23 October 2012

Educating Peter

This is a response to "Educating Peter," a film by Home Box Office films that we watched in my Educating Exceptional Children class.

While I could not find the whole film, here is a link to the first fifteen minutes of it. It's plenty to express some of the greatest benefits of inclusion for students with disabilities.

The film “Educating Peter” tells the story of a third grade boy with downs syndrome entering into a general education classroom for the first time. Through careful documentation, the film shows Peter move from a struggling, disruptive child to a successful student. The shift is made not through his own ability to achieve, as he was always had the capacity to do so, but through the attitudes and expectations of those around him. Having always attended a special education class with children who also had disabilities, Peter didn’t have the social skills necessary to have positive interactions with his fellow students. The teacher, having had no training in special education, struggled with how to react to his violent outbursts and unpredictable behavior. By collaborating with a special education teacher, she put in place opportunities for Peter’s fellow students themselves to take ownership of his education and behavior. While the expectations for them were higher than is usually recommended, they were the people that Peter interacted with most often. As they began giving Peter positive reinforcement as well as a starvation of attention for his bad behavior, he was able to begin to understand the expectations that they had of him. With a firm structure in place, Peter learned how to focus and began learning more than anyone involved expected. By the seventh week he had fewer outbursts and by the fourth month he had become a part of the class. The teacher began to expect more of him, changing her expectations from “I don’t think you can do that…” to “I expect you to do that because I know you can.” Peter matched the higher expectations and continued to push against them, constantly improving. By the last day of school, the other students valued Peter in their classroom both as a person, and as a fellow student. Not only had the inclusion process benefitted Peter by helping him gain a fuller education with higher expectations, but it also benefitted the students that were in class with him by teaching them about social interaction and loving those who are not easily loved.

All throughout the time that I watched this film I could not help but smile. Many of those smiles had to do with Peter being an adorable little boy and seeing the improvement he was able to make, but those that have lasted the longest are connected to the reactions that the teacher and other students had. All of the groups involved benefitted from the experience even though they didn’t expect good to come from it. This is exciting. It’s a clear example of the benefits of inclusion that doesn’t just show the good outcome, but also shows the real and sometimes harsh difficulties that led to that outcome. It proves that we as teachers cannot simply decide what a student’s least restrictive environment is without giving them time to adjust to that environment. It is also desperately important that a student’s Independent Education Program puts them into environments that challenge them rather than caudle them. It is only through a healthy level of challenge that they will be able to improve and gain the opportunities that their fellow students have available to them.

No comments :

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...