Quote – Martin Luther King Jnr.
“I hear so many times from parents and teachers whose time is taken up with children in the classroom, where they have a disability or whether they are autistic – that it is taking up the teacher’s time. These kids have a right to an education by all means, but if there’s a number of them, these children should actually go into a special classroom, be looked after and given that special attention…”
Perhaps a response that mirrors, from the other perspective…
“I hear from so many compassionate Australians whose time is taken up with ignorant politicians in the limelight, whether they have a voice to the people or whether they are speaking to the parliament – that it is taking up the compassionate Australian’s patience, emotional time and energy. These ignorant politicians have a right to voice an opinion by all means, but there’s a number of them, these politicians who should actually get an education, get informed in that special thing we call real life in real families with real kids with real needs.”
So, here’s an educated and informed opinion:
Some children learn better in supported settings. For them it allows learning in a sensory-safe environment, at a pace suited to their development, with flexibility to follow their interests and attention. Specialised environments, teachers and programs advance these children.
Other children learn better in mainstream, in a structured and formal learning environment amidst the busyness of classroom life.
See, in that there is no mention of disability or autism – just an acknowledgement that every child is different and will require something different from their education and the setting in which they receive it. Yes, it might include children on the spectrum, children with identified learning needs – equally, it might include children who just need a break, who struggle with mainstream educational demands on time and attention.
There is no one-size-fits-all in children or in education
Therefore, using diagnostic labels as pejorative terms when carving up who does and who doesn’t get to be in mainstream schooling smacks of ignorance, low empathy and limited knowledge. It does a great disservice to the decades of collective knowledge, research and practice that indicates very clearly that every child, label aside, requires careful consideration of their educational placement for best outcome. Yes, sometimes that means that we are guided by the diagnostic criteria for that child but in most cases, clever educators and administrators of schools, the support staff and the parents are well able to decide what is best for that individual – and for all the other little individuals around that child.
Everyone is entitled to an opinion but when you put it to a nation as a statement of knowing that is served from a place of ignorance – only hurt and outrage can follow. And it has. To all those amazing families doing the best for their children, regardless of race, gender, diagnosis… – well done. Let’s continue to be inclusive and focus on the needs of our unique and individual children. There is no one-size-fits-all, there is no single system that is the answer, there is no dividing line, through the giving of a label, which identifies one child as eligible and another child not eligible for an education that suits their needs.