I wasn’t planning to undertake the Special Educational Needs and Inclusion module as part of my MA course in Learning and Teaching- not for any particular reason, other than thinking I wouldn’t have time, but about a week before the first session, I changed my mind decided to go all in. After all, as part of my role within the university, I’m expected to have an understanding and knowledge base of issues that may arise as a result of supporting students with learning difficulties or disabilities, and if I’m working toward becoming a better teacher, having a better grasp of what inclusion “means” would only serve to benefit me. Well, okay, I’m sure it would benefit the students, themselves, as well.
SEN is a sensitive subject for me. Not because I feel awkward around those with special educational needs or because I have a personal connection (which I do…don’t we all?). It’s slightly the opposite. Growing up, I was always told how clever or smart I was and never felt like there were barriers to achieving academically. School and homework was nothing to fear and report card day was always a celebration. I was oblivious to the challenges those with SEN face- in all it’s myriad forms. You may be rolling your eyes at me by this point, but please bear with me- this IS going somewhere.
During the first lecture of the module, we spent some time talking about labels- discussing both the positive and negative aspects of labeling those with educational needs. It may sound self-centered, but I started thinking about how receiving the “gifted” label affected me throughout my academic life. Again, I’m sure you’re all getting your imaginary violins out for me, but it struck me as highly interesting to be able to empathise with those who, for all my life, seemed so different. I found myself engaging more with the lecturers than I previously assumed, and, once beginning my case study assignment (I chose to look at the way students with Asperger’s were identified and provided support within higher education) became both engrossed and emotionally attached to the SEN aspect of education within this country.
I don’t suppose I’ll ever fully understand what it is like to have a special educational need- and better yet- to not have those needs acknowledged or met. However, after participating in this module, I am more confident in my ability to look at the way I design my sessions or engage with learners individually.
Below is a link to a presentation given as part of our assessment in which we were asked to choose a logo, image, drawing, etc. that represented how we see inclusion in education. After staring, day in and day out at a Kandinsky print on my wall at home, I started thinking about how what I understood as inclusion was represented in the painting.