inclusion

"Have fun" should not be a rule

A lot of summer camps, youth groups, and other activities have a “have fun” rule.

The implied message is usually: This is a fun place. If you’re not having fun, you’re doing something wrong. Fix your attitude and have fun doing the fun activities.

Sometimes “have fun” rules are explicit. Sometimes they’re more implicit, and come in forms like: making people sing a song every day about how much they love camp, announcements about “we’re all having so much fun!”, or whatever else.

The problem with this is: nothing is fun for everyone. People have the right to feel how they feel about things. It’s really degrading to tell an unhappy person that they should just feel some other way.

“Have fun” rules are especially problematic for many disabled people.

Because — most programs are not fully accessible, even when they think they are. Most of us expect to encounter activities that are inaccessible in ways that make participation impossible — or that make them no fun.

And often, initially fun activities are ruined when someone treats you in a degrading way or says something awful about disability.

Being left out when everyone else is having fun is bad enough. When there’s a “have fun” rule, it’s even worse. Not only are you hurt by the exclusion, you’re told that you’re violating the rules by being hurt and unhappy.

“Have fun” rules make it really hard to solve these problems, because they make it risky to admit that you’re not having a good time.

“Have fun” rules make problems harder to solve, even when the problem has a straightforward solution. All the more so when the problem is complicated. (Or only has a partial solution.)

“Have fun” rules actually make things a lot less fun.

We're just like everyone else — and we're also different

In some ways, people with disabilities are just like everyone else. In some ways, we are very different. Both sides of that matter. Bad things happen when either is overlooked.

We are different from everyone else in that our bodies work differently. Most people have bodies that can do certain things. Our bodies can’t do all of the things that most other people can do. That matters. Being blind means something. Being d/Deaf means something. Having an intellectual disability means something. Being autistic means something. Having a mobility disability means something. Fatigue means something. Depression means something. The way we move, communicate, think, and perceive the world matters. Thinking about the differences created by our disabilities allows us to think about how to live with them — and live well with them. These differences do not need to be cause for alarm — we’re just people, and we’re part of the world, just like everyone else.

We are just like everyone else in that we are human beings. Our bodies are important. We experience pleasure. We have feelings. When people hurt us, we feel it, and it matters. Injustices against us are important, and we have the right to resist. We learn for our whole lives. If we survive to the age of adulthood, we become adults. When we wrong people, it matters. We are able to love. We can reciprocate relationships, consideration, and efforts. And any number of other things. Basically, we are people.

We are different from nondisabled people in that we can’t assume that we will be treated as equals in any context. Few, if any, spaces are designed with the assumption that we will be present, or that our presence is important. A school with a wonderful reputation for supportive friendliness may be aggressively, or subtly, hostile to students with disabilities. A movie theater may not bother to unlock the accessible doors, or may not have accessible doors at all. Airline policies may make travel impossible. People who say they are our friends may see us as charity projects, possibly with the encouragement of teachers or therapists. Or any number of other things. The daily toll of unmet access needs adds up, especially when the barriers are unnecessary, especially when they could be easily removed if anyone cared to do so.

We often can’t even assume that our humanity will be recognized.  In our culture, we are surrounded by people who think that disability makes us less than human — sometimes even within disability community. Sometimes it’s subtle, and sometimes it’s blatant. Many of us grew up subjected to therapy that would have raised outcry if it had been done to a typically developing child. Any number of books and movies raise the question of whether death is better than disability. 

Conversations about disabled people often do not include us, and often do not even recognize that we have perspectives of our own. When disabled people are murdered by caregivers, the murderers often get more sympathy than the victims. Ethicists with tenure debate whether disabled people ought to be allowed to be born, whether medical treatment for people with disabilities is a good use of resources, and whether we’re really people after all. And so on. The dehumanization adds up, too.  Even when we are treated well, we live with the knowledge that people just like us are not. 

We are fully human, and it is wrong to treat us as subhuman. In that sense, and many others, we are just like everyone else. We are also different. We are physically and cognitively different from other people, and those differences are important. We are also treated very differently from others, and that experience is important too. All of these things shape who we are, and the skills we need to live well. Glossing over disability does not serve us. We can get a lot further if we are matter of fact about all of this, and face these realities honestly. 

Tl;dr People with disabilities are just like everyone else in some ways. We are different from everyone else in some ways. We are the same in that we are people. We are different in that our bodies work differently — and in that others treat us as subhuman. All of these things matter.

"A place better equipped to meet their needs"

Most schools are not good places for disabled kids. Often, this fact is used as an excuse to exclude kids from mainstream schools. (Even though special needs schools aren’t actually better, they’re just separate). 

People will say, in a tone dripping with compassionate condescension, “We feel that your child would be better off somewhere more prepared to meet their needs.” This usually makes them go away. It does not often result in their needs being met.

After that conversation, the disabled kids tend to go somewhere else and be someone else’s problem. Often in a self contained special needs school. This conveniently allows the mainstream school, and often the child’s community, to continue ignoring them. 

They can pretend that the excluded children are in a wonderful place, surrounded by experts who know how to help them. It’s almost never true — the place “better equipped to meet their needs” is almost always imaginary. Segregation creates the perception of expertise; it does not create expertise.

Sometimes the expertise a kid needs flat-out doesn’t exist yet. There are a lot of people who need supports and teaching methods that have not been invented yet. If what they need doesn’t exist, their needs aren’t going to be met no matter where they are. Excluding them allows others to avoid having to face the reality of how awful things are for many people with disabilities; it doesn’t get their needs met. 

Special education is not special, and special educators are not high level experts who know how to teach everyone. Special education settings are generally full of behaviorism, behavior plans, and low expectations. When special educators have real disability expertise, it’s because they’ve made a focused effort to get it. It doesn’t happen automatically as a result of training or professional experience. General educators can do that too.

If schools wants students with disabilities to be in “a place better equipped to meet their needs”, they have to work to become that place. There are no viable alternatives. Making people go away doesn’t get their needs met. Working to meet their needs does.

(Edited to add: It’s more complicated than that, and there are things I don’t like about this post. I think it’s more true than not, but there’s things it doesn’t cover, and I’m planning on writing some followup posts about it which will hopefully cover more ground.)

Rebuilding what was built incorrectly

Most of our social infrastructure was built incorrectly. It was built on the assumption that everyone is basically physically and cognitively similar, and that people who aren’t need to go away and be someone else’s problem.

People with disabilities have been treated as disposable. Children have been kept out of school; adults have been excluded from higher education. People have been institutionalized, and many are still stuck in institutions. 

People live without freedom, and are kept from their communities. People are forced to stay unemployed rather than supported in finding work that they can do. Disabled people have been harmed in any number of ways.

It has always been wrong to exclude people with disabilities like this, and in recent years, more people have come to understand that it is wrong. Accessibility and inclusion are on the table much more often than they used to be (in significant part, because the disability rights community has insisted that they be there.) 

Part of what we have to do is be willing to be inclusive, and be willing to change things for the sake of access. That’s necessary — and it’s also not enough. There are a lot of access needs that we flat-out don’t know how to meet right now. For some people, nothing we currently know how to do is good enough.
In order to build a more accessible and inclusive culture, we’re going to have to create things that don’t currently exist. We need better infrastructure and support. We need better technology. We need more resources, and more understanding that funding disability needs to be a priority. We need research and development, we need to learn a lot of things that we don’t currently know. 

The only way to get better at accessibility and inclusion is to start from where we are, and to commit to getting better at it. We can’t wait to be ready; we will never be ready. What we can do is understand that the people who are still being excluded matter, and keep building the things that need to exist.

Anonymous asked:

On your post about inclusive education: Sometimes some or all of the components are mutually exclusive. For instance, I attend one-on-one classes because being in the same room with all the other students tends to lead to sensory overload and I learn nothing. 

I had to choose between participation and learning.

realsocialskills said: 

I agree that it’s a really hard problem to solve, and that sometimes there’s a need for one on one instruction or being able to be in quiet space. (and there are also situations in which there would be a better solution if people were being reasonable, but it’s the least-bad option available in practice.)

Which is part of the reason I think it’s important to recognize that content and participation are different things. Because a lot of things that look inclusive are sacrificing content for participation, in a way that is not good for either education or participation in the long run. And sometimes that’s not anyone’s fault, sometimes that’s the best anyone has been able to figure out how to do for a particular student — but it needs to be recognized as a problem.

When I was high school aged, I couldn’t really follow lectures on most subjects. I deal with that by wandering in and out of class, reading books at the back of the room, doing a lot of alternative assignments, having conversations with the teachers, and sometimes getting one on one instruction. The high schools I went to were otherwise really lousy, but they had space for me to be different and do different things.

 I wish that there were readily available high-quality flexible schools, that made room for a lot of different types of learning and participation. The current default model is absolutely awful for a lot of students. (And special education schools are almost universally much worse). 

Some of the reasons that school is bad for a lot of people can be fixed with things like access to assistive technology and support — but some of the problems are more embedded into the structure of how school usually works.

Almost all schools were built on the assumption that all children the same are are basically physically and cognitively similar, and that children who are significantly different need to go away. Which means that almost all (probably literally all) schools were built wrong, in ways that are going to take time, creativity, and difficult work to fix.

Meanwhile, individual choices people make for their own education are complicated and don’t always match up well with policy agendas, even when the policy agendas are good and important. 

tl;dr School is awful for a lot of people. On an individual level, people who school is awful for have to make a lot of complicated choices about how to get access to education.

Inclusive education: presence, participation, and learning

There are three components of inclusive education that matter a lot, which tend to get conflated:

  • Being present and welcome
  • Access to participation
  • Access to content

Being present and welcome means:

  • A person with a disability is in the room
  • Their right to be there is not questioned
  • People want them to be there
  • They’re seen as a student and treated as a peer by other students
  • They’re treated more or less respectfully
  • This doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re being taught the material, or that they’re meaningfully participating in educational activities

For instance:

  • A child with a disability may go to kindergarten, and spend a lot of time watching other children do educational activities.
  • Everyone might be very happy that they’re there.
  • Other children might like them, and play with them during recess or free play time.
  • They’re still left out of most activities
  • They’re still not being taught the same material as everyone else

Access to participation means:

  • When students are doing an activity, the disabled student isn’t left on the sidelines
  • They’re given something to do that makes them part of what’s happening
  • This doesn’t always give them access to the content, in and of itself.
  • They may or may not actually be learning the material the activity is supposed to teach.
  • They may or may not really be welcome in the classroom with their peers

For instance:

  • A group of third graders are being taught a lesson about sorting things into categories
  • The teacher draws a few giant Venn diagrams on big paper, with topic headings
  • The teacher writes a list of words on the board.
  • Students are told to draw those words, then tape them to the place in a Venn diagram category that they think it should go in
  • Then they’re given a list of words, and told to draw pictures of the words in the place in on the diagram that they think those things go
  • A disabled student’s aide gives them crayons and tells them to draw a couple of the pictures, then give them to the other kids to categorize
  • The typically-developing kids take the pictures and decide where to put them
  • Everyone is more or less happy with this. The student is participating and they are socially included.
  • But they’re not being taught the material about categorizing things. They’re just drawing pictures.

Access to content means:

  • The disabled student is taught the same material as other students
  • They’re given a way to engage with the material that they can understand
  • They learn the material, and develop their own thoughts on it
  • This doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re given a way to participate meaningfully in educational activities with peers
  • It also doesn’t necessarily mean that they are present or welcome

For instance:

  • A disabled student may attend a mainstream class, but be pulled out for one-to-one tutoring for most of their actual academic instruction.
  • If it’s good instruction, they’re getting access to the content.
  • But they’re not participating in educational activities with their peers.
  • They also may not really be welcomed in their mainstream class; people including the teacher may believe that they don’t have the right to be there (which is a factor that can lead to a lot of pull out instruction in and of itself).

This isn’t just about children, it’s true in every educational setting, including universities, grad school, and continuing education for adults.

Tl;dr Inclusion in school has many components. Three of them are being present and welcome, having a way to participate in educational activities with peers, and having access to the content being taught. All three of these things are important. Solving one problem doesn’t always solve the other two. It’s important to keep paying attention, and to work towards making sure students are welcome, that they are able to participate, and that they are learning the content being taught.

Some inclusion requires ongoing effort

Inclusion means a lot of different things. Sometimes inclusion can be passive, sometimes it needs setup, and sometimes it needs ongoing effort and/or expense.

Sometimes inclusion is passive. In that sense, it’s the opposite of active exclusion.

Some examples of passive inclusion:

  • Meeting in a building that happens to be accessible.
  • Not harassing disabled people with intrusive unwanted “help”
  • Seeing a conspicuously disabled adult alone in a public space without assuming it’s somehow an emergency or that they’ve escaped from needed supervision. (And therefore not bothering them.)
  • Raising no objection when people bring service dogs into a store or some other place
  • Not having an admissions policy that prohibits people with certain disabilities from enrolling in a school

Sometimes to get to passive inclusion, you have to spend some time changing one thing or setting it up. After the temporary period of active change, the inclusion becomes passive.

Some examples of inclusion that requires setup, but may not require ongoing active effort:

  • Building a wheelchair ramp
  • (Or renovating an unsafe ramp and bringing it up to code)
  • Hiring an architect knowledgable about accessibility when you’re building a new building
  • Making your book available on Bookshare 
  • Changing a restrictive admissions policy

Sometimes there is no passive way to include people. Sometimes inclusion means active ongoing effort or expense

A couple examples of active inclusion:

Captioning:

  • Some people need captioning to understand speech reliably. (Including many people who can hear).
  • Captioning takes time and human effort. Computers can’t do it; it has to be done by people.
  • Live captioning has to be done by experts (in CART or TypeWell), and it’s inherently expensive.  
  • CART or TypeWell captioning events/classes in real time takes time, effort and expertise. It is inherently expensive.
  • High quality captioning also requires ongoing collaborative effort with the providers - people doing the captioning need to understand the words you’re saying in order to transcribe them accurately. So they need  to be provided with any acronyms, technical vocabulary, or culturally specific words you will be using.
  • If videos and events/classes aren’t captioned, a lot of people are passively excluded.
  • There’s no cheap or passive way to include them. Inclusion requires effort and resources.

Alternative format materials:

  • Some people can’t read standard print.
  • In order to access education or events involving print, they need materials in an accessible format
  • (Eg: electronic copies, braille, scans, large print, audio recordings, or something else, depending on the person)
  • Someone has to convert materials to an accessible format, every single time. This is inherently time consuming, and may in some cases require expertise or expensive equipment. 
  • Every time materials aren’t converted, print disabled people are excluded. 
  • There is no passive way to include print disabled people.
  • Inclusion of print disabled people is only possible when communities and schools and teachers are willing to put effort, time, and resources into inclusion.

There are many, many more examples of all three types of inclusion. When we talk about inclusion, the conversation needs to be about all three. Passive inclusion, setup inclusion, and active inclusion are all vitally important. People with disabilities are worthy of time and money.

Tl;dr Sometimes inclusion is easy and sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes inclusion means that you stop actively excluding people, and include them by letting them be. Sometimes inclusion means setting something an access feature initially, then including people by letting them be. Sometimes inclusion takes ongoing effort and expense. Sometimes inclusion means you stop passively excluding people, and start actively including them. All of these forms of inclusion are vitally important.

How disabled kids learn to be suspicious of optimistic teachers

This happens a lot in school:

  • A disabled kid goes to school.
  • A teacher is initially friendly and optimistic.
  • The teacher expects that their teaching will make the kid’s disability irrelevant.
  • Eventually it becomes clear that the kid’s disability is going to stay important.
  • Then the teacher gets frustrated, gives up, or stops being nice.
  • Sometimes this is overt and sometimes it’s subtle; it’s always hurtful.

A lot of kids go through this over and over during childhood. And, it often persists into adulthood and becomes a lifelong thing. It hurts. It does damage. And it means that people with disabilities are often suspicious of immediate kindly optimistic affect, and may take a long time to trust that you won’t reject them for being disabled.

If you’re teaching, be careful not to come in with the expectation that your teaching will erase disability or render it irrelevant. It won’t. Instead, start with the expectation that disability will matter and that you will be teaching students with disabilities. Disability acceptance is a key emotional skill for effective teaching. If you think around disability, it’s nearly impossible to apply any creativity to accommodating it. If you’re willing to face disability head on, it’s often possible to find good ways to adapt teaching so that a student can learn.

People with disabilities are worthy of money and effort

In the part of special education community that promotes inclusive education, I often hear advocates say things like “inclusion doesn’t have to be hard,” “inclusion doesn’t have to be expensive,” and “inclusion doesn’t require special skills.”

This isn’t really true, unless we exclude a lot of people from “inclusion”. Some access needs are easy to meet; many are not. We can bring some people in without too much trouble. In order to commit to full inclusion, we’re going to have to be willing to spend money, acquire expertise, do hard things, and make changes.

For instance, people who can’t rely on speech as their primary means of communication need support learning to communicate. This is inherently expensive:

  • They usually need expensive devices
  • (The cheapest good option is an iPad with a $200 app; some people need dedicated devices that cost upwards of $10,000.) 
  • They also usually need therapy
  • Having a communication device doesn’t solve all of someone’s problems; they also have to learn how to use it
  • (And they usually need help learning how)
  • Or they need something like RPM, which is low-tech but requires twice-daily 1:1 lessons which use scripts that generally have to be prepared in advance specifically for that student.
  • If they are in school, they need teachers who know how to teach them (which generally means that experts have to teach their teachers how.)
  • AAC communication is slower, and can be hard to interpret
  • Inclusion doesn’t happen automatically; teachers have to learn how to make sure AAC users are able to participate and be heard in class
  • (Eg: If someone isn’t using complete sentences yet, it can be hard to know what they mean. You have to be willing and able to do the work of helping them to clarify).
  • (And: if someone responds slowly, you have to proactively make sure they get a chance to express their thoughts in class discussions)
  • All of this requires money, expertise, effort, and willingness to change
  • If we’re only willing to consider cheap options, people who need communication support are left behind

Another example: People need to be able to get into the building

  • Many buildings were built incorrectly
  • They may have large flights of stairs at all entrances
  • They may have many floors that can only be reached by stairs
  • They may not have any accessible bathrooms
  • The bathrooms may all be too small to enter in a wheelchair (which means there’s no way to fix them without moving walls)
  • All of the doors may be big and heavy
  • Often, there’s no cheap way to fix this
  • There may be inexpensive starting places; we can’t stop there
  • If we care about including people with mobility disabilities, we have to be willing to spend money to fix buildings
  • We have to hire architects who have expertise in accessibility
  • We have to make sure that people with mobility disabilities are part of the conversation, even if no one with a mobility disability has expressed interest in accessing the building recently
  • We have to be willing to make changes that make the building look different, in ways that may mean changing or destroying things that longtime users of the building are emotionally attached to.

We can start with the low hanging fruit; we should not pretend that all fruit is low-hanging. A lot of access needs are inherently expensive. There are a lot of needs that no one even knows how to meet yet; the expertise we need does not yet exist. If we want to commit to full inclusion of children with disabilities in schools; if we want to fully include adults in all aspects of society, we need to be in it for the long haul.

tl;dr In order to stop excluding people with disabilities, we’re going to have to spend money. We’re going to have to bring in expertise and develop expertise. We’re going to have to do difficult things. We’re going to have to make changes. We’re going to have to start seeing this as normal. People with disabilities are worthy of money and effort.

autistic teachers?

Anonymous said to :

Do you perhaps know of any resources for autistic teachers who work in inclusive schools? We rely on scripts a lot so when a child has different needs regarding communication I for example simply freeze and can’t come up with anything.

realsocialskills said:

I don’t know of any resources specifically for autistic teachers.

One thing I do know is that it’s important to respectfully acknowledge when you don’t understand something your student is telling you. It’s important to respect their communication enough to be honest about when you do and don’t understand.

Specifically, it can help a lot to say something like “I care what you’re saying, and I don’t understand yet.” or “I don’t understand what you’re saying, but I do care what you are saying.“

That affirms a few important things:

  • You know that they are trying to communicate something to you
  • You know that you aren’t understanding it
  • You respect them enough to think that it matters what they are saying
  • You care what they’re saying, and you want to keep listening
  • You know that you are responsible for figuring out how to listen
  • You’re trying, and you’re going to keep trying

This is important as a way to show respect. It’s also a way to tell people that there’s a point in communicating – that you’re not ignoring them and if they can figure out how to tell you what they mean in a way you can understand, you will listen.

A lot of people give up on communication because they’ve become convinced that no one will ever care about what they’re saying anyway. That’s a problem you’re probably in a position to mitigate, at least a little.

There are also a few things worth knowing about:

tl;dr If you’re responsible for teaching someone, it’s important to be honest about when you do and don’t understand their communication.

Anyone else want to weigh in? Autistic teachers who teach kids with disabilities - what have the communication barriers been? What’s working in overcoming them?

A way people with disabilities are often wrongly percieved as angry

Sometimes disabled people are wrong perceived as angry or hostile when they move like disabled people. It works something like this:

  • The most efficient way to do things is often not the socially accepted way to do things
  • People with disabilities often have to do things in an efficient way to be able to do them
  • In order to be perceived as calm and polite, people are often expected to move in a slow, careful way without making sudden or loud motions
  • That’s easy for most people without disabilities, and can be difficult or impossible for people with disabilities
  • Sometimes people with disabilities don’t have the motor coordination or strength to move in expected ways. Sometimes pain or illness makes them too exhausted to have the energy to move in expected ways. Sometimes, they have to move efficiently to be able to move at all.
  • People with disabilities who have to move in loud, sudden, forceful, or jerky ways are often wrongfully perceived as expressing anger, frustration, or aggression.
  • When people make loud, jerky, or sudden motions, they tend to be perceived as rude, angry, or aggressive
  • People with disabilities don’t always have the coordination to make the movements in expected ways
  • Sometimes, they have to be efficient in order to do the thing.
  • This often gets perceived as angry when it isn’t
  • This can lead to people with disabilities who are just trying to live their lives being perceived as hostile and excluded
  • When a person with a disability is moving in a jerky, sudden, or loud way, it’s important to consider the possibility that it’s disability-related rather than angry

Some concrete examples:

Dropping things:

  • In most social contexts, it’s socially expected that people who need things to be on the ground put them there without making a sudden noise

  • This generally means using your arms to slowly lower the thing to the ground
  • People with disabilities often do not have the strength or motor coordination needed to lower things this way
  • Sometimes, people who can’t rely on muscles to lower things need to drop them and rely on gravity
  • (And some people have to rely on gravity some of the time, eg: when they’re tired, at the end of a long day, when they’re in a particularly draining environment, when they’ve already had to lift and drop the thing several times that day.)
  • Gravity only goes one speed, and dropped objects tend to make noise
  • Dropping a heavy object rather than lowering it slowly is usually perceived as a sign of anger (and for people without disabilities, it’s generally intended as one).
  • People with disabilities who drop things are often not intending it as an expression of anger.
  • Often, they drop things because they need them to be on the ground and have no other realistic way of getting them there.
  • If a person with a disability is dropping heavy things rather than lowering them, it’s important not to automatically assume that they are doing this out of a show of emotions
  • Consider seriously the possibility that they’re dropping things because they need to lower them, and due to disability are not able to do so in the socially expected way.

Another example: Plugging things in:

  • The socially expected way to plug things in is to slowly push the plug into the outlet using a steady pressure
  • That requires a particular kind of strength and muscle control
  • Some people with disabilities can’t do that
  • Some people with disabilities have to rely on momentum.
  • Relying on momentum involves one sudden forceful movement. 
  • That can look like punching, and can be perceived as excessive force
  • Most people without disabilities only plug things in with that kind of force when they are angry or frustrated
  • People with disabilities often plug things in that way because it’s the only way they can do it
  • If a person with a disability uses a lot of force to plug things in, don’t assume it’s a display of emotion.
  • Consider seriously the possibility that they’re doing it that way because that’s how their body works

In general:

  • Some socially expected movements are complicated and difficult
  • Sometimes people with disabilities can’t do it in the polite way
  • Sometimes, we have to do it in a way that’s more efficient
  • That’s often perceived as rude, inconsiderate, or threatening, when it’s really just limited ability to move in expected ways
  • No amount of social skills training or knowledge of socially expected behavior will make it physically possible to move in all expected ways
  • This can result in people with disabilities being perceived as angry or displaying rage when all they’re doing is moving
  • It’s important not to automatically assume that people with disabilities who move oddly are doing it to display anger. It might just be that that’s the only reasonable way for them to do something.
  • If you understand this, you’ll be much more able to relate to people with disabilities and include people
  • (People with disabilities, like everyone else, sometimes display anger and frustration in physical ways. But they are routinely wrongly perceived as doing so. It is possible, and important, to learn to tell the difference).

tl;dr People with disabilities are often perceived as displaying rage or aggression when they’re just moving. This is because socially expected ways of moving are often very inefficient in ways that aren’t too difficult for most nondisabled people, but can be difficult or impossible for people with disabilities. It’s important to learn to tell the difference between people with disabilities moving efficiently and people with disabilities displaying anger. Scroll up for details and examples.

A thought on inclusive teaching

thecolorsky:

realsocialskills:

When you teach a class or lead a discussion, participation is often easy for some people and hard for others.

People who find participation easy will tend to talk a lot and ask a lot of questions. They can really easily fill up all the space with their confidence and their speech. This can result in people who struggle to participate feeling like they have no way to say anything. (This is not necessarily anyone’s fault.)

It is possible to create space for them in several ways. They all start from presuming competence. Specifically - start from the presumption that people who aren’t participating have worthwhile things to say, and 

They also start by paying attention to who is and isn’t participating. If you notice whose voices are absent, it becomes easier to find ways to include them.

Some specifics:

It can help to call on people specifically when you notice they’re not saying things, in a low-pressure way:

  • Say you notice that Susan hasn’t said anything in the discussion
  • You can say, “Susan, would you like to add something?” or
  • “Susan, what do you think?”
  • If you’re not asking for an answer to a particular question, and you ask in a non-demanding tone, this can be a good way to give people a chance to talk
  • Particularly if you wait a few seconds after asking, and take no for an answer (whether it’s a stated no or an implied no)

It can help to ask in a more general way:

  • Sometimes the conversation is dominated by a few people 
  • You can often address this by saying something like
  • “Would anyone who has not said anything yet like to say something?” or
  • “I’d like to hear from people who haven’t spoken.”
  • This lets people who aren’t speaking up know that you care about what they have to say without putting individual pressure on anyone
  • It also lets people who are taking up the space know that you’d like to make sure you hear from everyone

It helps to be available through email:

  • Some people who care deeply about the subject and want to participate aren’t able to do so in real time
  • If they are better at using email, being available by email will make it possible for them to participate
  • (It might also make it easier for them to tell you about barriers to their participation)

People who teach: What have y’all seen work well for people who want to participate but find it difficult? 

People who find it difficult to participate: What have teachers done that made it easier for you? What made it harder?

thecolorsky said:

As both someone who has (a very small amount of) experience teaching & who is also a quieter person / slower processer in class, I have a lot of thoughts and feelings about this. for me as a student, my lack of participation stems from two things: 1) not being confident, and 2) processing slowly, and i think those two things have different solutions. 

  • re: the first set of suggestions. I think calling on people individually only helps if it is definitely a VERY low pressure situation. otherwise, it is very stressful to me when i am not expecting to be called on and don’t have a fully formed idea yet, as a slower processer. and as someone who is at times not sure of my answer, it can put a lot of pressure on me to have a ‘good’ answer in front of everyone.
  • for the second set of suggestions: I have been in classes when a teacher tries to get quieter folks to participate by addressing the whole class with a blanket “anybody else?” type statement. I agree that this does let students know that you care about everyone participating, and can help those who aren’t as good at interrupting others / jumping into the middle of a discussion participate. for slower processers, however, this often does not actually help me as a student process any faster if I am not ready to speak and can be frustrating as I feel like I’ve ‘wasted’ my chance to participate by not being ready. As a teacher I have found that instead, having students write down their thoughts/questions first for a few minutes, before allowing anyone to speak, lets those slower processers work out what they want to say first and often results in them speaking more. This can also be done with pair-shares, where students partner / group up and discuss in smaller groups before having to speak in front of the whole class.
  • I really like the third set of suggestions for email. it’s definitely an easier way to communicate for many folks and lets people have time to think of new ideas. making it clear that you welcome additional thoughts by email is helpful, as students may not know they can participate that way.

Also, a professor once talked to me for a long time about how important she thought it was that I asked questions of people in class, rather than just spewing out pretentious, ‘perfect’-sounding ideas of my own. This conversation meant a lot to me. Making it clear to students that asking a question or not being sure of something is an equally valid way of participating can also help make the space more equitable.

realsocialskills said:

Thank you for that. There are a lot of things in there that I need to think about.

I particularly like the suggestion to give people time to process their questions before opening up for group conversation.

One thing I want to add now: If you count class participation as part of the grade, you should count on-topic emails after class as participation. Because that’s as much participation as speaking up in class is.

A school project not to assign

reinventweather:

seatentsina:

realsocialskills:

If you are a teacher, do not ask your students to make a family tree as a school assignment. *Especially* do not do this as a class art project to be posted on the wall.

A lot of kids have very complicated families, and complicated feelings about which words to use for which people.

For instance: Some kids call multiple people “mom”. Sometimes this is because they’re being raised by a lesbian couple. Sometimes this is because they are adopted and also maintaining a relationship with their mother who gave birth to them. Sometimes this is because their parents divorced and remarried and they also see their stepparents as parents. None of these relationships map easily onto a family tree project.

Some kids don’t have any parents at all. This isn’t something that they should have to tell their peers if they don’t want to. 

Some kids aren’t sure who their parents are. Is it the people who adopted them when they were a baby and disrupted when they were six? The person who gave birth to them? The people they’re living with now? The one nice staff in their group home? The person they’re in foster care with who they’re hoping will eventually adopt them? It’s complicated and not ok to ask kids to declare this in writing in front of everyone.

There are any number of emotionally fraught and complicated situations that go along with describing families. It’s not good to have kids do that as part of an assignment, unless you’re working in a context in which getting people to do emotionally fraught things is appropriate.

seatentsina said:

lol I remember having to do a project like this for Hebrew School, idek remember why. but it was super awkward and uncomfortable and embarrassing to come in with a lopsided, half-blank tree. 

reinventweather said:

my friend (who teaches the sixth grade) just had the ‘bring a parent to school’ day EXCEPT it was ‘bring your vip to school’ and it was parents and siblings and aunts and neighbors and pastors and EVERYONE.

what a great idea.

ahirumama:

Merf. Thinking is Hard.: A school project not to assign

casanova-frankensteins-monster:

eshusplayground:

realsocialskills:

If you are a teacher, do not ask your students to make a family tree as a school assignment. *Especially* do not do this as a class art project to be posted on the wall.

A lot of kids have very complicated families, and complicated feelings about which words to use for which people.

For instance: Some kids call multiple people “mom”. Sometimes this is because they’re being raised by a lesbian couple. Sometimes this is because they are adopted and also maintaining a relationship with their mother who gave birth to them. Sometimes this is because their parents divorced and remarried and they also see their stepparents as parents. None of these relationships map easily onto a family tree project.

Some kids don’t have any parents at all. This isn’t something that they should have to tell their peers if they don’t want to. 

Some kids aren’t sure who their parents are. Is it the people who adopted them when they were a baby and disrupted when they were six? The person who gave birth to them? The people they’re living with now? The one nice staff in their group home? The person they’re in foster care with who they’re hoping will eventually adopt them? It’s complicated and not ok to ask kids to declare this in writing in front of everyone.

There are any number of emotionally fraught and complicated situations that go along with describing families. It’s not good to have kids do that as part of an assignment, unless you’re working in a context in which getting people to do emotionally fraught things is appropriate.

eshusplayground said:

Not to mention, some kids have a family history that’s been damn near erased due to enslavement and/or genocide.

casanova-frankensteins-monster said:

we had to do a family tree project in the 6th grade

i put a lot of time and effort into my project and was very proud of it

but when i turned it in to class at the end of the year, there were literally (white) kids with BINDERS (not 1 binder, multiple) full of material tracing their routes back to like the exact latitudes and longitudes in Europe that their families came from

my family tree project was the size of one notebook and only went back about 4 or 5 generations, and a lot of the information we had was by word of mouth and not, you know, actual documentation

ahirumama said:

yeah teaching English as a foreign language, I was worried about how to do this and found a cool idea of teaching the kids the words and then having them make their own families from whatever they wanted.  So they could have characters and what not or use their real families if they wanted but none them were obligated.  Most ended up with tons of characters or weird creatures and it worked pretty well.  The time one of my head teachers made them use their real families, we did have a breakdown in the class.