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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 4. First Impressions: Instantaneous Behavior Shaping

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· 4 ·

FIRST IMPRESSIONS: INSTANTANEOUS BEHAVIOR SHAPING

February 2008

On the day of our move, I watched carton after carton carried out of an apartment I loved, and saw Benny spinning in circles on the carpet, dancing beneath the overhead light for hours, mesmerized by the shadows he was able to create on the carpet. I began to fear that all the experts were right, that this move would be in vain, and began to weep. I cried for the life I was leaving behind in a city I adored, all the while painfully conscious of a tiny bubble of hope, deep within, that continued to fight tenaciously for survival. It was this fragile evanescent orb that made me feel simultaneously both hopeless and hopeful. I felt for Adam, who had a best friend living just a few blocks away. I worried for our future should the move have proven to be a waste of time and resources.

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