General Posts about Down syndrome

We All Belong: An Important Video About Disability Inclusion in School

“We All Belong”

“We All Belong” is a powerful short video that explains, educates and empowers. It helps us deal with disability segregation in school, which is something that most all of us in the Down syndrome community face at one point or another (even us with disabilities, as I talked about in this recent post on Moxie).


We Belong

“We All Belong” was produced by the Northwest Down Syndrome Association, located in Portland, Oregon. Even if you don’t live in Portland, theirs is a great organization to tap into for resources, ideas, and inspiration (like the “Kindergarten Cohort”! Brilliant! I want to know more!).

Meriah Nichols is a career counselor, teacher and blogger. Single mom to 3 (one with Down syndrome, one gifted 2E), she is also a Trekkie who likes her coffee hot and black.
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  1. I am autistic and I was in special ed for all of school, and i was in a self-contained classroom some years and other years I was mainstreamed. I did really well in my self-contained classroom. We had a much higher teacher-student ratio and they knew how to handle my behaviours without getting frustrated and they were very gentle with me and I really thrived, but I did so well that they said I clearly don’t need all these supports and mainstreamed me and then I floundered again. Too many other children and the lesson was being directed to meet a sort of average learning style instead of the individual attention i’d had in the self-contained classroom and I didn’t have the executive function to keep up with what was expected of me. This was back in the 90’s; a lot has probably changed since then.

    I think there isn’t one true answer for whether it is better to be in segregated education or better to be mainstreamed. For me, segregated worked much better because I had some really great special ed teachers. But there are of course horror stories too. Not everyone has as nice experience as I did. But mainstreaming was hard. So many children and so much noise and chaos and distraction, and as you’ve seen with Moxie, it depends a lot on the quality of the para.

    The video talks about inclusion as if having the kid in the same room as the other kids is enough, or at least the video doesn’t address that it’s not enough. You know the experience of being lonely in a crowded a room, of being the new girl again and you try out the phrase your mother taught you “will you be my friend?” and the other girls say “I already have a friend” and you don’t have an answer to that so you walk away. The loneliness is worse in a crowded room then when you’re by yourself.

    The mum in the video talked about not wanting her kid to be a room with kids with behaviours, didn’t want him learning from them, wanted him learning from “normal” kids. She didn’t say the word but it’s what she meant. But in segregated classroom I learned that there are other kids like me, that I’m not the only one, that I’m not bad, before in mainstreamed class I only had examples of normal kids to look at and I was clearly defective but in the self-contained classroom, it was likely coming home, finding a community. It was such a relief. It’s important for us disabled people to grow up having contact with the able bodied community but it’s just as important for us to grow up knowing other disabled people having disabled role models. The only explanation I had for why it was so hard to behave was “because I’m bad” until I was in segregated class, and I didn’t know what my diagnosis was until I was an adult.

    Each classroom is going to be different and it’s hard when Moxie doesn’t have enough language to report it if there’s a serious problem, but that’s true whether she’s in self-contained or whether she’s mainstreamed. You’ll need to make surprise visits and you may need to try a few different options to see what works best for her.

    • Thank you. I really appreciate your perspective, voice, and sharing.

      I felt very similar when I met other deaf people for the first time – that sense of relief and community, and being in a mainstream class was a real struggle for me. I could “pass” but it was hard.

      This is a complex conversation: on one hand, segregation feels wrong. Like they say in the video, “the problem with segregation is that it’s segregation” – but for some people, it feels right. How on earth can we tell for whom it is a benefit?

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