We all want our child with Down Syndrome included with their typically developing peers in school and work. Federal law requires inclusion. The past 40 years of research proves inclusion is best practices. So why are people with cognitive disabilities still segregated?
Lack of full inclusion of people with cognitive disabilities is the canary in the coal mine!
I recently read a fascinating parable by venture capitalist, Adam Quinton, describing why more women weren’t working in tech industries. The comparison can be used for inclusion of our community too.
Canaries were taken down mines as early detection of danger. The small, caged birds would die of dangerous gases before the miners, allowing them to get out before the gases effected them.
“But what happens when the little canaries died?” Quinton asked. “Did the miners blame the canaries for not being tough or well-trained enough? Or did the miners decide that really what they needed was more canaries?”
Quinton argues, they neither blamed the canaries or solved the problem by getting more of these birds. “Rather they reflected on the underlying problem facing the canaries. When they thought about it, this wasn’t the canaries themselves. They didn’t need “fixing,” rather it was the atmosphere,” he argues.
Students with cognitive disabilities aren’t the problem. They don’t need to be just like their typical peers to enjoy meaningful inclusion. Placing all the students with cognitive disabilities together in a separate room doesn’t fix the problem either.
I agree with Quinton when he argued that we must “Look at the context they operate in and work out what is wrong with your organisational culture and ask how you can make it more inclusive.”
Only when the “I” in Individual Education Plan (IEP) is focused on will students with disabilities get what they need, whether that’s in a full inclusion setting or some variation of inclusion. Only then will students with cognitive disabilities feel more valued and supported, as well as the teachers and typical peers that support these students.