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By Dr. Erika Cedillo, Director of Public Policy & Programs, Inclusion BC; and Dr. Leyton Schnellert, Inclusive Education Research Lead, Canadian Institute for Inclusion and Citizenship

Students with developmental disabilities have faced discrimination and stigma in schools. Extensive media attention has been given to “behaviour” of students with developmental disabilities that is deemed unsafe. They are being excluded from classrooms and ostracized in their communities. Organizations from the United Nations to local parent advocacy groups are calling for action to recognize students with developmental disabilities as full citizens with the right to equitably access education.

Inclusion BC and the Canadian Institute for Inclusion and Citizenship (CIIC) partnered to create four short films to raise awareness about the exclusion of students with developmental disabilities and to offer key information and possible pathways to success for students, families, and schools. We convened focus groups that included former students, families, educators, Indigenous people, professionals, and community organizations to co-create the vision for these films. Drawing on their lived experiences, participants shared stories and offered examples of the issues and barriers they face. Through this process, we identified the main messages that these films convey to support educators and the community at large to advance inclusive education.

We want these films to inspire future learning for educators by offering knowledge, strategies, and approaches that debunk negative myths about the inclusion of students with disabilities in regular classrooms. The collection is intended to raise the expectations of the educational outcomes of students with developmental disabilities, shift the language from deficit to strength-based, honour cultural approaches, and position students with developmental disabilities as contributing members of classroom communities and our society.

These short films can be watched individually or all together as a series. We invite educators to watch them with their colleagues and with their students. We hope they will provoke meaningful discussions.

Film 1: Exercising Self-Determination in Our Schools

British Columbia has embraced a competency-based curriculum. At the heart of this pedagogical approach is nurturing self-determination within all learners. Every student has the right to set goals, make plans, make mistakes, reflect on their learning, and recognize their growth and agency. The same needs to be true for students with developmental disabilities by supporting them to own their voice and fostering their self-determination like the rest of their peers, so that we all see them as contributors and important members of our society.

Film 2: Reframing Challenging Behaviour inOur Schools

Centering the voices of self-advocates, viewers are encouraged to consider how our responses to behaviours that are symptomatic of something else can be either identity-supportive or harmful. This film challenges us to shift our perspectives to understand behaviour as communication, so that we can approach a challenging situation with curiosity and empathy to support a student. We need to look at the context and environment in which this is happening. Equally important is the collaboration that needs to occur to support the learning community in the classroom and school.

Film 3: Getting Ready to Work in Our Schools

Everyone deserves to be recognized as a contributing member of society through employment. Pathways to employment for students with developmental disabilities need to be initiated in schools. In this film, self-advocates, educators, family members, and employment experts spotlight key considerations for nurturing career pathways for students. The expectations for future opportunities need to be higher. Accessing new and diverse employment opportunities comes from giving students the time and space to identify their abilities and strengths, set their own career paths, and gain the confidence to show employers their full potential.

Film 4: Indigeneity and Disability in Our Schools

We have much to learn from Indigenous perspectives on disability and inclusion. Indigenous communities value every one of their members for their gifts and talents. This film calls educators to welcome the gifts of Indigenous students with disabilities and to recognize their culture as part of who they are and how they learn. Indigenous self-advocates, family members, educators, and Knowledge Keepers explain cultural approaches to inclusion and disability and the importance of incorporating Indigenous knowledge and ways of being and doing in the education of all children. BC school districts can enrich the learning of all students with this knowledge by connecting with local Indigenous communities and finding ways to collaborate.

Watch and connect

These films are available at www.inclusionbc.org/our-campaigns/inclusive-education.

Inclusion BC and the CIIC would love to hear about the actions that these films have inspired you to take. You can contact us by email at info@inclusionbc.org.