In this webcast Anna Lucia Rago shares her experience in developing inclusive educational programs in Brazil. She talks about the process and the partnerships required to develop a successful inclusive program.
Anna Lucia is a physical therapist in Brazil and was a participant in the Perkins International Educational Leadership Program at Perkins.
Read full transcript »
Presented by Anna Lucia Rago
Length of time to complete: approximately 30 minutes
CHAPTER 1: Introduction
RAGO: I am a physical therapist, but I started working with children with low vision with or without additional disability at the hospital in the health area. But then I realized that I couldn’t be only at the hospital because the things that I was working there should go to other places. So I started working with the family.
That’s the first thing that I thought. And then… because I started working with the babies. And then the babies were growing up, so I thought, “Well, I have to go to the schools now to work with them because I cannot just stay here in my room,” so I started working with the schools. And then… just with the schools that have children that were at the hospital.
But then I start listening from the educators, “No, you have to go to talk and to teach all the schools, because it’s very important for us.” And then I thought, they are right, because if I do that, I can train teachers that have or that will have some child with special needs in his or her classroom, and then I started to look for support to do the seminars, to support the schools.
There is a law. Maybe the law exists for ten years, I think, and just because of the law, the inclusion started happening. So, the law is very important for us, but at the same time, we have the law, but we don’t have actions from the government that can make the law work.
So… and here is when the non-governmental services or institutions are working. We are trying to help the government to prepare the situations and the schools to do the inclusion.
CHAPTER 2: Inclusion Starts at Home
RAGO: We want the family to understand that inclusion begins in the family and at home.
So when we work with them talking about inclusion, we are also visiting the home and trying to find together strategies that can give to the child the opportunity to participate in the daily living activities.
And after that, when they see that the child can really participate and do things, after that they can help us better with their school.
NARRATOR: In a photograph, we see a mother preparing to send her adolescent son to school for the day. The boy is multiply disabled and sits in a padded high-back chair that provides support.
RAGO: The parents are aware, but at the same time, most of them are not so strong to fight for the child’s rights.
So when we work with supporting the inclusion, we also work with the families.
Actually we start working with the family and say to them, “Your child can learn, and we can show that with activities, and you can help us in the school in this process.” So, it’s very important to have them with us.
CHAPTER 3: Creating an Inclusive Environment
RAGO: We try to… first, I think, we try to get everybody involved in the process, so the child with the special needs is not the responsibility only of the teacher.
So all of the school community has to be involved in this process, and mainly the director of the school and the coordination. Otherwise, the teacher feels lonely and without tools to help the child.
So we try to get everybody involved in the process. This is one step.
And then, when we are there to watch the child and to know the reality of the school, and the routine, and the strategies they use, the materials, everything, when we have the feedback meeting, we try to discuss the situations that we observed and we try to make them find solutions.
Because we always say to them, “I’m not here to… I’m not the solution. “I’m not here to give miraculous solutions. “I don’t have them. I’m here to build something together.” So everybody needs to be involved and thinking and giving ideas. So this is one of our strategies.
NARRATOR: In a photograph, we see four mothers whose children are either visually impaired, or multiply disabled. They are attending a meeting at school.
They sit in four chairs facing the camera, and each has a folder of materials which have been provided to them by a teacher and a trainer, who stand behind the women in the photograph.
RAGO: And it’s so nice to see when they learn to listen to each other– the family, the school, the coordination, and the teacher. It’s so nice, because when they start listening to each other, they start also working together and finding answers.
CHAPTER 4: Teaching the Teachers
RAGO: We start trying to make them to make reflection about the impact of the deficiency in the learning process. Because usually we don’t stop to think, “What’s my vision is important for, or my hearing or my movements?”
So, we try to start with this. Let’s think, and they can try with simulation glasses. So, let’s feel and think what my vision is important for, and if I don’t have it, what I am missing from the environment.
The same for hearing or movement. And then with that, they can start understanding the needs of the child, because they have the experience. So, this is one strategy.
NARRATOR: We see a photograph of a room full of teachers undergoing a training.
In the foreground, one teacher wears a pair of goggles that simulates the vision of a person with severe visual impairment. The teacher holds a line drawing of a house quite close to her face in an attempt to recognize the shapes depicted.
RAGO: When we are working with the inclusion, watching the child in the classroom activities, after the observation, we sit with the teacher and coordinator and family, and then we start saying, in the beginning… we go step by step.
“In the beginning, you did this activity, “and let’s think how Nathan, for example, participated in it, and do you think he could do this better?” “Yes, I think…” And how. So, what can we do? And we try to do it in a very concrete way because, otherwise, it’s so difficult for them to imagine the difficulties of the child and the strategies that we want them to use.
Sometimes it’s so abstract they cannot understand and put into practice. So it’s better when they can be in that experience and then think about the child.
CHAPTER 5: Sharing Experience Nathan’s Story
RAGO: So when we started with Nathan, he was already in preschool, and then we went there to ask permission to try to help and support inclusion, and it was a very positive experience with this preschool.
This year when he went to another school, because he went to the elementary school, we went there before him so we could talk to the director and to the coordinator and present the project and say what were our goals with the project and to prepare them a little bit.
But we wait, Nathan arrives, and we give them time to know him, because it’s important for the process. They have to have their own view of Nathan. So after that, we started with the work.
For example, in this situation, Nathan was sitting on his wheelchair, and all the children were sitting on the floor. So, when I saw that, I could observe that Nathan could not make eye contact with his colleagues and he cannot follow the actions of his colleagues because he was in a higher position.
So when we had the feedback meeting, we talked to the teacher about that, and she had the solution. “Oh, so maybe I can put everybody on chairs. Yes, that will be great.” And then she did that the next day, because she was very fast, this teacher.
NARRATOR: In a photograph, we see a classroom full of children. Nathan sits in his wheelchair under a window.
On either side of him, his classmates, who previously sat crosslegged on the floor, are now on chairs that bring them closer to his height.
RAGO: And it was much better, because they were all at the same level so they could connect better and talk to each other better, and the colleagues were more close to Nathan, and talking to him and helping him or pointing and showing things to him, so the interaction was better.
The thing that I saw that is most important is to work with more concrete examples. Because if we just talk about inclusion, about children with special needs, it’s too abstract for people, you know? So when we have the example there and we work on it, it’s much better, I think.
We say children learn with concrete experience, and we also learn with concrete experience, so it’s very important. I think this is a strategy that works better — having a concrete situation and learn from that.
CHAPTER 6: The Benefits of Inclusive Strategies
RAGO: One thing is that the strategies can work to many different children. And also that sometimes when we suggest to the teacher, “Oh, you can do a different calendar, for example, with high contrast.”
It’s good to make them aware that some materials, or some strategies of teaching are good for everyone, not just for the child that has special needs, but will benefit everybody in the classroom. So this is important for them to know, because sometimes they are like, “Oh, I cannot leave my own strategies and go to another one.”
It’s insecurity, leaving what I know to do a new thing, and then they can see that new thing or that new strategy can help everybody. So it’s very positive.
NARRATOR: In a photograph, we see a large calendar for the month of August 2011.
The background is bright yellow, the days of the week are printed in black ink on white paper, and are posted across the top of the calendar within a black rectangle, providing even more contrast.
The days are represented by small squares of various colors of paper, which have a large number printed on them corresponding to the date. The students can place them within the calendar grid using Velcro.
RAGO: When I see that the school is understanding all the needs of that child, and they already know the adaptations of materials, activities, and the resources they can use with the child, I feel okay, it’s going fine, it’s going well.
I think the point is when I can see the team of this school finding solutions, and this is the point I say, “Now I can start leaving them” because they know the child, they can see what he or she needs and they can find solutions by themselves. So, when I see this school at this point, I think, “Okay, now I can go to another one.”
CHAPTER 7: Building Capacity for Inclusive Education
RAGO: Okay, so from the government, we are trying to help them to train the educators, because this is a need for them and for us also as a society.
I think the universities are becoming aware that they have to prepare teachers today for special education and inclusion, and I can see there are more people getting interested in it. Also I can see in the public schools, the teachers that are already working with that, in the beginning, like seven or eight years ago, the teachers were almost always saying, “No, I cannot do that. “It’s so difficult, so hard, I know nothing about this, I cannot do it.” And now, I can see a change.
They say, “I have this child I know nothing about this, “but I want to help him to learn, “I want to teach him, I want to learn how to teach him.”
I am very happy when I listen to that, and I am listening more and more, and during the seminars, I can hear to different people telling some… sharing experiences. So it’s good to see the teachers are getting involved and are available to try to promote inclusion.
NARRATOR: In a photograph, we see two young girls, students, working closely together at a desk.
One girl, with curly brown hair, leans over and confers with her classmate, who has albinism.
The girl with albinism wears thick glasses and leans close to the assignment page on which they are working.
RAGO: It’s a challenge to make responsible inclusion anywhere. But when we don’t have money and knowledge, and those things, it’s a big challenge, I think. But I think we are going forward. We are walking, in some way, so that’s important.
NARRATOR: The project for teacher training in inclusion was made possible by the Lavelle Fund for the Blind, through a grant to Perkins.