Social Inclusion: It’s Our School, Too
By Andrea Cahn and Betty Edwards
When you see me, I want you to see that we are alike.
When you see me, I want you to see that I get nervous sometimes.
When you see me, I want you to see a happy dancer.
When you see me, I want you to see a football player.
When you see me, I want you to see someone who tries to be a good friend.
The statements above are from It’s Our School, Too, a play reflecting poignant quotes and perceptions of students who for far too long have felt excluded from the fabric of the school—those with intellectual disabilities. Written by Suzy Messerole and Aamera Siddiqui and commissioned by Special Olympics Project UNIFY®, It’s Our School, Too! is based upon interviews with youth from the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area and members of Special Olympics Project Unify Youth Activation Committee. The play provides insight into the world of students with intellectual disabilities and the varying opportunities they have to be an integral part of the school.
Identified as a significant civil rights issue, social inclusion speaks to the needs of all youth to learn and live within an environment that recognizes their strengths and contributions while providing opportunities for them to be active members of the school community. Federal legislation has addressed the issues of physical and academic inclusion, but social inclusion and the engagement of all students on personal and social levels in our schools still must be addressed.
According to A National Study of Youth Attitudes Toward the Inclusion of Students with Intellectual Disabilities (2007), less than one-third of public school students acknowledge having a classmate with an intellectual disability, and only 10% report having a friend with an intellectual disability. Lack of familiarity often leads to misunderstanding and isolation. Further, when there are differences, such as a disability, many people will exhibit fear, avoidance, or disassociation which can be demonstrated in negative ways. With young people, it often leads to bullying, name-calling, and abuse—especially for students with disabilities.
Editor’s Note: This post is from our partners at the Special Olympics Project UNIFY. Each month, we feature a new article on a topic related to the social inclusion of youth with intellectual disabilities. Through this effort, we hope to inform the public of the importance of such inclusion as well as offer educators and parents resources to implement it.
Click here to browse dozens of Public School Insights interviews with extraordinary education advocates, including:
- Actress/Mathematician Danica McKellar on girls and math
- Best Selling Author Kenneth C. Davis on engaging with history
- Nurse Practitioner Jennifer Danielson on providing health care at school
The views expressed in this website's interviews do not necessarily represent those of the Learning First Alliance or its members.
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