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A Child, A Family, A School, A Community

A Tale of Inclusive Education

Series:

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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Chapter 1. Leaving a Restrictive Environment Behind

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LEAVING A RESTRICTIVE ENVIRONMENT BEHIND

There is rarely a day or even an hour in which I do not think about where we might have been had we not been able to turn our lives upside down to move our son, Benny, into an inclusive classroom just shy of eight years ago. Sometimes the feeling is sharp and painful, piercing me to my toes. Other times it comes in with softness and warms me in ways that I have come to know as simply delightful. I live with these waves of emotion as constant and steady as the shifts in light from day to night. And for Benny this chance has meant life itself. This opportunity has brought him into the world in new ways, enabled him to find talents and strengths he never knew he possessed, and given him friendships which nourish him in vital ways. Benny is by no means “cured” of his developmental delays or the eight diagnoses he amassed by the time he was three years old including, but not limited to, Pervasive Developmental Disorder—Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), and severe receptive and expressive language disorders. Yet inclusion has given him opportunities that no restrictive environment would have been able to provide. Inclusion has given him a chance to take part in all that interests him, interacting with his peers in ways that enable the entire community to grow.

Adam, my younger child, a boy...

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