The benefits of inclusive education for children with disabilities

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) specifies that “States shall take all necessary measures to ensure the full enjoyment by children with disabilities of all human rights and fundamental freedoms on an equal basis with other children”, and “ensure an inclusive education system at all levels and lifelong learning” (articles 7 and 24). Handi-Capable agrees with the United Nations and would like to see implementation of these promises.  Action, not just words!

In the case of children with Cerebral Palsy (CP) inclusive education poses multiple challenges. The intellectual abilities of individuals with CP can vary significantly, depending on the type of CP and their associated conditions. Some children may be unaffected intellectually but face physical difficulties which impact their integration in the classroom, while others will have mild or significant intellectual impairment that may require a full adaptation of the curriculum, together with the use of specialized communication strategies (e.g. easy-to-read content). In addition, children with CP need daily physical therapy services that are often provided in the context of their learning environment, thus significantly limiting the total amount of time they devote to learning activities.

These challenges naturally stop many countries and governments from providing inclusive education and instead provide specialized schools or institutions for the special needs population. However, we think that the benefits of inclusive education far outweigh the challenges both socially and economically.

In order to prove our point, Handi-Capable in cooperation with the Department of Translation Technology from the University of Geneva, is initiating a joint research project proposal investigating specialized schools versus inclusive schools from multiple angles. In doing so, we would compare the main inclusive school system offered to children with handicaps in different parts of the world (USA, Swiss, Norway and others) vs the specialized school system. Our assumption is that it will show these benefits, by using qualitative and quantitative methods.

We expect, too, that the research-based evidence collected will serve to advocate for a new set of methods and best practices to be followed which will in turn lead to cutting-edge breakthroughs in education and, eventually, increased employment opportunities for people with CP. This new guidance will cover, among others, evidence-based recommendations related to the selection of subjects and learning materials, the use of technology and time allocation suggestions.

This research project will not only allow us to develop new educational practices and resources, but it will also shed light on the needs and challenges of the CP community. It shows a vast potential in terms of social impact, both in the short and long term, and can have a direct effect on the quality of life of young individuals with CP, their integration in our society and their ability to be financially self-supporting. It is expected that the outcome of the project will contribute to the definition and implementation of more effective educational programs for children with CP and clearer career development paths for the young adults that they will one day become.

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