Earlier this year, I submitted a TEDx Talk proposal for this year’s Dayton event. Mine was one of nearly 200 proposals submitted. I was very pleased to be chosen as one of about 50 to get to audition. And now I have the honor of being chosen as one of the speakers at this year’s TEDx Dayton!
My talk is titled “Ten Things I Have Learned from Amelia.” Amelia is my soon-to-be-nine-year-old daughter, who was diagnosed with autism just before her third birthday. This talk has been brewing in my mind for years, and I have already used it as the basis of a five-minute “Ignite” style talk, and it appears in the CCHMC booklet “Sharing Hope”, which is given to families of individuals who are beginning a plan of care at their Department of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics. While there have been many discussions over the last six years about what and how we might teach Amelia, I have found it to be much more powerful to pay attention to what and how she is trying to teach me about herself and the way she sees the world.
The organizers of TEDx Dayton have pushed me (and all of the other speakers), to make sure that we are able to give the best quality delivery we can of the best quality construction of our message that we can. On Friday, October 12, Amelia’s will be one of several stories that are told that day, on the stage of the Victoria Theatre.
I have many, many people to thank for their contributions to Amelia’s development over the last nine years, and I won’t have time to thank them all on October 12. But, my goal is to let Amelia, and all of her friends and family, and everyone out there who can identify with her, know just how amazing she is and how much we can all learn from one another if we’re willing to pay attention to the lessons being taught.
Ohio’s State Professional Development Grant (SPDG) provides resources for select districts to participate in important work around changing outcomes and improving achievement for diverse learners.
I was honored to be asked to speak at a state-level meeting of SPDG district representatives at the Battelle for Kids “Connect for Success” conference.
My presentation was titled “Ten Important Things Amelia Needs You to Know”. Big thanks to my friend Patti Porto for getting video of the presentation for me!
The slides are available at goo.gl/8YisM1.
Some students in today’s educational system are left-handed. These students have unique educational needs compared to their typical peers. Common academic activities such as handwriting, drawing, and using scissors require varying levels of modification to accommodate the needs of individuals who are left-handed. Even playtime activities like baseball or golf require alternative or modified equipment to allow students who are left-handed to participate more fully.
Teachers may find it frustrating at first to deal with the unique needs of students who are left-handed. The constant need to modify assignments can take up a significant amount of the teacher’s valuable time that could be spent in assisting other students. Also, teacher preparation programs do relatively little to familiarize new teachers with the unique needs of this small but important part of the population. These factors contribute to a lack of success for students who are left-handed in typical classrooms.
To maximize efficiency and effective use of limited resources, all students who are left-handed should be educated in a separate educational environment. Students who are left-handed should be provided with a teacher who has specialized credentials in working just with these students. The opportunity for the students to spend most of their time alongside similar individuals will build a greater sense of camaraderie and community. This will also benefit the classroom teachers who will no longer have to spend their time modifying work for students who are left-handed. And, it will benefit the typical students who have previously faced distraction from their studies due to having students who are left-handed in their classroom doing things differently, needing extra assistance, or working in separate groups from typical students.
To enhance these students’ sense of belonging to the school community, we will begin the steps necessary to put together resources to provide activities like sports teams and cheerleading squads for students who are left-handed. We are very excited to announce our first planned event will be a prom, next Spring, only for students who are left-handed!
We are committed to increasing our efforts in early identification of students who are left-handed. Early identification of students who are left-handed will help us provide necessary services that will help increase success of students who are left-handed in a specialized functional curriculum, to give them the best chance of adapting to life after school in a workplace and world dominated by right-handed individuals.
Okay, does all that stuff above seem really stupid? Yes? Good. Now, take out the phrase “Students who are left-handed” and replace it with “students who have Autism” or “Downs Syndrome”or “students who are deaf” or “blind” or any other label we place on students. Why would we think that removing those people from the presence of their peers in classrooms is any more helpful, or any less discriminatory, then doing so with students who are left-handed, or green eyed, or of a particular race?
There are two fundamental ideas I hold dear about education: 1) every student deserves to be fully included with his/her peers as much as possible as a basic civil right, and 2) when this is done properly and well, every student in the classroom benefits socially as well as academically.
I owe much of the credit for my current views on this subject to the work of Dr. Elise Frattura and Michael McSheehan, as well as Douglas Biklen’s 1992(!) book “Schooling Without Labels”.
I have collected a list of 30 videos that speak to some aspect of this challenge. Some are about inclusion in the classroom, some in extra-curriculars. Some are about inclusion at the elementary level, some in high school, some beyond high school. Some are about the civil rights aspect, some are about the academic benefits to all.
I have a “typical” six-year-old, and a four-year-old who has been diagnosed with Autism. I am hopeful that they are going to school at a time when they will never have to be separated from any of their peers on the basis of whether or not they have a disability. Any school that recommends a separate facility for my kids is not the right school for them.
If you are not already a believer in full inclusion for all, I hope you will be by the time you watch these videos.