Technology and Inclusion

Hi everyone! I am back with my final post for this blog about inclusion within schools. Now, something that I am sure a lot of you are not aware of or have paid much attention to, is the relationship between technology and inclusion-so that is what I would like to make this last post about, because I have learned some interesting things about this topic within a few of my classes. I just wanted to share a few things that I have learned because I would love to hear from you guys about if you think any of these forms of technology would be beneficial or detrimental for children and youth with disabilities.

To begin, when considering a person-environment fit model, there is something called the “universal design for learning” (which I will be referring to as UDL). This entails increasingly intensive interventions that are used to support individual students’ needs. The focus of UDL is on the design of instructional materials based on a child’s abilities, so that students do not have to meet the normal demands of learning if they cannot based on their abilities. With UDL, barriers can become reduced while learning opportunities become enhanced. With that being said, the problem with UDL is that it assumes that it is universally accessible, when at times that is not the case.

Assistive Technolog
Likewise, we can now consider assistive technology. The benefits of such is that it allows those with disabilities to be a part of a new world where they can be who they want to be, and it can help them challenge stereotypes about disabilities. The limitations of such, however, is that often times technology can isolate people and promote normalcy. It can be very costly and can promote the message of how bodies should be operated, and there is a lack of assistive technology everywhere which creates exclusion because these individuals cannot connect with other people.

It is also important to consider that, with assistive technology, there are a lot of accessibility and navigational challenges. For example, twitter is inaccessible for blind or visually impaired users, and some technology (such as Kindle) assumes that everyone knows how to use it, when it is in actuality inaccessible for blind users. A lot of technology in general consists of apps and aspects that they think are helping these individuals, but some of these people are not even able to turn some of these apps on. The spoken-text aspect of Kindle is actually made for people who want to talk while they are driving. Rather than pushing boundaries of what is considered to be “normal,” this type of technology makes individuals appropriate body norms. In relation to this, schools often rely on technology in order to make up for physical inaccessibility. For example, they give students online courses but do not recognize that this can restrict these individuals from leaving their homes and having social opportunities at school. Likewise, for individuals who are deaf, they might not always be provided with lecture videos that have captions.

Assistive technology assumes that they know what those with disabilities need with technology. The way that technology can be re-envisioned based on those with disabilities can start with creating accessible technology rather than assistive technology. This can help make technology easier for these individuals to use based on their disabilities. Technology should be both accessible and responsive. Creators of technological devices can create a “cool factor” by designing technology through an inclusive and accessible approach, and designers must begin by making technology accessible for those with disabilities because these people will always be using technology just like we do. The creators should not have to wait until later on to fix it or add things in, these types of things should be done from the beginning.

Now, when considering rehabilitation technology promotion materials, something that I was not aware of prior to University is that a lot of normalcy is promoted through such. With this type of technology, children with disabilities are represented and the words used to describe them often emphasizes their disabilities (i.e. wheelchair-bound patients). This can make them feel like their disability is a problem, or that it is negative/damaged. This technology prefers “normalcy.” Images of hearing aid technology and training materials had people doing “normal” things, which makes individuals with disabilities feel like thy need to be just like them as the message that is subliminally being portrayed is that this is the normal/right way to live, move, or look.

A lot is promised with intervention technology, in that it is portraying the message that the disability can be fixed and they can become “normalized.” When considering efficiency and effectiveness, this technology makes people think that there will be faster, easier and more productive intervention. It also promises less burden on therapists with technology, saying that there will be better outcomes with less effort. This is scary for therapists because they might thing that technology will take over their jobs. Additionally, progress and improvement is promised in that they promise faster progress with longer and more intensive functional training. It tells youth that there will be improvement in things such as their grades, and that bad consequences can occur if a youth does not do certain things such as wearing their hearing aids. This can make both the children and their parents experience feelings of guilt. Next, success and inclusion is promised, making these children think that they will automatically be included in social situations and that a lot of success can be guaranteed. The emphasis is on the individual, and not on the society (and this is the problem.) Lastly, opportunities for a normal life is promised with the assumption that these advanced intervention technologies can give these children the best life and a “normal” childhood. This makes parents think that they have no choice but to buy these items for their child, otherwise they are bad parents. Such technology makes them think that normal is good, and abnormal is bad [i.e. walking is normal, being in a wheelchair is not].

These are some things that I learned about such technology, and I am still on the fence about what could be beneficial for these children. What do you guys think? In this increasingly technological world, there are high hopes that there will be more positive messages provided through such, not only for these children, but for society as a whole. Technology should not always be relied on, and if for instance a student’s technological device is not working, how will they be able to complete their tasks? Likewise, I feel as if with assistive technology, there is the requirement for a lot of training in order to use these devices, and this can be very time-consuming.

I feel like within time, there will hopefully be a lot more features on smartphones and devices in relation to such that can help individuals with disabilities on a daily basis. I’ll leave you with this video about Apple, because it shows that sometimes technology can be beneficial. Sure, there are some forms of technology out there that maybe need to be tweaked a bit in order to be more realistic and accessible, but there are some that are really working on it (as seen in this video) and that is something that I can appreciate.

Creating a Physically Inclusive Environment

Inclusive School

Inclusion is still an on-going process, and there are high hopes for it to become a lot more successful in the future because it is only now being widely recognized as something in which needs to be altered a bit, especially since diversity has become such a huge part of our curriculums in this day and age. A huge part of the success of inclusion comes from teachers, and let me tell you, I have been learning a lot about the methods in which educators can try to make this happen and it will definitely not be an easy task!

With that being said, as a future educator, I am striving to become one whom has inclusion present in the classroom, and in this post I will be discussing some of the tips and techniques that I have learned in my classes that I found to be realistic and doable in order to make such happen!

For starters, it is very clear that young students within elementary schools spend a majority of their day within the classroom. Therefore, their teacher becomes a huge part of their lives, and ultimately one of their biggest role models. So, it is very important that teachers recognize that they have the ability to help shape the minds of these young individuals in order to become accepting individuals from an early age.

The most important thing that a teacher should attempt to avoid is labelling their students alongside their disabilities. Research by Veck in his article “Listening to Include” (2009) discusses that when such labelling occurs for these students, when associating a child with their diagnosed disability, a subliminal social movement is constructed by the educator as this allows other students to assign these children with special needs to a separate group in which involves individuals with the same label as theirs. This makes sense, right? People first language is extremely important, no matter if you are an educator or not! These labels, according to Veck (2009), can make such children and youth bear the feeling that they are not viewed as their own unique self, rather they carry the impression that others will classify them as being the exact same as others who have their disability, showing that educators have the ability to permanently creating a lens for other students. 

People first
Note: Although I agree with everything in this chart above in regards to the right way to utilize people-first language, I would probably refrain from saying “She is a little person.” I think that “She is of short stature” is acceptable, however, because I am not sure there is a better way to describe someone with that body type.

Articles by Tonnsen & Hahn (2016) and Bebetsos, Derri, Zafeririadis & Kyrgiridis (2013) state that during middle school, assembling perceptions of a students’ peers, including those with disabilities, requires the individual to typically utilize acceptance, as well as have the appropriate beliefs and attitudes not only while an activity is taking place, but afterwards as well. With that being said, this places a huge responsibility on educators to teach their non-disabled students about how to inclusively interact with their peers whom have disabilities within the classroom, as peer relationships are a huge part of inclusion.

How can this be done effectively, you ask? Well, according to Tonnsen & Hahn (2016), educators must grasp an understanding towards the notion that simply providing a student with disabilities (such as autism spectrum disorder) the opportunity to be physically included is not enough to bolster their success from a social standpoint. It is exceedingly crucial, according to Bebetsos, Derri, Zafeririadis & Kyrgiridis (2013), for a student with disabilities to be able to strengthen their development as well as their growth by partaking in physical education classes alongside the other students in their class including those of whom are non-disabled, and by experiencing interactions which are positive at the same time. Subjects, such as gym, can provide non-disabled students with the opportunity to be able to adjust their perceptions and behaviours in regards to disability within athletics; this can allow students with disabilities to feel profitably included within various communities.

Inclusive Gym
Another article by Feldman, Carter, Asmus & Brock (2015) states that simply including a child with disabilities within a general education classroom is not enough, as communication cannot be achieved if these individuals are not truly present in a physical sense. Although paraprofessionals are necessary within the school lives of such children and youth, this means that there is a lack of opportunities for individuals with disabilities to interact with their non-disabled peers.

This article also recognizes the fact that it is very important for educators to avoid segregation for their students whom have disabilities, and this can be avoided by not seating them far away from others and alongside the child’s paraprofessional. Teachers can try to provide scenarios such as working on projects together which involve collaboration in small groups or directly being seated in close proximity to their peers whether it is beside their peers, or across from them. If other students recognize that the student who has a disability is constantly in a different part of the room, or with an adult whom the students might not feel comfortable talking in front of, these interactions can be non-existent. I experienced this first-hand when I was placed within a Kindergarten classroom for my second year placement. There was a student whom was on the spectrum for many different disorders, and his peers did not once try to interact with him because he sat at the very back of the classroom where they could barely even see him; it was really sad to see because you could tell that he wanted to be a part of that group. A great method for teachers to use is by partnering up their student whom has a disability alongside their non-disabled peers, or even with other students whom are deemed as “popular.” Tonnsen & Hahn (2016) say that with this method, other peers will view this scenario and realize that they can also approach this student due to the fact that the student appears to be accepted. Something that might be conflicting about this method, however, is that sometimes there are students who lash out with other students, so in this case that might be difficult to do…what do you guys think? Do you think it could be possible, and how? Or is it not realistic? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Social Inclusion

Hello again everyone! I am back with another post in regards to inclusion within elementary schools for children and youth with disabilities. Last week I briefly discussed some of the negative aspects of inclusion, while keeping in mind that there are feasible reasons as to why these consequences can occur within these institutions. This week, however, I will be looking more at the positive side of inclusion and the manner in which it can be accomplished outside of these educational institutions in order to make the process a little bit less complicated for educators. I will specifically be focusing on social inclusion in this post, as I believe that it has a lot to do with the success of this topic.

To begin, I would like to point out that there is not one specific definition for social inclusion, however the most accurate definition that I believe pertains to such is children with disabilities forming relationships with other children with disabilities, or peers who do not have disabilities. Much of social inclusion has to do with community participation, or social interaction. There is an introductory video provided for you guys at the top of this page in order to get a better understanding towards what social inclusion really is!

Image 1

According to the diagram above within an article by Simplican, Leader, Kosciulek, & Leahy (2015), one of the benefits of social inclusion is that it allows for students with disabilities to experience better lives with more confidence, self-esteem, value, respect, happiness, better well-being, and improved mental health. Likewise, when social inclusion is successful, stereotypes, negative attitudes, discrimination and stigma are reduced. It is really important to recognize that even if someone has a lot of high quality friendships, that individual still has the potential to be socially excluded.

When thinking about social inclusion and what prevents it from occurring, a lot of individual factors need to be taken into account such as the level of functioning, an individual’s self-esteem and knowledge, as well as the culture of the group, as seen in the below diagram from the same article from above by Simplican, Leader, Kosciulek, & Leahy (2015).

Image 2.png

It is very vital for human beings to understand and recognize that it is not enough to simply place children and youth with disabilities into the community, as a change in relationships is extremely necessary as well. Educational institutions should be an environment where such individuals can find acceptance and people who are like them, however we need to consider the fact that this does not only need to occur within such institutions, rather it is important to have this outside, within our communities, as well. I have learned a lot from my “developmental disabilities: issues of inclusion” class that if institutions are properly ran, individuals with developmental disabilities will have a better chance at being included. Self-advocacy groups, for example, is a great start as it is something in which comes out of these individual’s own self-determined choices. Self Advocacy.gif

With self-advocacy groups, those with disabilities can be a part of a group that is not dictated by family members, professionals, etc. A supportive community can be formed through these types of groups, and the best part about it is that it is voluntary. With these groups, individuals can experience a sense of identity which is shared, a sense of belonging, and overall support. These groups can help them recognize that they are not always alone, and through the confidence gained through such, they can have the potential to feel more ready to attempt to immerse themselves within educational institutions.

It is understood that people with disabilities have the right to live normal lives, go to a normal school, have a real home, partake in lifestyle activities and have a normal family life. In order for this to occur, society has to do so much more! The government must be challenged, and human needs are required to be recognized. I learned in my CHYS 3P35 course that a lot of this can be accomplished within medical institutions, the private sphere/family, and the public sphere. The medical institution should ensure basic safety and care, power asymmetries should be eliminated and there should be no social control over children and youth with disabilities. Likewise, we need to recognize that it is difficult for those with disabilities to see themselves as rights-bearing citizens due to the fact that those without disabilities do not allow them to feel that way, and a lot of this occurs within schools. Additionally, adults must include the views of these children in regards to decisions that affect them, as this will aid in their treatment as rights-bearing citizens and provide them with a sense of independence.

A lot of social prejudices must be overcome, and social barriers must be eliminated so that those with disabilities can live with and do things with those without disabilities. It is so important for these children to feel like they have the same self-determination as their peers whom aren’t disabled, and a lot of this can be done by people having better attitudes towards diversity.

Disability Rights

I hope you guys enjoyed this post! A lot of the success of social inclusion relies on the manner in which educators teach their students about the manner in which how children and youth with disabilities within their classrooms should be treated. Next week, I will be discussing the tips and techniques that I have learned in which educators, and future educators (such as myself) can utilize within the classroom with their students in order to create a more physically inclusive environment!

Better when we're together

Hi Everyone!

I decided to make this blog about a topic that is very close to my heart. I am studying to become a primary/junior teacher at Brock University, and in a lot of the courses that I have been required to take, inclusive education has been a very prominent and debatable topic. I’m sure a lot of you know what inclusive education is, but for those of you who do not, inclusive education is a concept that is universally perceived as that of which administers a sense of belonging for children and youth with special needs within the educational system, in defiance of their everyday obstacles and differences.

Does this not sound like an excellent idea which can provide such youth with a great sense of belonging alongside their non-disabled peers? Contrary to popular belief, this is not always the mindset that a lot of people have towards this educational approach. I for one am 50/50 when it comes to this topic. On one hand, many people think that this is a large stepping stone for the educational sphere, however there are in actuality a lot of downsides towards this approach. Don’t get me wrong, I think that the idea being implemented into our schools is excellent, and a lot better than nothing! But with that being said, we cannot ignore the fact that many of the methods utilized for creating such inclusion are not always beneficial for the children and youth with disabilities themselves and can in fact create an environment of exclusion for them instead. Likewise, I would like to mention that this blog will be about both the positives and negative aspects of inclusive education and the manner in which I think could be beneficial for improving the negative aspects of it!

Educators must recognize that peer relationships will not be strengthened for these students simply by placing them within a classroom with their non-disabled peers; it goes much beyond that. For example, these children can be at risk for physical and emotional abuse whenever there are not teachers around such as during recess time. Although educators might think that inclusion is always the right answer, as future teachers we must recognize that often times inclusion can create a lot of negative consequences for these children as well, such as withdrawal. Educators would have to take each individual student’s disability into account, because each child with a different disability deals with things in a distinctive manner based on the effects of their disability such as those with Asperger’s Syndrome and High Functioning Autism who often lack the social skills that their non-disabled peers acquire. If any sort of rejection occurs for these students, it can very easily create preconceived notions for their other non-disabled peers who could quite potentially treat them in the same way.

It is argued in a lot of classes that I have taken at University so far that a lot more work can be done by educators such as social skills training, peer mediated interventions for paraprofessionals, and most importantly, listening ears. With that being said, teachers are definitely trying their best and this is recognized universally. It is already tough enough to be a teacher, and having to implement inclusive education is not an easy task. Next week I will discuss the positive aspects towards inclusive education along with its’ benefits. I have a lot more to say about this topic and I can’t wait to share my thoughts with all of you and hear what you guys have to say in regards to inclusive education as well! What are your thoughts so far? Leave me a comment, I would love to hear what you have to say!