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All images and posts written by and copyright to Amanda Clements (nee Gray) 2009-2012 unless otherwise indicated.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

When "inclusion" puts children at risk of bullying

Images from Dave is Brave, Copyright Amanda Gray Http://

Tom loves being around other children. He loves drawing and music. But he struggles with understanding and learning new things. He has Down Syndrome.

Tom is "included" in a regular classroom. While his peers are guided by the teacher and work in groups, Tom is usually sitting alone working on his learning contract with his teacher’s aide at the back of the room. This contract is a set of worksheets designed by his special education teacher.

On the playground Tom is usually alone. Except when a group of older students invite him to “play” with them, then urge him to do things that will get him into trouble. Tom loves playing with them and doesn’t understand why he keeps getting into trouble, or why his teacher and parents want him to find other friends.

His parents recently found out that the reason why he likes playing with these boys is because they don’t call him names. He said that lots of other kids tease him, saying that Ms G (his teacher’s aide) is his girlfriend.


Emma loves drama. She is good at counting and loves using pictures to tell stories. But she struggles with understanding and learning new things. She has Down Syndrome.

Emma is included in a regular classroom. She sits up the front with four other children. Two of these children benefit from extra help, and two are students who are achieving well. Her teacher’s aide has a desk nearby.

While her peers are guided by the teacher, she and her group of buddies get extra hints and repetition from the teacher’s aide according to the advice of the special education teacher. When the class work in groups, Emma works with her buddies. The two students who are achieving well help to scaffold and support her learning. The teacher’s aide supervises and gives extra help when needed to make sure the other students’ learning isn’t affected by Emma’s occasional difficulties with concentrating or staying on task.

On the playground Emma is usually seen to be with at least one of the four students she sits with in class. With the help of the teacher’s aide they have taught her to play some of their favourite games, like skipping (Emma usually holds the rope), tips (where Emma occasionally has to be reminded who is in), making up plays and sitting in the library (Emma loves picture books).

Once when a group of older boys started calling her names her buddies saw her crying. They went straight to their teacher, who went straight to the principal, who called a meeting with the boy’s parents. The bullying quickly stopped.

Emma loves school.
While Tom and Emma are fictional characters, they are built from my observations and the experiences of students and families with whom I have worked. Next time I write here I will talk about these a little more....


Bonnie - mom to kid with CAPD July 4, 2009 at 11:40 AM  

I wish my son could be in a classroom like Emma's. While he does not have Downs Syndrome, he has auditory processing disorder and is severely deficient social skills, and the kids don't take too kindly to that. I wish schools could understand that inclusion is fabulous when done with forethought and intention. Just throwing a child in doesn't really accomplish the same thing. Thanks for sharing!

Heather Babes November 16, 2009 at 6:51 PM  

Thanks for sharing! My son will soon have a one-on-one aide and these tips shared in story form help paint the picture for how it should be done! I do know that the school he attends does tend to do it more Emma's way, but it's good to see why and how!

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