We need inclusivity for children with disabilities

The Ontario education system is failing its students with disabilities by denying them the right to thrive socially and academically. That is absolutely unacceptable.

Ontario’s education system is supposed to be inclusive, but after a recent province-wide survey for the campaign, “If inclusion means everyone, why not ME?” it is painfully obvious it isn’t. Approximately 300 parents of children with disabilities were interviewed across the province, and their reports are nothing short than tragic and appalling.

Many reports state Canadian children should not be forced out of their classrooms, but the parents surveyed are reporting this isn’t the case for their children.

According to  the campaign,“If inclusion means everyone, why not ME?”, 45 per cent of children with disabilities have to be kept home due to lack of accommodation and services. Students can also be removed from their classrooms if there are concerns for their safety or due to behavioural problems, effectively leaving them isolated and feeling alone.

Students are not just being denied time in the classroom among their peers. They are being denied the right to attend school at all.

Of the parents surveyed, 11 per cent reported their children were expelled from school for disability-related problems, while 23 per cent reported their children were suspended for the same reason. This tops off alarming statistics released in 2015-2016 by the Ministry of Education, which showed 46.9 per cent of suspensions and 46.4 per cent of expulsions were students with disabilities.

That’s right, nearly half of students expelled are children with disabilities, in Canada: a free country known for its diversity and tolerance.

These issues could be avoided if teachers and educational assistants were properly trained to handle students with disabilities.

According to an article written by Janet McLaughlin ofThe Huffington Post, there are teachers and EA not trained to collect data on the child’s behaviour. While school boards don’t have necessary clinical supervision for some students some school boards use methods inspired by the Applied Behaviour Analysis, rather than the actual comprehensive process.

Autism Canada describes ABA as a process that teaches individuals the science of behaviour and how to handle children with disabilities through intervention. If teachers and EAs aren’t completely trained to comprehend and handle children with disabilities, is it any wonder these children are being thrown out of their classrooms?

Ontario’s education system is telling these children it is easier not to deal with them rather than make sure they have the support and resources needed to succeed.

It is fair to say however, it is sometimes necessary to remove children with disabilities from the school or classroom for reasons of safety involving them and other students. Some disabilities come with more complex behaviours that have to be carefully monitored in a more exclusive environment. That does not mean those children, or any other children, need to be denied their right to be in the classroom. Period.

This refusal to allow students to have an inclusive experience that nurtures their academic potential and ability to have healthy social interactions with other students is deplorable.

The education system should not treat students with disabilities as an afterthought. Students need access to all resources necessary to make sure they stay in the classroom. These resources should lead to a fulfilling educational and social experience which helps children with disabilities reach their fullest potential.

These children have every right to learn, every right to develop their social skills as equals among their peers and, above all, every right to attend schools equipped with the proper resources and the right attitude.