, and I agree, but how do we also help support our students? Her comment said that she thought if a student hits then they are out. But this is an ableist thought. Disability or not. ALL BEHAVIOR IS COMMUNICATION!!! The teacher didn't like how the student communicated and wanted them excluded instead of reaching out to the administrator and specialists who could have set up a plan. Without a plan, how does anyone learn from that? And this is something I see happen a lot when people want to "do inclusion." They throw students into settings without preparing the environment, the staff, the peers, or the student.
I did delete the video, as the user and a few others started spamming the video saying that I was victim blaming. As a woman, a former teacher, and a human, I NEVER want people to feel that way. I responded to the user and apologized and tried to have a conversation about what should have been done to help support the student but have not received a response. What do you think?
Inclusion doesn't just "work." WE have to do the work.
We need to communicate to each other.
We need to make a plan.
We need to make sure there is enough support.
We need an exit strategy.
We need to prepare the student for this change.
Things to ask yourself about a child after they have a big behavior:
How does that child communicate?
What is their background in communicating?
Do they have a behavior intervention plan?
Do they need extra support in the classroom?
What could they be trying to communicate to me?
This leads me right up to advocacy and teaching a child how to advocate for themselves.
But that will be a blog post for another time,
What have your experiences been with inclusion?
Let me know!
Inclusion starts with you and I just want to help.