Saturday, November 15, 2014

"DON'T LIMIT ME" Kliewer

“Citizenship in School: Conceptualizing Down Syndrome” by Christopher Kliewer argues that all children no matter their disability, such as Down syndrome, should be included with typical children in an inclusive classroom setting.  This is a critical part in development for any student.  Schools need to recognize that ALL students can learn if their environment supports ALL students.  “School citizenship requires that students not be categorized and separated based on presumed defect.  The phenomenon of categorization at the expense of individual value has been described as a “disability spread” in which we [schools] extrapolate the characteristics we associate with the notion of disability…” (85). Any school should allow difference, server or non-severe disabilities within the classroom, with support from other adults.  "The idea is that tolerance will grow as students gain appreciation for difference" (August 85).

Students with disabilities, even Down syndrome, should be integrated in all classroom situations.  I remember having a student with disabilities who entered into our school for the first time only knowing school as being in one class all day.  This student was never integrated in any school classroom except for classes which were not academic.  “Vygotsky found that the culture of segregation surrounding people with disabilities actually teaches underdevelopment of thinking thought the isolation of children from social valued opportunities” (83).  This is dangerous because students who are subjected by these behaviors-- learn these behaviors.  The student who entered my classroom for the first time never knew how to interact with students on a social level and therefore was deprived from social interaction of typical children.  The student with disabilities was socially involved with students who were considered to have behavior disorders.  This student with disabilities learned the behaviors of other students and was then labeled with behavior problems.

The parent of the student was concerned because her child was labeled as a student who could not function in a mainstream classroom.  When the student came to our school, he was fully integrated in the mainstream classroom and learned that not all students has behavior issues.  The behavior improved and social skills improved.  This reminded me of Christine’s story.  “Christine’s skills improved… she was out in the community, Christine’s network broadened…” (92). Bringing students into mainstream classroom helps the student with disabilities become a part of a community.  This will only enhance the learning levels, because those student who may be deprived of learning from students of all levels, will then have the opportunity to connect and learn with ALL students.


  1. This is a tough one for me. I am totally for inclusion and I think that students with Down Syndrome can and should be placed in mainstream classrooms. I'm just not sure how this could realistically work in many of these mainstream classrooms. For example, could a student with Down Syndrome actually thrive in a mainstream Geometry classroom?? I know differentiation exists, but I'm not sure to what extent these modifications would actually benefit ALL students. I question whether the student with Down Syndrome or even the mainstream students would become frustrated. I think for social reasons, all students should be placed together. Absolutely...without a doubt. Like you said, this is the only way that students learn to interact appropriately with one another. I'm just unsure as to the academic component of this. Academically speaking, I'm just not completely convinced that inclusion is the absolute best model for ALL students.

  2. I think the key word in your comments is community. A true community is an organization that involves and values all its members, one where each has a voice, a role, and a part to play. Only when each member is allowed to play their part, can the community survive and thrive, and until the community serves all members, it is in many ways broken. I don't think you can ever limit someone by speaking to their potential. Potential is a made up word used to place limits on someone based on what you think they could do. Vygotsky would caution us against that, and instead ask us to consider what you have asked-allowed-offered them the opportunity- to do.

    Imagine if the focus of our educational system was to build community and relationships, rather than memorize the periodic table of elements, and get a four on the NECAP/PARCC/MCAS exam. We could learn to communicate, solve problems, think critically, all under the umbrella of community. The model might just lead to the revolution in education that seems to have been on the cusp for so long.

    Your video link contains such a powerful message of inclusion and independence, and of course it led me to watching so many of the connected videos along with it. Having worked with many students with a variety of "disabilities" over the years, I have learned to really never assume any limits, always expect all students to surprise you with their talents, and revel in the wonder and awe that they can bring to your teaching experience.

  3. Ken,

    Reading your blog, this really stuck out to me: “'Vygotsky found that the culture of segregation surrounding people with disabilities actually teaches underdevelopment of thinking thought the isolation of children from social valued opportunities'” (83). This is dangerous because students who are subjected by these behaviors-- learn these behaviors."

    I completely agree..and it's not just a few students that learn these behaviors, but rather, all of them. Students with and without disabilities will all learn more about the culture of those in power simply by existing, watching, and noticing...who is it that is in their classes? Are they like them? Are they and their peers included in all events at the school? Who do they get to interact with? Gah, there is so much wrong with this system, but at the same time, I understand the point Melissa makes here as well. I guess the question may not have to be "will a student with Down syndrome thrive in a Geometry classroom?" but rather "will a student with Down syndrome be able to interact with those in a Geometry classroom, and how are we ensuring that?"