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The topic of the week is Nancy Gedge on how to properly include a child with special needs; as a teacher and as a parent.
Award-winning blogger, teacher and parent Nancy Gedge joined us for an inspirational conversation this week.
Nancy qualified as a teacher in 1994 and took a break to have her own family. After returning to primary teaching, she now feels she is relatively fresh, despite starting her career some time ago.
What drove Nancy to start blogging in the first place?
Nancy’s dad encouraged her to start blogging as he knew she needed to find a more creative outlet. After attempting to write romantic novels for a time which she felt taught her a lot, she turned her hand to her first blog about her son who has Down’s Syndrome. She originally planned for it to be a book. The first piece was written for the local National Childbirth Trust magazine but then Nancy decided to send it into the Radio 4 Home Truths programme after realising it was was quite good. As a result, she was interviewed by DJ John Peel.
After this, Nancy didn’t write a great deal for some time but eventually started writing about having one foot in each camp of teacher and parent. This turned into a rant against homework… So it turned into a teaching blog because Nancy is really interested in the relationship between parenting and teaching and what this tells us about education and society in general.
Nancy tells her stories to illustrate educational points and hopefully to get people to think for themselves.
I never thought it would happen to me
This is the title of the first post on Nancy’s blog and it’s very much worth reading. It’s all about Nancy’s alternative view on the experience of having her son and discovering that he had ‘an extra chromosome’.
Nancy explains her point of view in a passionate way and believes a lot of her different reaction can be attributed to her experiences as a teacher.
This chromosomal abnormality was a pain but it didn’t stop me loving my child or being glad that he was here.
A lot of Nancy’s writing springs from other people’s reactions to her son. It’s been a cathartic experience for her to explain this through her blog. In some ways she feels like a weight has been lifted off her shoulders.
How inclusive do you think the world outside is for a child with special needs?
Nancy thinks the world outside isn’t very inclusive at all. She is hoping her son will be able to stay at his school until he is 19 as it is being extended and then go on to somewhere like The National Star College but she knows not everyone can find places like these.
Her son has had a mixed experience of an inclusive society. She lives in a small town and the primary school was very supportive but some outside activities have been less successful.
Nancy believes that people who understand inclusion on a deep fundamental level are fairly few and far between and they tend to rise quickly so aren’t where they can be the most help.
What more needs to be done in initial teacher training for special educational needs?
People don’t have enough information to make decent decisions for teaching included children.
- Teachers need to understand that they need a diagnosis of need in order to access public money. We need to kit out our new teachers with a mind set of understanding why a particular child is misbehaving – to consider the needs of a child who can’t cope with very bright displays or who needs the curtains to be shut. They can think about how fast they are speaking or how to reduce the complexity of their questions. There is a lot which can be done to remove barriers to learning for children.
- Teachers should visit special schools. There is soon going to be a crisis of recruitment in special schools and Nancy admits that she used to be scared of special schools which she got muddles up in her head with some kind of mental institution of the Victorian era. If you visit, you can break down the assumed barriers.
- Trainee teachers need to understand child development before the child reaches school. When we have included children in school, it’s essential that all teachers understand what delayed development may mean.
Hear so much more by listening to the whole episode!
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