During the MacKay Inclusion Review the Autism Society of New Brunswick opposed the full or extreme inclusion model which Gordon Porter and the NBACL is now in the process of again imposing on New Brunswick students. I have commented many times expressing my personal opposition to the inflexible full inclusion beliefs which have caused harm to my severely autistic son and others for whom the mainstream classroom is not an appropriate educational environment. This is not just an issue though between some parents of autistic children and the NBACL/Porter Full Inclusion true believers. The Learning Disabilities Associations of Canada and Ontario have also opposed the full inclusion model which limits placement options, causes physical harm to some, and deprives some of a real education:
The following policy statement of the Learning Disabilities Association of Canada (LDAC) was adopted by the Board of Directors of the Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario (LDAO), as recommended by the LDAO Legislation and Policy Committee, on November 17, 2008.
Learning Disabilities Association of Canada (LDAC) Policy Statement on
Educational Inclusion for Students with Learning Disabilities (presented to the
LDAC Executive Committee in February 2005, the LDAC Board of Directors in June 2005 and ratified on November 26, 2005).
The Learning Disabilities Association of Canada (LDAC) does not support full
educational inclusion or any policies that mandate the same placement, instruction, or treatment of all students with learning disabilities or the idea that all students with learning disabilities must be served only in regular education classrooms at the exclusion of all other special education placement options.
LDAC believes that full inclusion, when defined this way, violates the rights of parents and students with disabilities guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedom and Human Rights Codes which guarantee education equality and freedom from discrimination and rejects the arbitrary placement of all students in any one setting.
LDAC supports the availability of a continuum of education services as prescribed in an individual educational plan for each student with learning disabilities to ensure success and must be flexible enough to meet the changing needs of students with learning disabilities by:
1) Providing a range of options and services and diverse learning environments
(placements) to meet the specific needs of each student;
2) Providing the most enabling environment for that student that will effectively meet the student’s best interests socially, emotionally, behaviourally, physically and educationally; and,
3) Focus on what is in the best interest of the student and, in that context, consider all the needs of the student as expressed by the student and his/her parents and that of their consulting professionals.
Because each student with learning disabilities has unique needs, an individualized education plan and placement must be tailored on individual strengths and needs. For one student, the plan may be provided in the regular classroom yet for another student, the regular classroom may be an inappropriate placement and may need alternative instructional environments, teaching strategies, and/or materials that cannot or will not be provided within the context of the regular classroom environment. The severity and nature of the individual needs should determine the alternative teaching strategies, accommodations, resources, supports and placement required.
The LDAO repeated their opposition to a mainstream classroom inclusion only policy in a February 10, 2009 letter to Ontario Education Minister Kathleen Wynne. The letter stressed the need for a range of placement options based on the needs of the individual student:
Inclusion is good when it means something more than placement in a common mainstream classroom. Inclusion is good when it does not deprive individual students with a range of education placement options that suitable for their needs. Inclusion is good when it is evidence based on the best interests of the individual student. Flexible inclusion is good.
Inflexible, dogmatic, everyone in the classroom philosophy is not good. It harms some students and deprives them of a meaningful, happy education experience. Autism advocates in New Brunswick fought the extreme everyone in the mainstream classroom model during the MacKay and Ministerial Committee inclusion reviews. We were successful in ensuring the enactment of an inclusive education definition by our Department of Education which recognizes that real inclusion means an approach which assesses the individual needs, abilities and challenges of individual students on an evidence basis.
Now Gordon Porter and the NBACL, both of which oppose the evidence based approach, are now in charge. They are effectively writing and enforcing their extreme mainstream classroom inclusive education for all policy for the Alward government. Autism parents must be vigilant in resisting their back to the future philosophy and insist on an evidence based approach guided by our children's best interest; as radical as those concepts may seem to Mr Porter and company.
It is not clear where the Learning Disabilities Association of New Brunswick stands on these issues but their counterparts in the LDA of Canada and Ontario have spoken clearly and their positions are consistent with an evidence based student centered approach. Their clear, strong positions will be of great help in our efforts.