I like to agree with people I like, and some of my favorite people believe that full inclusion of people with special needs in the regular classroom is the way to go. The problem is, some others of my favorite people say no, it isn’t. I’ve been a crusader for full inclusion – not as long or as fully as some of my friends, but I’ve believed, and still believe, that it’s wrong to remove a child from class for special instruction.
But I’ve been listening to people who disagree. That’s easier to do when you’re not on the front lines of a crusade. And now, I want to present the other side of the issue. I think I’ll do it better than I would do defending racism, sexism, or militarism, because I don’t think full inclusion boils down as easily into a question of right and wrong.
I have multiple sclerosis, and so far, I’ve wanted to live, work, and spend my spare time among people most of whom don’t have multiple sclerosis. I’ve been moved by the degree of understanding I’ve experienced; people see or ask what’s difficult for me, and do their best to make things easier. Some are more sensitive than others. Some are even downright insensitive.
There are times when even my good, sensitive friends want to hike in the woods, or dance. And some of my friends live in places that are hard for me to get to. Having been TAB (Temporarily Able Bodied) for most of my life, I understand the TAB mindset. I don’t like labelling people this way, and I don’t intend to use “TAB” very often, but I do notice that even the most sensitive people I know have their own priorities, which sometimes exclude me.
I want my friends to continue to dance and hike. I want them to live in their third floor apartments, where they’ve come to feel at home. I don’t want my own disabilities to make major changes in their lives. I don’t want my friends to get all excited about going somewhere, and then have to decide not to. Or to do it some other time, when I’m not around. During my more able days, I’ve made accommodations for people with disabilities, and I remember how much of a relief it was when I didn’t have to.
When a child has severe special needs, accommodations have to be made. There’s a lot to be gained by making those accommodations – gains for the more able children, the less able, and the adults. But it does mean making adjustments, some of which aren’t easy to make, and can annoy people who aren’t disabled.
I could have let that be the final paragraph, but I want to reaffirm my commitment to full inclusion. I don’t want to move into disabled housing. I don’t want to spend all my time with people who all have the same disabilities I have. And I don’t want children to be removed from classrooms because they don’t learn the way other children learn. But I don’t think people who want to bring children with special needs to special places are the enemy.

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