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A Child, A Family, A School, A Community

A Tale of Inclusive Education

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Diane Linder Berman and David J. Connor

This book is a true story of one family’s journey into inclusive education. Having previously been told that her son Benny had "failed to function" in two exclusionary special education classrooms in New York City, Berman’s family set off in search of a school where Benny would be accepted for who he was, while having the opportunity to grow and flourish academically, socially, and emotionally alongside his brother, Adam. Connor’s interest was piqued when Berman shared her desire to document the ways in which the new school community had supported Benny throughout the years. Together, they thought, surely other teachers, school and district level administrators, parents of children with and without disabilities, teacher educators, and student teachers, could learn from such a success story?

The result of their collaboration is this book in which Berman skillfully narrates episodes across time, describing ways in which children, teachers, educational assistants, parents, and a principal came to know Benny—developing numerous and often creative ways to include him in their classrooms, school, and community. Connor’s commentaries after each chapter link practice to theory, revealing ways in which much of what the school community seems to "do naturally" is, in fact, highly compatible with a Disability Studies in Education (DSE) approach to inclusive education. By illuminating multiple approaches that have worked to include Benny, the authors invite educators and families to envision further possibilities within their own contexts.

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Ongoing Questions: Dialogue

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Given the dialogic nature of this book, we pondered how best to “wind down,” so to speak, and thought a conversation about our own lingering questions would be apt. We hope our questions, related observations, and open-ended wonderings will serve to help continue the dialogue about inclusive education and the many issues it relates to. As we have noted in this book, authentic inclusion cannot be packaged, it is an ongoing process that needs to be negotiated within a context. For this reason, it may appear to be a challenge, so some educational institutions continue to resist. Our position is that rising and responding to the challenge is what we seek to cultivate within those who are both entering the profession and those who have been working within it for a time.

David: Diane, now that we’re finishing the book, what are you thinking about at this time?

Diane: What goals should I have for Benny now? How do I teach him to become an advocate for himself…how do I help him understand his disability, when I do not even understand it myself? How do I prepare him to explain himself to the world? How do I make sure he keeps holding himself accountable to the highest of standards even in the face of tremendous struggles? How do I prepare him for adulthood? ← 231 | 232 → I know how to help him understand his disability without resorting to labels and other manifestations of the...

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