As I am sure you can tell by looking at me , I am disabled, and as I hope you can guess from my writing, I have been to school.
In fact, I did 12 years of school. A mainstream school with “normal” kids. I would like to say I then went on to become a doctor but that would be a lie. I work in Marketing.
My point is, that I survived, my school chums survived and I was even able to do something useful with myself afterward. Furthermore, my presence in classes did not stop anyone from reaching their potential.
By modern standards, I made it through virtually unscathed.
I encountered very few bullies, and those I did encounter bullied me because they are a tool. Not because I am disabled.
As far as I know. There was never any question of me not going to the schools I went to because both (Primary and Secondary) were local and co-educational so it meant that my brother and I could be together. My disability was not really ever a factor.
I think there was a push by one particular individual for me to apply to a “disabled friendly” high school when the time came, but I was not having it. Pretty much my whole class was going to the same place So Iwas too.
AS far as teaching me went, I did everything the rest of the class did. With the possible exception of Physical Education, where modifications were made to tasks so I could participate. For example, I would have a runner when playing cricket, an easy job as I very rarely hit the ball. I also have a vague memory of being given a ribbon to twirl while everyone else did gymnastics.
If I was lucky, I was allowed to sit out or go to the library. An option many of my school chums also wish they had.
Apart from that one teacher referred to above (who was a firm believer that I was a lost cause purely because I am disabled) there were never any issues that were out of the ordinary.
In terms of making friends and participating, in primary school I made friends and lost them as much as any child does and I was always happy to be front and centre during assemblies. In high school, I was in the choir and performed with it at every school concert or function. I am still very close to quite a few of my former classmates.
I do not regret going to a “normal” school, as I believe because of it, I am able to interact with Non-disabled people without feeling intimidated or inferior. However, there was a time that I was (for want of a better term) scared of people who are disabled, and I think this is due to my lack of exposure to anyone (apart from myself) with a disability.
I did at times also feel ashamed about having a disability. Indeed, I was completely in denial of actually having one for ages. I viewed any allowances or modifications being made for me as offensive and I think this is because it made me feel singled out.
I often wonder whether I would be more independent now if I did go to a “special” school. I know a few people who did, and they seem so much more together than I do. Did they learn life skills or coping mechanisms that I did not?
This would have been particularly helpful in high school, where at times I struggled to walk the distance from class to class.
I was never reprimanded if I was late, but often I would feel so much pressure to be on time that I would skip breaks and sit outside my next class so I did not have to walk in after everyone else.
The only other negative effect I can identify from being the “disabled kid” in the “normal school was that I was often able to use it as a security blanket. I never reached my full potential academically as I never really worked as hard as I should have.
I think this is what those against inclusive education say happens to the “normal” kids when students like me are around. How ironic.
I decided early on that I would not try for TEE (exams needed for university) because I was sure no one would blame me, and because I was sure that if I failed it would be what people expected to happen.
I regret that now. But it does go to show that year 12 results are not the be all and end all.
So many people have weighed in on this debate lately and honestly, I can see arguments for and against.
It should also be noted that all my schooling took place in the private sector.
I turned out ok. But remember, different strokes for different folks.