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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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Chapter 11. The Informal Bending of Boundaries

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· 11 ·

THE INFORMAL BENDING OF BOUNDARIES

Shortly after we had moved to our new neighborhood in March 2008, it was clear that Benny was adjusting to kindergarten with some ups and downs. We were about to put him on medication for ADHD, but I did not want to do so. I was worried that he would suffer side effects. I was concerned that he would still display impulsive behavior. I was afraid that if it did not work, the district might suggest another placement.

Clark came up to me after school in the playground. He put his arm around me, squeezing my shoulders. He told me he just broke up with his partner. Clark shared a little more about his relationship. I looked at him with questions in my eyes. I wondered why he was telling me this in the midst of possible chaos with my son. I realized I had not had a personal conversation with a principal, ever. He asked how I liked living in suburbia. I told him I missed my city. I was afraid to bring up Benny, but he did, casually, as if there is nothing noteworthy about a five-year-old who recently kicked his teacher. He pointed to him on the playground equipment running after another child. Clark recognized the growth that had already taken place. He said to me, “See, I told you it would work,” as if it was already a done deal...

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