Sea Change at the CEC?
A possible sea change at the CEC, presenters who are MIA, and inclusion is easy as 1-2-3.
I have a confession. I didn’t have high expectations for the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) conference in Orlando last week. And that’s my bad because I was pleasantly surprised at all of the content centered around inclusive education.
But don’t take my word for it, here are some of the session titles. I’ve added a link where I could find them for the presentations.
How Families and Teachers Can Advocate for Inclusive Practices in Classrooms and Schools (link)
Social Media and Special Education: Promoting Inclusive Practices Through Authentic Advocacy
Inclusive Education Roadmap: From Vapor Trail for a Few to Sustainable Change for All (link)
Self-Determination in Inclusive, Secondary Classrooms: Enabling All Students to Become Self-Determined (link)
Right?!? And here are some sessions that are slated for the virtual edition of the conference starting February 1st.
Full Inclusion for ALL Students: Improving General Educators’ Mindsets
Who is Being Included? Promoting Inclusion for Students With Severe Disabilities
This isn’t an exhaustive list, but from just looking at the CEC2022 session titles, it looks like there might be a sea change happening.
But not all is sunshine and roses. So, I have to tell you this story, since we are talking about session titles. One of the sessions that I and my team attended was called “Making Meaningful Decisions About Educational Placement for Students With Autism and Significant Support Needs.”
Look, I’m not here to call out any person specifically, so I’m not dropping any names. But here is the session description.
IEP teams must decide whether to place students with autism and significant support needs in general education. However, it can be challenging to determine whether a student will receive meaningful benefit from inclusive placements. We will present a systematic model for making decision [sic] about inclusive education for students with autism.
Participants will be able to:
1. Explain the relevance of placement decisions based on an individualized vision of the student's future to decisions based on access to the general education curriculum for students with autism and significant support needs.
2. List five specific criteria to consider when deciding whether an inclusive placement is appropriate for a student with autism and significant support needs.
3. Describe a process for deciding whether a student with autism and significant support needs should receive some, all, or none of their educational services in inclusive school settings.
Sadly, the presenters did not show up. Leaving the packed room of attendees without hearing what they had to say about how to decide whether a student with autism would receive “meaningful benefit” from an inclusive placement. We don’t have time to address every point of this problematic session description so instead, I’m going to give you a very quick version of what I would have said if I had stood up to this packed room of educators.
Fictionalized Audio Transcript
Thanks for coming to my session entitled, “Making Meaningful Decisions About Educational Placement for Students With Autism and Significant Support Needs.”
So, the first thing I want to say is that all students with disabilities (whether they have autism, intellectual disabilities, or other significant support needs) deserve to be educated side by side with their nondisabled peers in general education classrooms with the appropriate supports, accommodations, and modifications.
I completely understand that this can be challenging. And authentic inclusive education is not easy. But it is so so worth it.
Not only that, but we have a rich history of research that points to better outcomes for students who are included. And there are robust examples of case law that point to inclusive education for all students being the spirit of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
But you didn’t come here for platitudes. You want to know the systematic model for making decisions for inclusive education. So here it goes.
Number One: The team has to believe that inclusive education for all students is the right thing to do. Inclusion is both a belief system and a practice. And it won’t work well if the team’s mindset can’t get past whether or not they think inclusive education should even happen.
Number Two: The team has to want to include the student. In fact, if the team is dead set against it, I would caution moving forward because chances are it is going to fail. And in turn, be used as an example that inclusion didn’t work.
Number Three: The school leadership has to commit to supporting the team with personnel, training, and resources. Without this commitment, inclusive education will fall flat. And may only last in the short term.
That’s it. There is your model. Notice, there is nothing in that model that talks about whether a student is ready for inclusion. Only if the staff are ready.
Now, wait for one second, Tim! What about the students who are so aggressive they are hurting other students and staff or themselves? What about students who have significant medical needs, like uncontrollable seizures? What about students who are so disruptive, that no one can concentrate on learning?"
Great questions. I’m not saying that students need to be included in general education no matter what. I’m saying that the assumption is that general education is where we always start and plan that they will receive “meaningful benefit.” And if for some reason we can’t figure out how to support them, then we can plan for them to be educated somewhere else temporarily. But we are always making a plan to bring them back.
Most of the time, when students are removed from general education they never come back! Because we say, “See, they are doing so much better in a separate setting.” But how is that setting preparing them to live in an inclusive society? It is not. And the research bears this out.
So big idea: all students can receive meaningful benefits from general education (if we plan for it). And if they don’t now, they will, as long as we keep trying.
Thanks for coming to my CEC session.
That will do it for this edition of The Weeklyish.
Thanks for your time and attention.
And remember, inclusion always works.
If you like The Weeklyish then you will love the Think Inclusive Podcast. Take a listen!