Saturday, 31 July 2010

Inclusion or natural progression?

"Japanese flowering cherry",
by Susie Mallett, July 1020


One evening last week I was sent a URL by one of the people I work for. It is about one of the littlies I know. We have worked together for five years, since she and her mum were taking part in my very first parent-and-child group since my training. I have often mentioned her here on this blog:


http://www.hegelschule-nuernberg.de/schueler/1-klassen/133-hurra-felicia-geht-in-unsere-klasse


The day following my discovery of this site featuring littlie, another client canceled a session, so I took myself off for breakfast with the local newspaper to the local café.


In the Nürnberger Nachrichten, the NN, I read an article headed:


Surgeon returns to work, operating from an electrically operated wheelchair.


The same story


The two, the URL and the news article; link together rather well. The article is not specifically about the surgeon but about the bureaucracy that prevents disabled people from working or returning to work. The story of the littlie does not actually describe her struggle but shows one step on the long road of life - just as the photograph of the surgeon also does.


A sub-title ” We are not disabled – we are made disabled” heads the article, which is really all about how, despite the fact that the 2009 UN Convention on Rights for the Disabled states that it must be made possible for everyone to enjoy the right to take a full part in society which also means in working life. In reality it is different.

The NN says that in Germany it looks quite different. I say not only in Germany!


The NN also says: “It is knowing where to find help that is the first and biggest hurdle to get over”.


Inclusion rather than integration


This was reiterated by a group of parents later last week when we were discussing their fight to get places at mainstream junior school for their disabled children. A different newspaper was interviewing us all for an article on inclusion.


The NN goes on to tell its readers that, although there is the “special integration service” not many people know about this - and that it is still easier for those who have become disabled after they have been working to continue with their employment later than it is for those disabled people who are already disabled when it comes to applying for a first job.


“ Germany can not allow talent to go wasted on the streets, we must change our way of thinking. We are too used to sorting disabled people into different specialist institutes, homes and special schools.”


“What is missing the natural interaction with disabled people.”


The magic word, says the newspaper is “inclusion”. The experts say that this is different to integration because inclusion means that, right from the very beginning, disabled people are (or should be) equal members of society and not integrated into it at a later date. This means that all facilities in all areas of life must be accessible. Everything, says the NN reporter, must be designed and managed so disabled people too can use them.


Only then, the paper concludes, is a physical disability just one of people’s personal characteristics, like the colour of their skin or whether they are male or female.


Conductive from the start


Back to that URL and the site with the child who has grown up conductively and who, from the age of three, was in Kindergarten with non-disabled children.


It says “When integration works it is like being the receiver of gifts”.


It goes on to explain how this works in all of the school life. Even if you do not read German, the pictures tell the story.


I have known the child featured on this web-page since she was two years old. She attended a parent-and-child group, then graduated to our Petö-Montessori Kindergarten and now she attends school.


I know that in another fifteen years I shall still know her and perhaps visiting her at university, where she will still be included and. I expect still be fighting for her rights to be so.


What a wonderful start she has made in her education and upbringing.


The struggle continues


It has not been any easier for her, or for any of the first three graduates of our Kindergarten, to find a place in a mainstream school than it was for my clients fifteen or even twenty years ago.


Those clients and their families had to fight a similar fight all those years ago and, once the fight had been fought and won, the placements were a great success - just like it is for this littlie in this story.


Despite what the UN Convention is telling us, and despite all the discussion about inclusion and integration, the fight seems to be getting tougher, not easier. More bureaucracy, more red tape, more tables to push papers over, or computers to log in to!


The fight may have been won for this littlie now but in five years, when a grammar school must be chosen, will the fight begin all over again? And when it comes to the bachelor’s and master’s degrees, I wonder how much easier it will have become by the time this hurdle needs to be crossed.


Inclusion explicit and implicit


I often talk to the cleaner at work. We are about the same age. She and her husband have a farm with horses and a market garden. She has a great interest in the upbringing of children.


She observes in minute detail the comings and going of her several grandchildren and she often picks my brains about conductive upbringing and pedagogy on the evenings when we meet. I hear about how when she was a schoolgirl there was no such explicit thing as inclusion. It was taken for granted that their two disabled friends were in their local classes. Each morning a crowd of youngsters would collect these children, both with a physical disability, and transport them on the back of their bikes, they would carry their friends up and down the stairs at school, and look after their needs all day. That was life then.


I think that we have to go a long way until we get back to the place when we can say inclusion is implicitly part of life.


Notes


Georg Hegel -

http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georg_Wilhelm_Friedrich_Hegel


Nürnberger Nachrichten, Politik -

„Trotz Handicap zurück in den Job“

14th July 2010

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