I had to write this essay for my English writing class and I decided to share it with you before I hand it in. As you know, English is not my native language, please excuse any mistakes. Feel free to contact me with any kind of advice! A big thank you to Philip for giving me a couple ideas.
April 2 is World Autism Awareness Day, which highlights the frequent exclusion of autistic people from school and work opportunities. To what extent do you agree or disagree with integrating disabled people into our everyday life?
Many people think people with disabilities should be separated because they are a “burden” to society. Every single person, with or without a disability, is unique, but that doesn't mean someone should be discriminated against because he doesn't fit in society's idea of normal. It is very important to include every person in everyday life and everyone can contribute to society if they are given the chance to. For example, autistic people are often considered “stupid” or “worthless” because of their unusual behavior, but this is just a prejudice caused by ignorance.
Autistic brains work differently from neurotypical brains. Because of the way their brains work, autistic people may need to move their body or avoid eye contact to be able to think and avoid sensory overload, but that doesn't mean they are mentally challenged. Many autistic people can't talk or communicate in a reliable way, so they are often put in special education. Teachers think they can't learn just because they can't demonstrate understanding in a “standard” way. This is not a solution. Society needs to give these kids accommodations to be heard and teach them in a way that they feel accepted and valued. Just because they can't speak, it doesn't mean they can't think or feel just like anyone else. There are methods such as RPM (Rapid Prompting Method) that allow non-verbal kids to communicate through typing, which allows them to be considered smart and reach their full potential. Such methods could allow inclusion of autistic kids in mainstream schools.
The problem of inclusion does not only apply to autistic people but to people with disabilities in general. The main obstacle to inclusion is society's perception of disability. Disabled people are seen as unable to achieve, they are considered a burden instead of a resource. This mindset leads to one of the biggest problems that we have to overcome in order to achieve full inclusion, that is pity. Pity is an obstacle to inclusion because able-bodied see disabled people as an opportunity to be nice and they feel good because they helped the unlucky ones. People who care about and love someone with special needs are often considered heroes, in the same way as people on wheelchairs, for example, are considered heroes just for getting out of bed and remembering their names.
This is a very dangerous way of thinking because it implies someone doesn't deserve to be loved and accepted as much as anyone else just because of their disability and that disabled people are expected to spend their lives at home doing nothing, so it is surprising to see people on wheelchairs living a normal life.
Many people with disabilities, especially if they are mentally challenged, are given jobs “just to give them something to do”. In many cases, people with special needs work very hard and are often underpaid. The people hiring them take advantage of the fact that in some cases they can't advocate for themselves and they don't have a strong support system to “exploit” them.
In many countries, the school system doesn't do much to include kids with special needs in mainstream education. Let's try to figure out what the obstacles are and what we could do to remove them: different kinds of disabilities mean different kinds of obstacles.
Kids with developmental disorders may find it hard to attend a mainstream school because of their lack of social interaction (as in the case of autism), but they could be gradually included if the school makes an effort to help them overcome their challenges, for example by testing them in a way that they can demonstrate understanding, which may not be the typical way. Some kids, for example those with Down Syndrome, have intellectual disabilities that may prevent them from keeping up with the other kids' schoolwork, these kids will have different tasks if necessary, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't be able to do their best and be around their non-disabled peers.
Kids with physical disabilities may have trouble attending school because of physical obstacles, such as stairs or lack of equipment (computers, special desks and so on). These problems are really easy to solve and public schools should make an effort to make the school buildings accessible to kids of all abilities. Inclusion does not only benefit kids with special needs, it also teaches other kids respect for all people and increases their understanding and acceptance of diversity.
People are only disabled when the environment around them doesn't enable them to reach their full potential. By eliminating the obstacles to inclusion, we turn the disability into a distinctive feature, which is not something bad, it is just part of a person and it has to be embraced. If we make an effort to fully include people with special needs in society we will learn to see the world from a different perspective and free our mind from prejudice. Inclusion is something we could all benefit from.