Saturday, August 30, 2014

Accomodations vs Inclusion

I think that it can sometimes be hard to determine whether to ask for accommodation for our allergic kids, or inclusion.  Surprisingly, it is often hard for teachers and administrators to acknowledge that there is a distinct difference.

Accommodation is adjusting the environment to make it safe for the child to be in it without making the child fully part of the activity, lesson, or party.  (It is providing a box of "safe" treats so that the allergic child can have a bag of skittles when the other children are enjoying cupcakes.)

Inclusion is making the environment safe enough for the child to participate at the same level the other children are- when  everyone has the same opportunity to experience the party or lesson.  Everyone participates in the same lesson , celebration, or treat.  No one is segregated to a safe distance, or given a safe treat that is different from what the other students are eating.

Accommodation is generally easier to obtain.

Children with food allergies are used to being on the perimeter of the party, never quite part of it.  The failure of our system to recognize that this is not equal treatment is colossal.

Schools are becoming increasingly open to providing a safe physical environment for allergic children.  It is more common to have a designated area for them to eat, have safe treats stashed in the classroom, and have safety protocols established to minimize allergen exposure at school.  Schools are getting much better at accommodation.  Inclusion remains elusive for most.

I believe it has an emotional impact on children to be in an environment that they must constantly scan for danger, to be forced to participate on the fringe as an outlier rather than be included at the heart of it.  The unspoken message is that their difference is tolerated, but not worth adjusting policy to include.  Which, in turn, can communicate that the child is not important enough to include.

The court system struck down "separate but equal" years ago.  We are again in a situation that separates children without adequate attempt to equalize the playing field.

When working with your school, informally or through a more formal IHP or 504, remember to spell out not only the physical safety needs of your child, but the social/emotional needs as well.  It is allowable to expect your child's whole person to be educated, accommodated, and included.  Work as a team to figure out how to maximize inclusion, set up accommodation when needed, and eliminate exclusion all together.

Please share some of the ideas you have for achieving greater inclusion!

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