This video, of a young lady who has been fully included, was touted as evidence of the benefit of full inclusion for the development of real meaningful social relationships at a webinar I recently attended.
Did you notice what was missing? Jocelyn's mother was interviewed. Jocelyn's friends were interviewed. Jocelyn was not. Everyone else spoke about what they *thought* Jocelyn wanted/thought/believed. They don't know. Because they can't ask her. Why? As far as we can tell from this video, Jocelyn has no formal communication system (not even a yes/no.) For all we know, Jocelyn wishes these girls would leave her alone and only tolerates them to make her mother happy. We don't know. We can't ask Jocelyn.
And that's what worries me about full inclusion for students like Jocelyn - and for the students I teach. I worry that their limited classroom time will be focused on social integration and on access skills that make them part of the classroom instead of on developing meaningful functional communication systems that will help them create independent lives for themselves as adults.
Listen very carefully to the voices of non-speaking self-advocates. Their intelligence was realized by others after someone taught them how to use a communication system and they were able to communicate their desire to learn (or what they had already learned.) Access to education is nothing without a system to communicate what you know. If we are going to implement full inclusion, we have allocate the time and resources to develop functional communication skills from the very beginning. And for our older students who have not had access to the communication and academic instruction they should have before now, for whatever reason, we have to recognize that our number one priority has to be communication - and that takes time.