Ninety per cent of deaf children (over 2,000 in total) attend mainstream schools in Ireland. This statistic, in the context of inclusive education, shows general teaching approaches have to change to support a range of needs.
Inclusive education should be an option for parents in Ireland who want to try it. Yesterday’s Positive Attitudes & Actions For Inclusion conference in Dublin, was organised by Tommy and Audrey Boyle – whose son has special needs – to prompt public debate about inclusive education and supports.
A highlight was the Irish premiere of the “Including Samuel” documentary by US-based photojournalist Dan Habib, who attended with his wife, Betsy.
Christy Lynch, CEO of KARE, outlined how a new primary school in Co. Kildare became inclusive during its planning process, while a keynote speech was given by John Moloney, Minister for Disability and Mental Health.
A key theme on the night was the Salamanca Statement, emerging from the 1994 UNESCO World Conference on Special Needs Education. Ireland was among the 92 governments and 25 international entities at that conference.
This statement seeks to develop inclusion as a way to achieve high-quality education for all. Minister Moloney noted that Ireland has much to do for the EPSEN Act (2004) but that progress will be seen as funds become available.
Two excellent film clips were also shown, namely a FCTV documentary of the Boyles’ son, Michael, at his school, while actor Colin Farrell spoke on a video-clip from L.A, about how his son made him see life in a different way.
The event’s resounding message is that the attitude of principals and class teachers is a deciding factor in educational inclusion. A can-do attitude achieves far more than resources – plus, one free resource is available in every classroom – peers. Children can teach adults about inclusion, too.
With thanks to PCR Ltd for providing pro bono live captions on the night, and giving the event organisers a written record of all proceedings.