This is an interesting and thought provoking conversaton by a regular Flexi blog readers Dan Mercer and Kylie on the struggle experienced by schools to sensitively manage the tensions between the (lack of) money and the needs of students with a disability. I have edited it slightly - just to improve the online readability!
I have included Kylie's reply to Dan's reflections as part of a wider discourse discussed in this blog some time ago on how we (humans and organisations) can keep doing things better for service users - and yet keep the authenticity and connectedness focused on the individual.
I am nearly finished my Phd. The title of the project outlined below has arisen from two previous tries at defining a project. The first try was an intervention in a Special Education Unit on a student which aimed to teach him to manage his own Individual Education Plan (IEP). The second try aimed to look at staff attitudes to new policies of Least Restrictive Behaviour with a Queensland Service Provider. Both of these ideas met obstacles and we abandoned them.
My interest in young people with disabilities and my Christian world view caused me to want to research the difficulties faced by local Christian schools in enrolling students with disabilities (SWD). The funding difference between an SWD in a government school and a Christian school was cause for conflict revealed in open letters to the Queensland government by various Christian groups. Thus I uncovered a difficulty for many Christian schools who want to enrol students with disabilities. How do these schools manage their faith and Christian educational philosophy, with the conflict of government controls on funding to the Christian schools? What are the perspectives of stakeholders in RICSQ on disability? How do they define disability?
"how do these schools manage their faith and christian educational philosophy, with the conflict of government controls on funding..."
I think you are getting closer by questioning perspectives and definition of disability. Pretty much all human services, including health sciences, struggle with providing services in the face of resource constraints, whilst angsting over how to maintain service that is congruent with beliefs, philosophies, evidence and a theory base.
All schools including Christian schools in a sense are no different, working to fulfill their vision in the face of adversity. Sometimes principle wins out, sometimes instrumental perspectives win in order to at least maintain the appearance of the vision of service. I think that schools are part of the larger landscape of society, where ADHD is medicated yet not therapeutically managed and does not qualify for funding in school support; and ASD is funded. Yet diagnosis, as with ADHD, can be laid on thick and fast, and often instrumentally - to gain school support funding, and through a superficial diagnosis that does not include wider family support.
I think what I'm trying to say is that funding for disability support in schools is set in a larger landscape of conceptions and misrepresentations of what a normal child is...and this is partly determined according to what funding and support can be supplied: to a degree disability is relative to time, era, ideology and even culture.
I would suggest that if more resources were available across the board, less children would require a diagnosis in order to get support, because the "normal" way of doing things - would be able to accommodate and include the real normal. This, of course is a continuum - and unfortunately where the range on the continuum is at any point in time, is actually accommodated: shrinking with funding availability, or widening. So how do schools manage their faithful service in tending to all equitably?
They redefine the skills required to be an education worker. They tend to more of a range in abilities as the norm, rather than the exclusionary practices we all take for granted. Ones that now identify certain qualities or characteristics as a deficit. But by using a strengths approach, an anti oppressive practice perspective, could characterise another model of education.
At the end of the day: yes, the money available is a problem. When we remember how to use each other as resources as a community again, we may find that much can be gained through good will.
The community as an extension of formal service provision that seems to characterise Flexi Queensland, illustrated in their current accommodation project, might go some way to illuminating the interface with formal service provision and informal resource networking.
That might be some of the answers to how schools can provide more in the face of funding limitations, while extending the Christian ethos of inclusion and charity in a sense that reaches broader than the P and C, and other somewhat (in reality) closed groups that typically operate in schools.
Hope all is going well with your project, perhaps you are finished by now, thanks for offering a space to contribute.
Thanks Dan and Kylie - keep the thoughts coming!
I will be posting photos of our accommodation project in a few days!! We will be ready to start collecting expressions of interest from people who would like to move in then too!