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Developing successful inclusion

Abstract available shortly

Buckley, S. (2003) Developing successful inclusion. Down Syndrome News and Update, 3(1), 16-17. doi:10.3104/dsupdate.209

Inclusion in Italy

Anna Contardi shares the Italian experience of developing successful inclusion over a period of 30 years and readers will be encouraged by her findings. Italy no longer has any special schools - all pupils are included within a single education system. Readers will have noted many similarities with the experience of inclusion in other countries, for example, in the factors that affect success, such as teacher training and teacher attitudes, and in outcomes, such as improved academic achievements, increased confidence and independence, and more positive attitudes to disability from peers and the wider community. Readers will also note that in Italy, smaller class size is one of the accommodations made to support children with disabilities, and class sizes remain smaller than is usually the case in the UK and many other countries. Smaller class sizes are likely to benefit all children and teachers in many countries would welcome class sizes of 25 or less, as described in Italy.

There is much to be learned by sharing information between countries and during the last year, we have published articles on inclusion from New Zealand, Holland, the UK and Italy. We would welcome the experiences of those working in inclusive education settings in other countries. If any readers share the view that inclusion is a human rights issue and requires the closure of all special schools, they may be interested in a recent publication from Center for Studies on Inclusive Education entitled Social and Educational Justice: the human rights framework for inclusion by Sharon Rustmeier, which sets out the arguments in support of this position.

Education Support Pack

The Down's Syndrome Association in London has just published an Education Support Pack for mainstream primary and secondary schools, produced by a team of authors and edited by Stephanie Lorenz and Eric Nicolas. It is available to read or to download free on their website or it can be ordered for £15.00 per copy from their office:

Down's Syndrome Association, Langdon Down Center, 2a Langdon Park, Teddington TW11 9PS, UK.

Tel: 0845 230 0372
E-mail: info@downs-syndrome.org.uk website: www.downs-syndrome.org.uk

The pack is written primarily for teachers in England and Wales and it assumes that children will be included in the way that is most common in the UK - in an age-appropriate class with a learning support assistant - and that they will be following the UK National Curriculum (different in Scotland). However, much of the advice could still apply to successful planning in other countries.

The pack is divided into 10 units covering basic information on Down syndrome, strategies for inclusion, language, literacy, numeracy, differentiating the curriculum, behavior and social skills, successful transitions through the school system, alternative accredited courses at secondary Key Stage 4 and computers as an aid to learning.

Each unit is in note form, giving lists of key points, principles and practical tips. Teachers and support assistants will find many of the key points helpful but in some places, the lists of 'do's' and 'don'ts' are a little dogmatic or prescriptive and in need of further elaboration or explanation. The abilities, personalities, and needs of individual children with Down syndrome vary very widely and it is difficult to give advice that is right for every child in this way.

The units on the curriculum do present many clear and helpful key points, but contain no indications of expected levels of work or the variability in rates of progress of individual children. The curriculum units will give teachers some guidelines to get started in each curricular area but they will then need more detailed guidance, for example, on how to progress literacy and numeracy, and some references to further reading are supplied at the end of each unit. The most useful and positive units are those on effective strategies for inclusion, reading, transitions, alternative accreditations and computers.

Some of the units are problem orientated and focus on listing differences and difficulties. Teachers do need to know about the additional needs of our children but the style gives a somewhat negative overall view of children with Down syndrome. This could have been balanced by listing the similarities - the many ways in which children with Down syndrome are like other pupils - and by listing their strengths more clearly. For example, the diagrammatic representation of the learning profile of children with Down syndrome in Unit 4 section c) is all negative and, as a parent, I found it difficult to take. It would not have given a fair picture of my daughter as a person or as a learner, even though she has all those difficulties - and it might give a teacher a very depressing view of the challenge of having a child with Down syndrome in their class. Similarly, Unit 7 on behavior and social skills starts straight into key points on inappropriate behaviors as though these are to be expected from all children with Down syndrome. The unit would have been more positive if the sections on social inclusion and friendships had come first and it had included some points highlighting the social strengths and appropriate behavior of most children with Down syndrome. Some vignettes describing the progress of real children and some photographs in schools would have lightened the messages throughout the publication.

In summary, schools will find many useful pointers in this pack but should not see it as a comprehensive guide to the development, education and successful inclusion of children with Down syndrome but rather as a starting point for gathering information.

Whole school development for inclusion

The Center for Studies on Inclusive Education has recently published a new edition of its Index for Inclusion. It can be purchased from CSIE for £24.50:

CSIE, New Redland, Frenchay Campus, Coldharbour Lane, Bristol BS16 1QU, UK. Tel: 0117 344 4007
website: www.inclusion.org.uk and www.csie.org.uk

This is a set of materials designed to support schools in assessing their current 'inclusiveness' and to identify ways in which they can move forward. The Index aims to encourage schools to see that inclusiveness is what all schools should aspire to. It is about reducing barriers to learning and participation for all pupils in the school community. The Index provides guidelines for a school to begin to review and address its culture and practices, and the way it functions as an inclusive and supportive community for all its members, both staff and students. The body of the publication is designed to help schools through this process and set goals for change. In the Index are a number of questionnaires which will help teachers, governors and parents consider the inclusivity of the school and pinpoint issues to focus on to create positive change.

The Index for Inclusion is already being used in many countries and translations into Arabic, Chinese, Finnish, French, German, Hindi, Hungarian, Maltese, Norwegian, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish and Swedish are prepared or in progress. CSIE also publishes a range of other material on issues around inclusion and information about these and about their work can be found on their website at www.inclusion.org.uk and www.csie.org.uk

Other inclusion resources for teachers on the web

The Prep Programme in Calgary, Canada, has many years experience in supporting the inclusion of children with Down syndrome in mainstream schools and their 107 page publication for teachers entitled Effective teaching strategies for successful inclusion is accessible on-line for a fee of $20 Can - about £10 sterling - at their website www.prepprog.org . A printed copy can be purchased on-line for the same amount plus postage.

The text of books on language and literacy, memory and meeting educational needs, no longer in print but still current in content, can be found, along with many relevant articles, on Down Syndrome Education International's information website at https://www.down-syndrome.org/

A photograph of a child with Down syndrome

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