Reimagining Disability & Inclusive Education | Jan Wilson | TEDxUniversityofTulsa



this is Zoey she is a bright precocious quirky nine-year-old who loves Lalaloopsy dolls cookie dough ice cream chess and the color pink Zoey was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder when she was five but she really didn't understand the meaning of disability until her parents enrolled her in their neighborhood public school on the assumption that by law the school would provide a range of appropriate services to ensure her social and academic success so they were unprepared to say the least for the school's placement of Zoey in a regular classroom without any supports or accommodations because as the principal openly acknowledged the school district did not have the funds to provide them by the sixth week of the semester Zoey was having regular violent outbursts in a classroom with one completely flummoxed teacher who simply abandoned all attempts at educating Zoey and 25 increasingly terrified students she was left unsupervised and so would often just slip out of her classroom undetected and wonder about the school hallways until on one occasion she made it all the way to the parking lot before being stopped by her mother who happened to be in the school lobby that day after a lengthy and costly battle Zoe's parents managed to have her transferred to the only the only elementary school in their district to offer a full-time self-contained special education program run by a team of highly trained staff and now about a year and a half later Zoey's thriving Shaye's earning excellent grades participating in after-school activities learning better to regulate her emotions and even making friends Zoey's story is all too familiar to students with disabilities and caregivers as always mother it is intimately familiar to me when I shared this story at an academic conference a few months ago I was rather dismayed when the consensus from the scholars present seemed to be well I guess inclusive education is not always the answer for children with disabilities I don't think that this was the moral of my story and certainly I recognize that attempts to pursue inclusion that is the practice of educating children with and without disabilities together in the regular classroom without any regard for individual need can be just as harmful in some ways as earlier tendencies to keep children with disabilities segregated from their classmates yet I am also convinced that with the implementation of Universal Design for Learning Zoe's education in this regular environment would have been appropriate and her chances at success much greater in fact Universal Design for Learning not only has the potential to radically transform the meaning of inclusive education but the very concept of disability in 1975 Congress passed and has renewed several times since then a lab that became known as the individuals with Disabilities Education Act or idea which ensures that children with disabilities receive a free and appropriate education in the least restrictive environment usually the regular classroom and since then debates have swirled about the benefits of inclusive education not just for children with disabilities but also for their peers and their teachers proponents of inclusion stressed the value of all children and their right to be included regardless of their individual differences and abilities critics of inclusion however argue that certain children with disabilities can't learn through traditional teaching methods and that they need more our individualized instruction from certified special education teachers usually in special education settings but by far the most ubiquitous criticism of inclusion emphasizes the negative impact on so-called non-disabled students for example a 2012 study published by a leading education journal express concern for regular ed students whose classrooms it claimed are being adapted to meet the needs of others and it questioned the fairness of allocating funds to provide resources that benefit only about 12% of the student population in this study reflects the widespread assumption that the regular classroom is rightly the province of non-disabled students and some sort of neutral value free space that students with disabilities invade and disrupt through their very presence and their costly need for adaptation what this view fails to recognize is that this space far from neutral is actually constructed according to some sort of mythical able-bodied neurotypical norm that neither reflects nor accommodates the wide range of diverse learners within it regardless of whether these learners have been diagnosed with a disability and you know judging from the disproportionate placement of culturally and linguistically diverse and minority and male students in disability categories and programs it's also a space that makes some pretty broad assumptions based on dominant discourses of gender and race and culture another troubling aspect of this inclusion debate reflected in the study is the failure to recognize that again these so-called non-disabled students actually benefit from the supports and accommodations designed to assist students with disabilities in fact by making a distinction between the regular ed student and others this study draws rigid but fast divisions between those considered able-bodied the norm and those considered disabled that is anything that deviates from the norm in other words our built environment our policies even our attitudes make very little room for human variation and in fact are modelled on even privileged bodies and minds deemed fit capable intelligent and even beautiful and therefore any bodies and minds that do not move or look or act or think in ways according to these norms are automatically rendered disabled disability scholars attempt to challenge and dismantle these sorts of discourses by reimagining disability as a wide-ranging continuum that encompasses all bodies and minds and through a social model that sees disability not as some sort of individual problem or affliction needing cure the old medical model of disability but rather largely the product of environments and attitudes and policies that fail to include the vast array of human particularity –zz so in other words the goal is not to try to adapt diverse bodies and minds to rigid existing structures but to radically reimagine these structures to make them fit diverse bodies and minds the social model of disability and this social model also recognizes the dependency of all individuals on external supports technologies and interventions to survive to flourish or simply to make life easier for example so-called non-disabled individuals commonly rely on it's such as glasses computers and ladders even warm clothing on a cold day and nobody thinks twice about these uses it's only supports used by so-called disabled individuals things such as interpreters and wheelchairs service animals psychotropic drugs that are considered accommodations expensive unnecessary even burdensome Universal Design for Learning is the best example of the application of the social model of disability to educational approaches it's based on neuro scientific evidence that individuals who vary widely in their backgrounds and abilities and motivations have different learning needs and different learning styles Universal Design for Learning means the creation and implementation of teaching materials and methods that reduce barriers in the learning environment and that make learning accessible for all students this is accomplished through the three UDL guidelines the first to offer students multiple methods of representation of course information through multiple formats not just text but digital formats and audio books charts and graphs and pictures music materials that connect to students backgrounds and languages and experiences second to other students multiple means for expressing what they know not just written expression but verbal expression through performance the creation of artistic works through a website design or film production and third to offer students multiple means of engagement for motivating them to learn things such as collaborative work or group projects through roleplay nor games service learning that can knowledge inside of the classroom to life outside of it so unlike traditional methods that attempt to adapt diverse learners to typically inflexible curricula and materials Universal Design for Learning proactively creates these materials at the outset to make them adapt to the needs of diverse learners that social model it recognizes the unfairness even the futility of using one approach one set of materials one form of assessment that tend to privilege one type of learner as a quotation attributed to Einstein cautions if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will live it's whole life believing that it is stupid my journey with Zoe through the often frustrating terrain of inclusive education has generated my outrage over how little our educational institutions truly accommodate the needs of diverse learners but it's also forced me to recognize the limitations of my own teaching approaches I had long prided myself as a disability advocate and Ally but had never really occurred to me that my view of accommodations was in many ways inherently flawed it assumed that accommodations were something from which only students with disabilities benefitted it offered accommodations on a case-by-case basis always after the fact never built into the curriculum from the start and worst of all it made a lot of ablest assumptions about my students abilities to see and hear and think and understand English organize and attend and as I began to redesign my courses using UDL principles and guidelines process I'm still very much involved in by the way I began to recognize the tremendous possibilities of applying UDL not just a primary and secondary education but to higher learning as well and this has inspired me to work toward the creation of an Institute for a Universal Design for Learning which I envision is a campus-wide resource to educate K through 12 teachers and college faculty students majoring in education UDL principles and guidelines and also to connect them to the technological systems the curricular resources and hebben instructional practices that make learning accessible for everyone ultimately Universal Design for Learning locates value in productions of knowledge that have been traditionally ignored or marginalized even denigrated I was reminded of this recently we're watching Zoe work on an assessment with her speech therapist and the therapist was showing Zoe a series of pictures and asking her to form story arcs based on the information that the pictures collectively Illustrated the correct subject of one of the pictures for example was a mother nervously waving goodbye to her son who was boarding a school bus for the first time but instead Zoe grew fixated on the lower corner of the picture were a cat set looking rather forlornly in her view and despite her therapists insistence that her focus was incorrect Zoe refused to alter her gaze and instead continue to worry about the cat to whom did the cat belong she wondered clearly this cat was hungry who would feed the cat and as her therapists grew visibly more frustrated I stifled my impulse to laugh after all why was Zoe's concern for the cat wrong or misguided why was attention to the mother and son more valued and perhaps most importantly who gets to make this decision Zoe's tender see to create knowledge from the margins allowed her to form new meaning about what she was seeing that disrupted and challenged the pictures master narratives in much the same way Universal Design for Learning gives students and teachers the power to form new discourses that radically transform existing ideologies and institutions and that create new multiple understandings of the correct way to see and hear and think and no thank you

29 thoughts on “Reimagining Disability & Inclusive Education | Jan Wilson | TEDxUniversityofTulsa”

  1. UDL, just like many other teaching methods are good, sure, but it's the behavior students that need to be kicked the ** out of the classroom. They ruin it for everyone else including the teachers. I was a kid like that, and they did just that. Guess what? My classmates did just fine without me. Not mad at all now that I work in education. Special ed needs to be taught in a special ed class, just like Spanish needs to be taught in a Spanish class. Come on, people. You can't blend everything. Don't know English? Okay, well take an English class, but don't throw ESL students into a fully English speaking class. That's what we do at my middle school. It's horrible.

  2. Hi Jan Wilson, there is no one size fit all. you may need to draw some attention once the child is crossing the OPT entering the workforce. Believe me, if you willing to share your problems, there will be someone around the corner to help you. I do keep some helpful resources for disabled maybe we can start to build a library on those? Keep it up!

  3. Spot on, as a mother of a special needs child this talk hit some very valuable issues right on the head. Thankyou

  4. In theory, a fantastic idea. However, additional funding needs to part of UDL learning. How is a solo classroom teacher able to provide personalized lesson plans throughout the school year for students with disabilities? In addition, specialty teachers, who see multiple classes can't provide UDL for each child. Small class sizes, multiple teachers, and support systems can make UDL possible.

  5. They torture us in school. I don't deserve anything and owe everyone. My anger at being treated poorly is just because I'm a bad, jealous person. I'm emo, I suppose, and the only one in the crowd at the concert. Then I got a lobotomy and am heavily drugged. I think we should live in colonies together, have our own towns. We work together much better than as separate creatures. Inclusion was probably meant to increase our chances at survival, but they're killing us anyway for the budget.

  6. Deborah zpickett snd Sheila Brown sit there and preys on my sall night stalked me how I want them people gone one day nobody can help me but they prey until the point of death

  7. Was the cat relevant in any of the other pictures? If Zoe could make a cat story out of the pictures, then great. If the cat was a one off inclusion, then… not great.

  8. It seems to me that the therapist mentioned towards the end really missed a golden opportunity to learn something new herself: She missed an important detail that Zoe did not. Why is the cat an important detail? Might want to ask Zoe. And then listen and learn something new.

  9. Dr. Ross, will be very happy to watch your presentation. Your presentation is one of the best on the topic.

  10. The goal of school isn't just to teach them the knowledge about the subject, but also to teach them how to study and to learn by reading, and listening skills etc. That's why it's set up the way it is. If the goal was just to make sure they know only the material, this way would work, but they would graduate without knowing many of the skills they need in life.

    I'm for inclusive education, but I'm against changing the way our schools teach.

  11. Go straight to the Superintendents' Office!!! Universal Design sounds like an awesome idea. However, having several exceptional needs requires several therapists and highly trained teachers to provide the service in a typical classroom setting. Five teachers will be in one classroom of 30 students offering 5 varying lessons tailored to providing access to the general curriculum. We want a map created by researchers to show how this can be implemented. Simply expecting the school districts to create a plan is not enough.

  12. YES. Thank you for this talk. Love UDL! Will be sharing this. You explain UDL so eloquently and simple.

  13. i was labeled aspergers for studying geography I am ocd odd bipolar and depressed for enforcing a masters level of international human rights humanitarian criminal refugee law delusional

  14. Nailed it. Exactly! Thank you so much for spreading the principles of UDL and designing experiences for everyone!

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