A Tale of Inclusive Education
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.
Chapter 7. Friendship: Reversing the Status Quo
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FRIENDSHIP: REVERSING THE STATUS QUO
Of all the many reasons I wanted inclusion for Benny, the most compelling was for the chance to find friendship. I saw that even at the age of three, the fact that he rode a bus to a preschool far away, which had the right collection of therapists for Benny, impacted our social life within our neighborhood. I could not take part in the conversations, which sprung up in the local playground, as they often revolved around the happenings at the nearby preschool. Even more surprising and depressing was that within Benny’s special education class at preschool, I felt like an outcast. Even within the world of the “special needs child,” there was a hierarchy. Parents and some therapist spoke in terms of “levels of functioning,” and it seemed Benny was “lower functioning” than most of his disabled peers with whom he’d been grouped. I recall a low point for me, when I tried to exchange phone numbers with a mother of a boy from Benny’s class. He happened to live near to my mother and we had run into each other accidentally in a playground near her house a few times. Adam played nicely with this boy and Benny expressed more interest in this boy than he usually did. However the mother denied my request to arrange some more play dates, telling me that her son would be moving to a higher-level class the next...
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