Some people can be excluded by what is meant to be inclusion. For neuro-diverse people our classrooms can be a ticking time bomb. The sounds, the smells, the expectations, the infrastructure, the movement, the unpredictability, the inflexibility. All of these can push people whose world view is that little bit different to the brink. It can require an incomprehensible level of effort and focus to keep on the mainstream, neurotypical pathway.
For both students and teachers.
And yet so often, the only view of inclusion is that everyone in the classroom, mainstream setting at all costs. Except financial costs: heaven forbid that a child or young person might need some money spending to support them.
Over my time teaching I’ve seen lots of different needs intersect in ways that don’t fit well together. Some kiddos find coping with the world just too much and need space and support to manage themselves, so that they can then cope with learning and managing the behaviours of others in their class, whose needs differ from their own. Adults need resources to be able to do so, both for the young peoples’ benefit and for that of their classmates. Where we are ill-equipped to meet our learners’ needs, we take it home, we dwell on it and our own sense of well-being begins to dwindle.
For adults and young people who are neuro-diverse, making sense of the world and helping others to takes more of a toll than it might for neuro-typical individuals. We need space and time to breathe more easily. I am dyslexic, and I find it hard to process written words and lots of spoken information when there are lots of distractions. I am also an adult with lots of coping strategies. For young people who don’t have that, there is a need for them to be able to engage with the world as they need to. For some that may be in the mainstream classroom consistently; for others it may be that they need some small group intervention support outside of class; some may need to be located in a mainstream school but taught in a unit. And for other young people mainstream education may not be the way forward at all. Placing young people in an unsuitable or under resourced setting can have the same effect as exclusion: they cannot access education. Until those who control the machine that is education within England acknowledge the dynamic nature of inclusion. It is not a static term. It is a relative, subjective term of reference holding unique meaning for students. Inclusion should be funded adequately so that young people are not excluded despite being in a room. Every child has the right to an appropriate education and that should not be contingent on underlying philosophies within government policy and a seemingly endless desire to cut funding.