The Australian Government in the early 1980’s declared that all students are entitled to an education. In classrooms, today, a teacher can have several students with disabilities, as public mainstream education and classes are no longer limited or segregated to gender, race, disability or socioeconomical status. Inclusive, integrated schooling has seen children and youth with disabilities to attend mainstream classrooms (Lindsay & McPherson, 2011). Schools are a place where children learn essential social skills for adulthood. As a teacher, it is important to understand students’ needs educationally, but also their emotional need. Emotional education is as vital as literacy and numeracy (Foreman, 2017). Teachers face a constant dilemma to provide all students with equal opportunities to succeed in education, however, face the demand of curriculum restraints (Ozel et al., 2018). Teachers must keep a constant pace of content taught, approved learning styles, seating arrangements and classroom management (Ozel et al., 2018). Advances in acceptance to mainstream education requires pre-service teachers to develop skills to teach a more diverse group of students with a range of disabilities in their classrooms (Ozel et al., 2018).
Children with disabilities often have fewer reciprocated friendships and are at a significantly higher risk of being bullied or socially excluded from their peers (Lindsay & McPherson, 2011). This can cause the ostracisation of students, thus decreasing their ability to have the same opportunity to learn (Lindsay & McPherson, 2011). Uninformed people can wrongly assume that a severe physical disability is associated with an intellectual disability, particularly with peoples whose speech is affected (Foreman, 2017).
Bailey is enrolled in a mainstream school. Bailey has a diagnosis of cerebral palsy, which affects fine and gross motor skills. Bailey is a bright and engaging child, who has been identified as an able learner. Bailey’s reading skills are age-appropriate. Bailey’s handwriting is illegible due to issues of fine motor control. Bailey’s parents are most concerned about Bailey’s social-emotional development.
Bailey, a student who is enrolled in mainstream education, was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy (CP). People diagnosed with CP are increasing with now 1 in 700 newborns (Cerebral Palsy Alliance, 2018a). People with CP can have a range of physical disabilities that affect movement and posture. CP is a permanent life-long condition caused by injury or lack of oxygen to the developing brain during or shortly after pregnancy (Cerebral Palsy Alliance, 2018a). Cerebral means ‘of the Brain’ and palsy refers to ‘a lack of muscle control.’ People who have CP can have a range of different muscle tremors, movements, control, coordination, and balance the level of mobility changes for everyone and their level of vision, hearing, speech, and intellectual impairments (Cerebral Palsy Alliance, 2018a).
People who have CP commonly are assumed to have an intellectual disability due to their physical disability to use their muscle in the head and neck to speak and control saliva (Foreman, 2017). Typically, intelligence is judged by the way we speak and the language we use. For someone who has CP their muscles can restrict them from this ability, causing inappropriate assumptions of their intelligence (Foreman, 2017). Some highly intelligent people with CP are treated as if they have an intellectual disability due to speech impairment being slow or indistinct speech (Foreman, 2017). These people have found that they are either ignored or spoken to like a child; these people prefer to be spoken to like any other person until a good reason is provided (Foreman, 2017).
Bailey’s CP affects her fine and gross motor skills. This causes any handwritten work to be illegible, due to difficulties with hand movements and holding a pen which is restricted by her fine motor control. Bailey’s level of intellect in her reading skills is age-appropriate; she is considered a bright and engaging child, who has been identified as an able learner. For a child restricted because of movements, everyday life can be frustrating, simple things like brushing your teeth or putting on a shirt can require extra assistance. People diagnosed with CP are mistakenly looked upon as unintelligent and educatable as they require more time to complete the set task (Lindsay & McPherson, 2011). For people working with and assisting diagnosed CP students, the student’s independence to perform as many of their own tasks will assist them with future abilities such as using the bathrooms or consuming water or food (Cerebral Palsy Alliance, 2018c).
The information provided about Bailey’s condition does not appear that she is wheelchair-bound or the CP has affected her lower limb mobility. This level of CP is known as hemiplegia, where one side of the body is affected by CP (Cerebral Palsy Alliance, 2018c). This mobility restriction is a lifelong permanent condition due to the damage to the brain early in life. Bailey, however, can still develop and learn interventions to minimise the effect of the disability on her everyday life and promote her own ability to reach her optimal potential (Cerebral Palsy Alliance, 2018c). A teachers’ role in a child’s early years of life is important for the development of essential behaviours for adulthood. In the first part of life, children spend more conscious hours with a teacher than their parents, so naturally teachers become role models (Foreman, 2017). The way a teacher responds and their behaviour towards a situation can play a huge role in how children respond (Foreman, 2017). As a teacher, it is important to include all student in tasks and eliminate the segregation of students into certain groups.
Students diagnosed with CP are encouraged to develop their own specialised life skills as much as possible (Cerebral Palsy Alliance, 2018c). This level of independence from individual students will depend on their level of motion and their home life situation. Schools and teachers need to speak with the parents and the student before implementing any strategies (Cerebral Palsy Alliance, 2018c). Discussions with the family over the terminology the school, staff and students may use is important in their social inclusion e.g., additional or special need rather than naming the disability. It is also crucial to ask the families and student to write down some questions and answers about what they would like others to know about their child, providing the family control over what is said to other parents/peers (Cerebral Palsy Alliance, 2018c). The schools can also provide students and staff with informational and fact sheets such as ‘What is cerebral palsy?’ which will benefit inclusion for people who lack knowledge. The disclosing of their disability to peers and teachers creates awareness of the disability (Lindsay & McPherson, 2011). Research has shown that negative attitudes towards people with disabilities stems from a lack of knowledge (Lindsay & McPherson, 2011).
Information can provide students with an understanding that people with CP have all the same mental abilities, but their pathways from the brain to muscles vary. Encouraging and explaining knowledge in CP to other students is vital for social inclusivity within society. Peers may see a student with CP and automatically decide to help as a task might be taking too long to complete. It is important that peers ask permission and allow students to be as independent as possible (Cerebral Palsy Alliance, 2018c). Children who have CP are commonly over-managed and their independences is limited. Integrated schools help support children diagnosed with disabilities as they develop mechanisms and often copy other students as a way to try conform to social and behavioural expectations; often the whole group can enhance a student’s skills (Cerebral Palsy Alliance, 2018c). Integrated schools allow disabled students to be more motivated to be like everyone else, which may not happen at home or in other settings. Socially inclusive schools have modified pedagogies and support networks for students with disabilities, so they have the right to participate in all aspects of the curriculum (Cerebral Palsy Alliance, 2018c). Teachers must be realistic yet optimistic about the abilities of their student’s. Socially inclusive pedagogies have been developed to assist teachers in lesson modification. The SMART learning goal pedagogies incorporates your personal strength and learning needs and how you can use these to develop goals for your students (College of Nurses of Ontario, 2019). The curriculum standards prefer written, or typed assessments as the most common way of examining a students’ level of knowledge (Cerebral Palsy Alliance, 2018c).
The SMART learning goals need to be modified for Bailey to provide her knowledge in an accepted way. For example, a year 6 class has the Specific goal to complete an English book review on class set text; a Measurable goal is a 500 word written review of the book; the Attainable goal is achieved on their ability to read and review the knowledge from the book (selected from an approved reading list); Relevant goal the written book review complies with the curriculum; and Time-limited do the student get the required amount of time to complete the reading and review.
As a teacher we need to remember to ask the simple questions:
• Will the time period provided be enough time for all students to complete?
• Have all assistive technologies been explored?
• Should assessment material be presented in an adapted form?
• How achievable is the material or task presented to the students?
• How do the outcomes build on each other across the stage of schooling?
There would be a need for modification to Bailey’s assessment in handwritten work. Advances in technology have provided people with CP more freedom with the ability to communicate through symbol boards, Big mac voice output devices, communication devices, mobile phones, augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) (The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), 2009) and Speech Recognition Engineered Devices (SPRED) (Cerebral Palsy Alliance, 2016). Depending on Bailey’s family financials the use of a personal laptop would provide Bailey with more freedom to write or use SPRED in her classes (Cerebral Palsy Alliance, 2018c). Depending on her ability to type or speak extra time may be required to complete works, this however would be dependent on each student and their circumstances. For people with limited financials, the Australian Government has funding resources with the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) for all people diagnosed with a range of disabilities (Cerebral Palsy Alliance, 2018b). The Cerebral Palsy Alliance (CPA), is a specific section of the NDIS, and supports people with CP’s specific needs. CPA has a section for parents and children for the Going to School, which provides them with resources for life (Cerebral Palsy Alliance, 2018c).
The use of specialised inclusive pedagogies assists the student who requires extra support and assists everyone in developing a greater knowledge on how to support each other and work as a team to achieve a common goal. Unless people are exposed and provided knowledge of how having CP is, they may not understand how the simple everyday functions can be affected. Research has found that children and young people with disabilities play a crucial role in educating peers and raising awareness around disabilities (Lindsay & McPherson, 2011). The use of visual and audio educational videos is more effective than reading an article. The short films from Attitude Live are an inspirational resource for teachers to use for motivation. Geneva and Mackenzie are two young females who are diagnosed with CP and have learnt to manage their lives to the fullest. Geneva’s story Living with Cerebral Palsy: Geneva’s Story shows students the potential of what can be achieved and how people with CP can live a fulling life. Mackenzie is a student who is still in school and shows how her school is inclusive of her needs (Attitude, 2017). Mackenzie’s Voice: Living with Cerebral Palsy video is insightful for how she must modify her life to complete the same goals as other students (Attitude, 2016). The use of these films will provide students in Bailey’s class with a greater understanding of the view from Geneva’s and Mackenzie’s eyes.
Bailey’s Parents have shown concern for their child’s social-emotional development during her schooling life at a main-stream school. Implementations for this concern can be assisted with the use of school counselling to ensure her needs are met. Performing team-building exercises and ensuring socially inclusive attenable games for bonding between students are performed. Depending on year level, creating a buddy-buddy system for classroom collaboration table settings can eliminate exclusion of groups of students with disabilities. Research has shown to develop positive improvements in social inclusion in schools,’ children require stable peer support networks to help support and build their self-confidence (Lindsay & McPherson, 2011). These support networks can act as a protector from being socially excluded and bullied (Lindsay & McPherson, 2011). Having good-quality friendships who can provide awareness and support for Bailey within the school will allow her to become more socially inclusive. Having a strong trusting teacher and student relationship is vital for any implementation to occur successfully. The use of outside of school extracurricular activities can create opportunities to develop friendships outside of the classroom and school (Lindsay & McPherson, 2011). Teacher and parents can promote the use of extracurricular activities as a recourse which utilize Bailey’s strengths and abilities to grow confidence and use alternative social networks (Lindsay & McPherson, 2011).
The Australian education system and the Australian health system have implementations to support people with disabilities to be as independent as possible; however, the Education system still requires more support and professional development for pre-service teachers, teacher aid, support staff and teachers to ensure the fundamentals are achieved for all students.
Attitude. (2016). Mackenzie’s Voice: Living with Cerebral Palsy [YouTube Video]. In YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u4gvcS9_F-Y
Attitude. (2017). Living with Cerebral Palsy: Geneva’s Story [YouTube Video]. In YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3sqRQXJYdoo
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Cerebral Palsy Alliance. (2018a). Cerebral palsy. Cerebral Palsy Alliance. https://cerebralpalsy.org.au/about-conditions/cerebral-palsy/?_ga=2.22937979.1120296864.1611728003-1471163807.1611728003#1534292710122-6f2fa95c-5b72
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