By Sinead Hamill
Inclusive education is about welcoming and supporting each child as an individual into the classroom. It is respecting and appreciating their abilities, race, cultural backgrounds, religion and socioeconomic status and, if needs be, adapting the environment to allow them learn and develop amongst their peers.
We live in a diverse society, made up of people from various backgrounds with differing skills, abilities and beliefs. Therefore, it is extremely important that we educate children together as much as possible, fostering attitudes of respect, by celebrating and encouraging acceptance of each person’s uniqueness. Every child deserves the same chances and opportunities, to prepare for a future where they can successfully and confidently express who they are and live harmoniously with those around them.
Diversity, viewed and presented in a positive manner, can offer benefits to all
children in a number of ways:
Differences are seen as opportunities to learn, rather than problems.
Children learn to successfully communicate and participate with others on many levels, encouraging personal development and respect for all.
Understanding differences supports acceptance and reduces the likelihood of alienation or bullying in the future.
A wide variety of friendships are built, helping to develop more rounded individuals.
Individual gifts and abilities are strengthened as children learn to work with, care for and support each other.
As teachers, children, parents and, at times, other health professionals are encouraged to actively participate in the educational curriculum, a strong sense of community spirit is developed.
There are times when a child will require extra support in one or more areas of learning. In order to best facilitate such a child, there are a few important points to acknowledge and work by:
Early intervention – As soon as a special need is suspected, Early Childhood Practitioners are encouraged to take a step back and observe the child, recording findings along the way. Concerns should be expressed to the parents and, naturally, visa-versa if parents pick up on something first. This conversation can be difficult to have, but if everyone remembers the child is priority, it is easier to put his/her needs before our own feelings. Sometimes it is in the child’s best interest to invite other multi-disciplinary professionals in to assess him/her.
Communication – Good communication is paramount to meeting and supporting the child’s needs. Parents, teachers and others involved in the child’s development and well-being need to share information and support each other’s efforts. Gathering information about the child’s strengths, abilities, interests and needs etc. enables practitioners to support the child and develop an effective ‘Individual Developmental Plan’.
Positive attitudes – Focusing on the child’s abilities and developments as opposed to highlighting their special need will be far more beneficial to the child with regards to their own self-image and the image being portrayed to his/her peers. Children are keen observers and learn from watching adult behaviours.
In conclusion, it takes all sorts to make a world, and God knows this would be a very boring world if we were all the same. So instead of shying away from differences, perhaps we can all try to embrace and grow with the changes and challenges we face. If the classroom is anything to go by ‘One World’ is just a change in attitude away.