Social Club Extends Inclusion Beyond the Classroom
“ Mainstreaming” was the original thought that brought many students with special needs out of specialized school and into the main stream with everyone else. It was a wonderful new thought to accompany the growing awareness that accepting diversity was necessary and Important. Out of this, inclusive classrooms were born and now have been around for years.
So, how’s it going? Since I have worked exclusively in preschool inclusive classrooms for the last 20 years, I feel I can answer that and the answer is: both great and not so great. The “great” is that typical children are getting exposed to children that are different and accepting that is “just the way Josh is”. They see “Josh’s” behavior or movements in the classroom and it becomes familiar to them. “Josh doesn’t talk much”, a child might explain referring to his friend who is mostly non-verbal. Or, if they see another child at the grocery store with movements or actions that are known to them, such as a child with cerebral palsy, then they feel the comfort of familiarity. No need to stare. The good is also especially for the child who is atypical. It’s a wonderful opportunity to be accepted and feel like part of the group. In the classroom I see a lot of acceptance and love. Inclusion can work.
The “not-as-great” part is when the child, for physical, sensory or emotional reasons, is having difficulty. The others in the class may think faster, are more coordinated or more comfortable socially.
Enter the solution that keeps the kids in an inclusive classroom but goes beyond and extends inclusion. It’s called Social Club. Social club is a small class that meets regularly wherein kids can do things at their own pace in a way that is comfortable and structured. The staff can be aides, therapists or parent volunteers and is lead by a related service professional or teachers. The activities are structured and measured and are designed to meet the needs of the individual child and the group as a whole.
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