What is special about inclusion?

Putting children with special needs in
mainstream schools can lead to unhappiness, writes Robin

Jenny Morris’ argument that residential
special schooling is educationally, socially and ethically
undesirable (Community Care, April 11) ignores the fact
that there are families with children with special needs which are
forced into self-imposed isolation. This is through fear that their
children will be bullied and tormented by other children or that
they will be verbally abused by neighbours.

Parents recognise this kind of
isolation for what it is – enforced imprisonment both for their
child and themselves. By using the term “imprisonment” parents are
selecting a word which precisely mirrors reality, for prejudice,
rejection and hostility can combine to create a barrier as real and
enduring as a prison wall.

family has to be extraordinarily resilient and resourceful to
withstand the pressures generated by this kind of exclusion. While
there are some families who find that the presence of a child with
special needs can act as a positive and integrative force, there
are others who do not. The result of this is that all too
frequently one finds marital disharmony and conflict, psychological
breakdown of a parent (usually the mother) and acute difficulties
in the management of other children.

families are asked to cope with degrees of stress about which most
people can have little knowledge, experience or understanding. The
insistence by some local authorities that parents of children with
special needs should keep their children at home whatever the human
cost smacks of blind subservience to principle. What kind of
“normality” is it where children have to be confined within the
four walls of their home, rarely integrating into their community
for any kind of social or recreational activity, and living in a
highly emotionally charged and psychologically corrosive family

value of the residential special school does not rest simply on the
advantages it confers on the child. It serves two purposes of equal
importance and value: it seeks to meet the individual needs of the
child and the collective needs of the family. It provides time for
parents and siblings to re-establish links with the world outside
the home and to return to a more “normal” family regime. What needs
to be recognised is that the unquestioning pursuit of the principle
of inclusion leads to significant casualties, not just children but
whole families.

Robin Jackson is development and training
co-ordinator for Camphill Scotland, which provide services for
children, adults and older people with special care needs.

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