Visit A/W 2020 Table of Contents here
It was in Spring 2020 that I began sharing content (via THRIVE Nordics on Instagram and Facebook) related to our experiences in education. Within just a few years of moving to Sweden, we had experienced a wide range of educational situations including school settings that did not work at all to school environments that worked wonderfully.
As with many other parents, we were beginning to learn about what works (and does not) up close and personal as we navigated the school system with our son’s needs in mind and naturally served as his primary advocates.
One of my favorite stories to share about our range of experiences thus far is A Tale of Three Lunches. You can read more about it here as well as watch a video I recorded telling the story.
In short, the “Three Lunches” are as follows:
1: Mainstream Inclusive Lunch Experience with No Special Support
Here I recall my son’s first experience in a preschool with no special support. Lunch transitions were very difficult, an unsustainable challenge in fact. It quickly reached a point that we eventually had to remove our son from the school.
2: Mainstream Inclusive with Special Support- Adapted Lunch Environment,
Here I reflect on the first few weeks of my son’s second preschool experience, where a special support person was assigned to him immediately. She and the rest of the teachers recognized that instead of forcing my son to the lunch room daily, they would adapt and she would sit with him in the classroom and have lunch there.
3: Mainstream Inclusive with Special Support: True Inclusion
This chapter reflects on how, after a period of adapting to my son’s very specific needs for a quiet lunch space and gradual transition, he was ready to begin joining his peers and other teachers in the lunch room regularly.
It was an interesting moment, as I began sharing content and aspects of our experience, to recognize that although much of my own motivation was rooted in my parental role and advocating for support and for my son, who is diagnosed on the spectrum, that I also was motivated from years of experience working as an assitant in Special Education Stateside.
Years before having children of my own, I enjoyed working in a range of educational settings, including special needs classrooms (often structured specifically around needs of autistic students), a therapy preschool and as Special Education Aide with children from Elementary to High School. Memories of my various experiences in all these settings came trickling into memory as I worked with my own son’s needs and began learning to navigate the system here in Sweden.
I feel extremely grateful to have now encountered many individuals within the school system who I know are advocating for my son’s best interest. But our time navigating the school system has not been without struggle and it has also really just begun.
I also recognized at some point during our navigations and problem solving, that the challenges we were experiencing were by no means unique and that in fact there were significant issues happening nationwide with regard to children with need for additional or special support in school.
“Inclusivity” and “inclusion”are often championed as the “right of all children” but for many parents as well as educators of children with special needs, we see firsthand how catastrophic and exclusionary “inclusive education” can be when not structured with proper resources.
As I discuss in a post called “When it Works”:
“I recently spoke with a policy maker who lamented that often the stories of when the inclusive education model works don’t get any notice or publicity at all, that it’s just the ‘problem’ stories that get attention.
I really considered her perspective and thought, of course we need to focus on those stories of when the model works.
However, as long as the system is not working for thousands of children and we have a growing number of “hemmasittare” (kids who cannot cope in the school environment and are missing school long term) as well as special needs children who are going to class for years without even learning because the support is simply not there, then we are absolutely justified in putting a critical focus on the problems.
Anyone involved in special education, from the parents of students to educators to policy makers whose decisions affect us on the ground level, should absolutely care about these growing problems as well. No child should be going through the school day just trying to survive.
I am eager to learn more about positive and successful inclusive education examples and stories. However, when we acknowledge what works we can never dismiss the fact and reality that currently the system is not working for many children.
The cross pollination of knowledge, testimony and observation from researchers, parents, educators, therapists, policy makers and legal professionals working in the educational sphere will be essential for the reforms that will benefit children that are in growing need of educational system changes.“
My hope is that this site and the content shared here can contribute to and support those positive changes.
Editor, THRIVE Nordics
Feel free to contact THRIVE Nordics at firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit A/W 2020 Table of Contents here