Opinion: According to Pauline Hanson I hold my peers back and I shouldn't be in mainstream school. I think she should live a day in our shoes.

VicSRC's Bryce Pace responds to Senator Hanson's call to separate students with autism from mainstream classrooms.

Bryce Pace

Image via the I CAN Network

Not too long ago, Pauline Hanson struck again. This time her target was disability and autistic students.

In a statement to the senate she said that disabled students - particularly autistic learners - shouldn’t be in mainstream classrooms as they hold other students back from learning. Senator Hanson also stated that "Most of the time the teacher spends so much time on them [students on the autism spectrum] they forget about the child who ...wants to go ahead in leaps and bounds in their education but are held back by those because the teachers spend time with them."

What she said struck the autism community hard. Her statement especially stuck me hard. At the age of nine I was diagnosed with autism which changed how people saw me. To my primary school, I was just the autistic kid who needed more support than my neurotypical peers. I was segregated and taught life skills such as cooking and reading a phone book instead of learning the typical things a kid my age should be learning. Due to this segregation in primary school, I ended up being approximately two years behind my peers in many academic areas. If it wasn’t for the support of my wonderful mother I probably would never have even learnt year 5 and 6 maths. 

When I reached secondary school, a lot changed for the better. I was included in the mainstream classes and was treated as an equal with my neurotypical peers. I was also given the chance to go ahead in leaps and bounds in my education because the perceived barriers of being an autistic student disappeared. 

My story illustrates why segregating autistic students could be more harm than good for some.

So, what is the alternative to segregation? Well I’m glad you asked. The alternative is what’s called inclusive schools. While I was researching for this article I came across a lot of different definitions as to what an inclusive school is however, there were some persistent similarities.

Inclusive schools welcome everyone into mainstream classrooms whilst still providing support to those who need it. They do not discriminate against difference however encourage it. Inclusive schools are the future for education and the future for young people who will one day make their mark on this world and segregation will I hope be a thing of the past.

Every state in Australia has policies and acts that support inclusive schools so why aren’t we creating them? I believe the reason why we are not creating inclusive schools is because we are so accustomed to how things have always been and are not paying attention to what students want and need. Students want to attend a school who welcomes and values their unique perspective on the world and who supplies them with an education that best suits them.

Currently there are very few schools who fit the definition of an inclusive school. I encourage all schools to make their schools more inclusive as students like me also deserve an education that best suits them. Senator Hanson may not believe in an inclusive society, however I know that I along with many other Australians do. We are the people creating schools for the future.

Bryce Pace
Autism Advocate, Blogger, Speaker
VicSRC Executive 2016-2017

To read more articles like this one and to find out how to make your school more inclusive visit: www.brycepaceautismadvocate.wordpress.com

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