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The Language of Inclusion

Laura Schlesinger and Shauna Hobbs Graded, The American School of São Paulo

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity of attending the Next Frontier Inclusion Conference held at Graded.  The conference was attended by teachers and administrators from international schools across South America.  Graded attendees included Learning Specialists, EAL teachers, and administrators.

When we talk about “inclusion”, what do we mean? Well, at Graded, we can refer back to our new Mission statement: inspire, challenge, succeed – every child, every heart, every mind.  We mean that we will meet every child who enters our campus where they are, and do our best to help them move a step forward.  NFI believes that the high-quality education available at international schools should include children who learn differently or at different rates. Inclusion benefits all students, because it adds diversity and promotes social-emotional learning.

Rather than thinking of children in categories (ADHD, gifted, autistic, EAL…) who do not fit into the typical classroom mold, NFI encourages teachers to start from the perspective that every child learns differently.  Every single child is unique, and if we start there, we are able to celebrate their strengths and appreciate their differences.

Another key point that came from the conference was that inclusion is not enough.  We can’t simply accept students with special needs to our school and pretend everything will be okay.  A truly inclusive demands well-trained teachers and administrators, sufficient resources, and excellent systems for providing extra services.  It means all stakeholders (students, parents, teachers, admin, board members) are working together and committed to doing whatever it takes to meet the needs of all students.  The NFI team asked us to self-assess our school to identify areas of strength and areas to work on…it is a process, a journey…but it is one that makes us all stronger, smarter, and kinder as we work together!


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