Sunday, 25 November 2018

Inclusive Education


I is for Inclusive Education

Something that I am passionate about is inclusive education, due to my youngest daughter having Down syndrome. These two words, 'inclusive education' though are often misused and there is a lot of confusion over what they actually mean. So, it is my intention with this blog post, to set things straight.

What is inclusive education?
 
1) First of all I am talking about students with disabilities being in mainstream schools. Being in a special school is not inclusive education.
2) Students are in the classroom with the other students,and for the same amount of time as the other students. They are provided with the supports they need to access the same activities that the other students do. Their school work is modified if necessary and if so, they are doing the same work as their peers but at their level. They do not have a teacher aide shadowing them. 

This is a succinct definition:

Inclusion is being physically present and fully participating in the same classroom as peers for the same proportion of time; socially belonging and immersed in the same curriculum
It requires the provision of necessary supports and adjustments so the student can learn, contribute and participate socially alongside one’s peers.
Students are under the same school and class rules, although it needs to be stressed that it may take more time and attention to teach some children these rules. 

Inclusive education is not:

* Special classes
* A full-time teacher aide
* Being isolated in the classroom
*  The student is working in parallel rather than the curriculum being modified
* Being included in class but not in the life of the school (playground, excursions, camps, extra-curricular)
* Being enrolled but not challenged to learn, participate and contribute



 Let's look at the following diagram:




Exclusion:  Students with disabilities are in separate schools.
Segregation: Students with disabilities are in a mainstream school but are kept in separate units away from the rest of the students.
Integration: Students with disabilities are in mainstream schools, in classrooms but are expected to do the same work as the other children even if they are not able to, they do not have any supports, and they may be excluded or separated from the other students for some activities.
Inclusion: What we want!



 Why do we want inclusion for children with disabilities?

        1) All children are learners and all children are unique. What is ‘normal’?
2) School is the gateway to society and inclusive communities start with inclusive neighbourhood schools that value diversity and respect the right of all students to be welcomed and to belong. 
3) Inclusion means going to school with siblings. It’s about having an ordinary life.
4) Regular schools offer a wide range of experiences.
5) Inclusion is a RIGHT:
* Article 24 of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognises the right to an inclusive education as a human right of people with disability.
* In Australia, the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 and the Disability Standards for Education 2005 ensure equal access for people with a disability to education.
* The Australian Professional Standards for Teachers 1.5 & 1.6 give the instructions that teachers must differentiate teaching to meet the specific learning needs of students across the full range of abilities. 

What research is there on inclusive education? 
 
The case for inclusive education over ‘special education’ models (special schools or education support units), is overwhelming. Over 40 years of research, and hundreds of studies have compared education outcomes for students with a disability in segregated special education settings to regular education environments. They have all ruled in favour of inclusive schools. The benefits continue into secondary education.
In Australia, Dr Bob Jackson has done a lot of research into the benefits of inclusive education for children with disabilities.




This diagram shows two pathways. The horizonal is the life of a child who goes to mainstream school and progresses on with a regular ordinary life. The diagonal line shows the direction life takes for many students who go through special education.

Research has also shown that inclusion leads to:
* Greater access to the general education curriculum
* More time ‘on task’ and a greater motivation to learn
* Greater progress academically, particularly with literacy skills
* Increased communication skills
* Improved social skills and behaviour
* More friendships
* A change in the school culture to a more inclusive one to the benefit of a great many students, not just those with a disability.


But what about the effects on non-disabled students and their learning?
 
* This is a common argument used by many to stop children with disabilities from being in the classroom. But this is a poor argument as the research has shown that inclusion is better for ALL students. Having disabled children in a school, develops more positive attitudes towards difference, better social skills and awareness, more caring friendships, less disruptive behaviour and more developed personal values and ethics. All students in the school learn the skills they need to live full lives as part of their communities, and to build the communities of the future. 
* Disabled peers do not take away from teacher instruction time and there is no detrimental effect on the achievement of the child’s peers. Many studies have shown a positive impact due to peer tutoring. The behaviour of the other students is unaffected, and differentiation of the curriculum leads to better teaching for the whole class and more effective classroom management strategies.  


It's about the mindset of educators

One of the excuses I received from a teacher not wanting my daughter in her class was, there would be too much preparation and she didn't have the time. This turned out to be false and later in the year, this particular teacher changed her mindset towards inclusion and actually embraced it. I like the following meme as it gives great examples of how teachers can look at the children with disabilities who are in their class. 



Advice for Parents

Parents who have children with significant disabilities and are wanting their child to have an inclusive education will more than likely face gatekeepers, barriers, low expectations and prejudices along the way. Even though it is a right, there are many in the education system who do not believe that children with disabilities should be in mainstream school. I have encountered some myself in my journey, and I've had to be an assertive advocate for my daughter. I've also had to maintain my vision for my daughter, and check in often with her teacher to ascertain whether we are still on track. Often schools can seem like secret societies. My advice is to be prepared that challenges will arise at some stage, and gather people around you who can support you.

My daughter is just about to finish her primary school experience and start her journey through high school. I have my vision for her firmly implanted in my mind and in the next little while will be imparting it to her new school. And of course it is the school where her brother and sister go to.  





Some great websites are:

http://allmeansall.org.au/

http://thegoodlife.cru.org.au/getting-started/#education 

http://www.startingwithjulius.org.au/

http://www.theinclusiveclass.com/

https://sipnweb.com/edinclusion-guide/

https://inclusiveschools.org/


For my readers living in Queensland, this is the link to Education Queensland's Inclusive Education page on their website:

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For more articles on difference and diversity you can find me on Facebook at:
https://www.facebook.com/JennyWoolseyAuthor/


Thursday, 11 October 2018

Healing


 H is for Healing

noun
noun: healing
1.
the process of making or becoming sound or healthy again.

Yesterday was World Mental Health Day, so I thought this blog should focus on emotional and psychological healing.

 Image result for world health mental health day image

***


There is no need to suffer silently and there is no shame in seeking help. – Catherine Zeta-Jones


Jesus said, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.’ Matthew 11:28-30

***
We all have problems, those stumbling blocks or things that crop up that interrupt the smooth running of our lives. Generally, they stop us from doing what we’d like to be doing. Most problems can be solved, either by problem-solving strategies, asking someone who’s already been through the situation, or enlisting the help of someone with experience in that area.

Sometimes though we cannot solve our problems. Sometimes despite all our best efforts to change things, nothing happens. We are stuck and when a person becomes stuck they will often experience symptoms in their body. It could be the shakes, or avoidance of situations or maybe even staying in bed. Some people try to escape from their problems and symptoms by working late, with food, alcohol, drugs, sex or excessive entertainment. This is not the way to live - we need to find healing.

Help for Your Mental Health

I would often look at the psychologist business cards at my local doctor’s clinic. For many years before I had my anxiety and depression breakdown, I wanted to go and see one, but I was scared and embarrassed. I knew my head wasn’t right. I knew there were things in my past that I needed to deal with. There were things I just couldn’t shake on my own. I knew the stress of my life was getting to me. But did I make the appointment? No. Not until it was forced upon me by my doctor. He told me that as part of my recovery I needed to go and see a psychologist. I had no choice. I had to do it. 
So why didn’t I go and seek help and healing years before when I knew in my heart that I should? 
Because I think there is a stigma about seeking help, particularly where our mental health is concerned. You must be crazy if you go and see a psychologist or a counsellor or go to a support group right? We feel it is a sign that we are not coping. That we are weak. But by not seeking help we are denying ourselves from being the best person we can be. Seeking help can rid us of chains that are wrapped around our brains and our hearts. A friend told me something I have always remembered. ‘If you had a broken arm you’d get it fixed, mental illness is the same. Go get it fixed.’ This is so true.  

Going to a psychologist has given me many ‘aha’ moments and through these 'aha' moments, I have been given healing. I act this way because of something in my past. I react this way because of something in my past. I have fears because of… I am obsessive and a perfectionist because… I married this person because… This is a trigger because… The list goes on. I now understand myself better. And when my anxiety takes over or I have bad or weird dreams, I can look at the situation and my reactions and feelings and ask myself, why I am feeling this way? And normally because of my therapy I can work through it. I can identify the triggers. I now have the skills to cope with my anxiety and depression when it hits. Therapy doesn’t take my feelings away, but I don’t go as low as I used to, and I know how to handle things. And if I don’t feel I can cope, I can ring my psychologist and make an appointment to go and work through it. 

Also if you have children who are displaying symptoms of anxiety and depression, take them to see a psychologist. My daughter has struggled with her mental health since she was 7 years old. It is really difficult to see your child struggling. Make known to them that you are there for them and they can tell you anything. Don’t presume they know that – tell them. I have found that they might not want to tell you anything so be prepared for that. At times I’ve had to read my daughter’s mental health through her behaviour and her Facebook posts. Now on the other hand they may tell you things that shock you. My advice if this happens, is to stay calm inside. If you blow up or react negatively, then they will shut down and may not come back to you in the future. You don’t want to lose their trust, but of course you also have to parent them. It’s a delicate balancing act. They may even say, ‘I’m okay,’ when they’re really not, as they don’t want to talk about how they are feeling. 

I must add here that you may not like the first psychologist you see. I was fortunate, I did, but my daughter did not. For a professional relationship to develop, you need to like your psychologist and need to feel at ease with them. There needs to be rapport between you both. If you don’t feel comfortable, or you feel like you’re being condescended, then you won’t be open or receptive to what the therapist is saying. My daughter tried a few different psychologists until we found her a match. If this happens to you, keep going until you find the right fit.  

Do you use google to solve your problems? There are great articles on reputable sites which can definitely help you but I still recommend seeing a professional, particularly if you have given the practical online advice and strategies a good shot, but you don’t feel any different.  

When sharing with friends, you will find that there are many who are eager to offer solutions to your problem. Before going ahead with the advice, consider things carefully. What gives your friends the wisdom to tell you what to do? Do they have expertise or experience in the field? 

So what does a psychologist do? To put it simply they talk to you and you talk to them. There is nothing scary about it. Now you’re probably wondering why would you talk to a stranger about your problems, particularly when you have friends or family you can talk to? Well psychologists are trained in different types of therapies and questioning techniques which help you to unpack what is at the core of your feelings. It may not be what you think it is. 

In general, going to a psychologist can help a person to:

  • ·         Change negative thoughts and feelings
  • ·         Encourage them to get involved in activities
  • ·         Develop problem-solving techniques 
  •           Speed the person’s recovery
  • ·         Identify ways to manage one’s mental and physical wellbeing


Psychologists can look past the words you are saying. They can pick up on your body language and your tone of voice. They can go deeper. They have the knowledge to explore your issues in a guided way. They are not going to give you answers necessarily but they will help you to express your needs, your hurts, and your wants. And talking to a psychologist is confidential. The psychologist is not going to gossip about you. You can be as open as you want to. There is no fear of embarrassment. You don’t need to keep secrets. You can expose your true self. 

Psychologists also can help you to identify triggers such as someone yelling in the shops may make you shaky if you were in an abusive relationship. They can teach you strategies for coping and ways to solve problems, and they can help you increase your self-confidence and train you to be assertive. They can help change your way of thinking about situations, and help you put everything in perspective. They encourage you to face your fears. They support you as you do face your fears. They can help you to question your own thinking, because our thinking is not always correct. It is affected by our experiences and can at times be irrational and illogical. I'm sure you can see how this can lead to your healing.

If you are in Australia, you can visit your GP and ask for a Mental Health Care Plan. This entitles you to up to 10 sessions with a psychologist in a year. These are free if you are on a pension card, or at a reduced cost as there is a Medicare rebate. You can also get five sessions per calendar year with a general Care Plan and some health funds pay for psychology. 



  • ·         Anxiety
  • ·         Bullying/racism
  • ·         Depression
  • ·         Family issues
  • ·         Health issues - Addictions / Dentistry / Eating Disorders / Illness and Somatoform Disorders / Pain Management / Smoking Cessation / Stress Management / Wellness
  • ·         Stress management
  • ·         Spirituality
  • ·         Trauma/PTSD  


It is important to know that a psychologists cannot prescribe medication. For this, a General Practitioner or psychiatrist needs to be consulted. 

Some more specific examples of when you should see a psychologist:

  1. An issue or your back story is causing considerable distress, and is affecting your life e.g. maybe you have severe anxiety which is stopping you from going to work, or you have diarrhea every day that you have work. Maybe you avoid social situations.  
  2. Your friends or family are pulling away because are tired of hearing about your problems, or they can’t cope with supporting you anymore.
  3. Nothing you have done helps.
  4. You have become addicted or overuse something because of your mental state. Maybe you overeat, or drink or take drugs.
  5.  People have told you to go and get help.

There are also website and helplines you can ring in Australia:

·         Kids Helpline https://kidshelpline.com.au/
·         Headspace https://www.headspace.org.au/
·         Beyond Blue  https://www.beyondblue.org.au/
·         Lifeline https://www.lifeline.org.au/
·         Black Dog Institute https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/

My final question is - Do you need to find healing for your mental health?

Image result for world health mental health day image

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Goal


G is for Goal

Do you believe in making New Year’s resolutions and if you do, how do you go? Do you start something like a diet with high expectations and then after a little while later it becomes too hard and you give up? One way to help yourself stay on track is to write a goal. 

So, what is a goal? 

A goal is a statement stating what you want to achieve when you want to achieve it and why you wish to achieve it. 

When I write goals, I use the SMART approach. 

Let me give you an example, then I will explain the process. 

I will walk for 30 minutes every day after I drop the children at school. I will do this because it will improve my fitness and mental health. I will begin tomorrow and I will assess how I have gone in a month.


So, SMART is an acronym that represents a framework for creating effective goals. It stands for five qualities your goals should have. They should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and realistic, and Time-bound. The SMART method has been proven to be one of the most popular and effective tools for creating realistic and achievable goals. And the more realistic and achievable they are, the more likely you are to be successful. 


Step One: Make your goal specific (S) 

Your first step is to decide what you want to achieve, then think about it in specific terms.

For example, a general goal could be, ‘I want to eat healthier. 

But what does the word healthier mean? Break the general term healthier down further. Does it mean one take-away meal per week; taking salads to work for lunch; two glasses of wine a week etc?

For this example, a more specific goal could be, ‘I will drink 8 glasses of water a day.’

You will notice that in this example I have included the number 8. This is something we can measure. Other examples could be: Go to the gym two nights a week. Lose 5kg of weight. Cut out all sugar from my coffee.

Next, answer the 5 "W" questions about your goal: Who, What, When, Where, and Why. 

After deciding what you want to happen, go to the who. Who do you need the help of? Could it be a personal trainer? A dietitian? A buddy? Support from your spouse or family?
Then decide where and when this will happen. Think about the location in which you will do the striving, and when you will fit it into your week. If it is to exercise more, where will you be – at home, the gym, the park, the local neighbourhood? When are you going to exercise? Are you going to get up earlier, or walk in your lunch hour? Also, think about how often. You may wish to exercise three times a week as you feel that is achievable. 
Work out why you are setting the goal. If you don't have a pretty good reason it is unlikely you will achieve it. Write down the reasons for and benefits of achieving your goal. Post them on your fridge or mirror, so when you really don’t want to keep going with your goal, they are there for you to see. 

Also it is important that you work out the obstacles or requirements for achieving the goal. Obstacles may be time-related, your health, family constraints, financial, personal safety. It could even be a psychological obstacle – maybe you hate eating, or you don’t like the way you look in gym gear. A requirement may be that you need a doctor’s clearance or you may need special equipment. If you want to achieve the goal you need to consider how these can be worked around or accommodated? 

Step Two: Make Your Goal Measurable (M)

I talked about this briefly above, when I said to use numbers in your goal. A description of the desired outcome can also be used. These will make it easy to track your progress and know when you have achieved your goal. For example you wish to lose 10 kilograms. So you will need to know your existing weight, so you can measure your progress and know when you have achieved it. Or, you could say as a description, ‘Fit back into my wedding dress.’ Both are able to be measured.
There are some questions that can help you with making your goal measurable:
  • How much? For example, "How much weight do I hope to lose?"
  • How many? For example, "How many times a week do I want to go to the gym?"
  • How will I know when I've accomplished the goal?
Devise a plan to track and measure your progress. Having measurable goals makes it easy to track your progress. If you wish to lose 10 kg, and you’ve lost 3, then you know you have 7 kgs to go. In this planning, decide how often you are going to measure your progress. Will it be in time e.g. once a week or fortnight, or the distance run, weights lifted, number of spoons of sugar, number of drinks of water, number of hours spent writing etc. Some people like to keep a journal. In this journal you can write the results you’ve seen, have motivational quotes, diary your feelings.

Step Three: Make Your Goal Attainable (A)

Think about your limitations and how committed you are to achieving the goal. You need to make sure that the goal you have set can actually be achieved, otherwise you may become discouraged. So think about the obstacles you’ve already identified. Then consider if you’ll be able to achieve your goal with them. If not, it would be best to choose a different goal. For example, if you want to go to the gym three times a week, but you can't realistically fit it into your schedule, then don't make that your goal.  

Step Four: Make Your Goal Relevant and Realistic (R)

Think about if your goal is relevant to your life. Will the goal will fulfil your desires or needs or if there’s a different goal that’s more important to you? For example, maybe you are tossing up between studying a course that will further your career and a course that is for enjoyment,  which would you choose?

Step Five: Make Your Goal Time-Bound (T)

This means your goal should have a deadline or there should be a date set for completion. It can be a long-term goal or a short-term goal, and you may have a long-term goal which is broken up into shorter goals. For example, if my long-term goal is to lose 50 kilograms, then my short-term goal could be to lose 10 kg in 6 months. Setting a deadline or finishing time helps you to stay on track. It takes away, ‘I’ll do it sometime.’

***

After you have written you SMART goal and implemented it, there will be a time you will need to assess how you went. If you achieved your goal, great! But if not, then take the time to reflect on why not. Were there obstacles preventing you? Was it too unreasonable? Did you lose motivation?

When thinking generally about the parts of the goal, ask yourself: What worked well? What didn’t? What was easy about the goal? What was hard about the goal? What would you change? What would you take into your next goal? Consider the time frame, the financial cost, the obstacles you had to overcome, any impact on your family, and anything else that you feel is worth considering.

Then once you have achieved your goal, celebrate, then set another one!