#041 Julie Causton on the long game of love and connection

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Dr. Julie Causton is the founder and CEO of Inclusive Schooling.  Her teaching, research and consulting are guided by a passion for inclusive education. 

On today’s podcast episode we cover why placement matters, friendships, moving away from one-to-one educational assistants, and the long game of love and connection with students with difficult behaviours.

The long game of love and connection sounds nice, doesn’t it? Nice, but not easy.

In the interview, Dr. Causton mentions that in the first thirteen days of school she heard from ten school teams looking for support around students with difficult behaviours.

We want inclusion to work. We aren’t always sure how to make it happen.

Have you heard about Inclusion Academy? Only until October 8th, membership is open. Inclusion Academy offers the resources, tools and access to experts that you need in order work on the long game of love and connection.

Julie Causton

Dr. Causton was a Professor in the Inclusive and Special Education Program in the Department of Teaching and Leadership at Syracuse University for the past 14 years.  

She has particular areas of expertise are school reform, inclusive teacher training, collaboration, humanistic behavioral supports, lesson planning, and providing invisible adult supports.  Julie has also provided independent educational evaluations in due process hearings across the nation.She has both the legal knowledge and practical experience to do this work. 

Her published works have appeared in over 30 academic journals including:  Remedial And Special Education, Teaching Exceptional Children, Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability, Theory into Practice issue on Inclusive Leadership and Social Justice, International Journal of Inclusive Education, Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, The School Administrator , Equity and Excellence in Education , Studies in Art Education, Journal of Special Education Leadership, Journal of Research in Childhood Education, Behavioral Disorders, Educational Leadership, Science Scope and Exceptional Children.

She has written 6 books for school professionals about inclusive education that are widely read by school teams and teacher education programs across the country.  Last year she supported schools in the area of inclusive school reform in twelve states and in several parts of Canada. 


Genia:            Welcome to the Good Things in Life Podcast. My name is Genia Stephen. If you were listening last week, you would have heard me talk a little bit about this, but in case you weren’t, I just wanted to talk about a really exciting development. So the last several episodes we’ve been talking about inclusive education and I’ve been saying that those episodes are sponsored by the upcoming course that Good Things in Life is offering with inclusive education expert Marilyn Dolmage called Belonging in School: The What, Why and How of Inclusive Education and that’s true. That course is still happening, but what’s really exciting is that in response to the requests for more information that the questions I was getting about what happens after the course? You know, how do I learn about this ongoingly when issues come up? Because they’re going to come up. What are we going to do about that?

Genia:            I decided to reopen the Good Things in Life membership. The really exciting part about that is that with this new opening of the membership, Good Things in Life is also collaborating with Integration Action for Inclusion, which is a parent inclusion advocacy organization in Ontario, Canada. The really special thing about Integration Action for Inclusion beyond the amazing work they do within the province of Ontario is that it contains a wealth of knowledge and some real world class experts on inclusive education. So Good Things in Life and Integration Action for Inclusion are partnering to offer an even more powerful membership called The Inclusion Academy. The Inclusion Academy will start with the course with Marilyn Dolmage Belonging in School: The What, Why and How of Inclusive Education, which gives you a strong and powerful foundation on inclusion basics so that you can get started right away. And then Inclusion Academy will continue with a community with live expert presentations on issues around how to help support people with disabilities to build good inclusive lives in community core concepts that you’re going to need.

Genia:            And Integration Action for Inclusion is going to be offering weekly quick win lessons on inclusion implementation strategies. So this is powerful content, like how to help kids make friends, how to adapt curriculum, how to manage IEPs, um, how to support people with alternative and augmentative communication, how to teach kids with intellectual disabilities, how to read super powerful stuff. So the membership is only open for a very short time, only a few more days when this podcast episode airs because we’re getting started with the Belonging in School course, which starts on October 9th. So you really don’t have very much time. Head on over to goodthingsinlife.org/inclusion and get all the details. Now, today’s podcast episode is really powerful. Today I’m talking with Dr. Julie Causton. Julie is the founder and CEO of Inclusive Schooling. She was a professor in the Inclusive and Special Education program in the Department of Teaching and Leadership at Syracuse University for the past 14 years.

Genia:            And her teaching and research and consulting are guided by a passion for inclusive education. She has particular expertise in school reform, inclusive teacher training, so needed, right? Collaboration, humanistic behavioral supports, lesson planning, and providing invisible adult supports. Julie also provides independent educational evaluations in due process hearings across the nations, across the nation. And she has both the legal knowledge and the practical experience to do that work. Her work has been published and appeared in over 30 academic journals. She’s written six books for school professionals about inclusive education that are widely read by school teams and teacher education programs across the country. So I’m really, really excited about having Julie on this podcast today. I can’t wait to get started. I know you’re going to find it super powerful so let’s jump in.

Genia:            Julie Causton, thank you so much for joining me on the Good Things in Life Podcast. I’m thrilled that you’re here. Um, I wonder if you would start by introducing yourself and talking about your relationship with people with disabilities and their families.

Julie:              Sure. Thanks Genia. I’m so excited to be here and to hear about the work that you’re doing with this podcast. It’s awesome. Um, I can tell you a little bit about me. So I was in elementary, middle and high school, special education teacher and uh, immediately became enthralled and thrilled and on fire about the concept of inclusive education. Um, I taught, um, for six years in public school and then wanted to go on right away and get my master’s and doctorate in inclusive education where I’ve been working in the field of inclusive education now for 20 plus years as a researcher and as a scholar and I’m an author and a speaker. And mostly what I do is I help school districts really understand what inclusive education is and then teach them how to achieve inclusive education through professional development. And um, actually really relooking that their system.

Julie:              So if they’ve got a lot of segregated settings and resource room placements and things like that, we really re-examine all of that and shift structures at the same time. I help raise capacity for folks. Um, and so when you asked me about people and families with disabilities, I do this work in tandem with people with disabilities. So, um, I can only say so much about what it’s like to be in a self contained classroom, but when I present with someone who, who had that experience and can talk about that, that, uh, really makes things come alive for people. And so I spend a lot of time working closely with, alongside people with intellectual disabilities and um, I also help families in who are involved in mediation and litigation around inclusive practices. So many, many families all over the country, I get to know and work with their children and help them become more included.

Genia:            Great. And what, why, why did you decide to take your career in this direction?

Julie:              Um, it became immediately apparent to me that there were two systems in education – special education and general education. And um, I mean, for example, I started my first teaching position and they gave me a room and I, a key to the room and I said, “Well, I’m not going to need this room because the kids on my caseload are going to be in general education classrooms.” And that was really confusing to people that I, that, it was confusing to school systems to really start with this presumption of competence and then figure out how to support students. Um, and I found a niche immediately that we had to go student by student to make this happen instead of system by system with the expectation being that all kids are general education members. Um, and that we expect friendships and connections and all these kinds of things that weren’t being expected from students with labels. Um, and their families we’re being told this was the only way to go. Um, so it wasn’t, I wasn’t in the system for five minutes before I figured that something needs to change and quickly. So I also then became an inclusion facilitator. So I helped my school system take on the concept of inclusion. And in doing that I realized this work needed to happen everywhere.

Genia:            So what do you think the difference is between your perception early in your career that this was a problem, this needed to change? And the schools that you are, um, spending time in with families advocating for inclusive, inclusive placements when they’re being denied to students. Like what’s the, what’s the or the perception shift that needs to happen? This is perhaps, um, too, too big of a question in that I know that it’s multi-pronged and it’s, you know, there’s all kinds of variables that contribute to people’s mindset around inclusion. But I’m still curious, you know, early in your career, you walked in and already had a, a mindset around presuming competence, um, and that is not universal.

Julie:              Yeah. Um, I think the mindset around inclusion happens in various ways for various people. So, um, for me all I needed to do was meet a person with a significant disability and realize how much capacity, capability, potential was there, but was being not brought out because of the system and structure. Um, and that for me was like, “Whoa, if this is happening for this student, what about everyone else?” And the more I looked, the more I found. Um, so for some people, for some humans it’s just getting to know a person with a significant or intellectual disability. And in that particular case, realizing, “Whoa, this, there’s something up here.” For some people it’s the law. Literally they change because the law says we really need to do this differently. And so they’ll look specifically at, you know, even in the United States, Brown versus Board of Education, realizing that we learned a long time ago.

Julie:              You can’t segregate human beings by race. Um, and really just taking that concept and making it really clear for people with disabilities that we can’t segregate humans by disability either. Um, but mostly I think it’s what I call there, you know, you probably know this, but they’re models of disability. So there’s the medical model of disability and then there’s the social model of disability. And the medical model of disability is this way of thinking that says, something’s wrong with this child. They’re broken, needs to be fixed. We need therapy and we need to remediate. We need to get this person as close to normal as possible. And that’s our goal. And our special education systems are based on that way of thinking. And so when I can help school systems shift to a social model of disability that says that there’s nothing broken about this human being, um, this is a beautiful whole, lovely person with all kinds of capacity for love and connection and kindness and learning and academic accomplishment.

Julie:              When we can get to that piece, what I can do is help them see that we, meaning our society or our school structures actually cause students to struggle. And I often use my own son. He, um, my one son is legally blind and an example is, you know, he’s in all AP classes and things like that. Um, and if he goes to class and he doesn’t have access to his iPad where all the fonts can be blown up, uh, he does not have access to the content. Right? But in any other way, in any other way, this kid can move through the world like anyone else. And so it’s, it’s our decision to either give access or not give access that causes him to become disabled. Um, anyway, so those two models are really important in terms of ways of thinking about, about disability in general. Um, and that mindset work is, it takes a lot to move the mindset of a system.

Genia:            Yeah. Yeah. It’s, it’s, it’s true. It takes a lot more to move the mindset of a system than it takes to move the mindset of an individual. Um, but an individual within that system, it’s also harder to move than an individual outside of that system.

Julie:              That’s right.

Genia:            Um, yeah, and the education systems are kind of monolithic, like they’re, they’re massive and, um, slow changing like all big systems are. So we talked, um, before we kind of started the recording about, um, placement matters and the, um, idea that inclusive, inclusive education settings are by far superior to segregated settings. And I want to kind of just toss that into your lap and let you riff on that a little bit. But I’d love it if as part of your conversation about that, if you, um, talk about the, how this connects back to, um, parents’ nervousness around inclusion, particularly when they are thinking about those medical model issues around how do we meet my child’s very special needs, you know, whether they be, um, behavioral or medical.

Julie:              Yeah. Um, well placement matters, that concept as a whole, you said you wanted me to riff on it and I’m gonna start with what’s in my head right now, which is a cartoon by Michael Giangreco. I don’t know if you know him. He’s a professor in Vermont who wrote a book of cartoons about the absurdities and realities in special education. He’s a genius. Um, but one of his cartoons is a bird’s nest built on the tire of a car. So a parked car is sitting there and there’s a bird’s nest in it just literally says placement does matter.

Genia:            Right.

Julie:              Um, and that’s what’s just like, that’s what comes to my mind when you said that. Um, I can think of no other decision for your young parents of kids with intellectual disabilities. I can think of no other decision that has a bigger impact than where your child will be educated. And so, you know, I’m, I get a lot of calls from families and parents and they’ll say, “Um, I really think I want to, I want to, I’m upset with the district about this reading program or this, these minutes and this or this and this.” And really for me, I feel like the place to put your energy when it comes to, uh, supporting the system to support your child, the place to put your energies about number of minutes in general education. The research is incredibly clear and it doesn’t take much time in an inclusive setting that’s really an inclusive setting to see the benefit to the student with a disability and even the benefit to everyone else. Um,

Genia:            Right.

Julie:              So I just need to stress how important that piece is. And sometimes I’ve been telling families to let go of other smaller pieces because that’s where to spend your energy. Um, and you asked about parental nervousness. Can you explain more about that?

Genia:            Yeah. Well I think because parents are very often indoctrinated to a medical model of disability very early in their children’s lives. And because very often kids have medical model issues, right? Like they, they have supports or care needs that must be met in order to keep them safe and keeping kids safe is a priority in a primary job of a, of a parent. Parents are coming to the schools and some of the first conversations that they are, um, motivated to have are conversations about how are you going to, you know, how are we going to keep my child safe in school? And so it’s a very service laiden conversation and it, and it starts, it starts really with, uh, starts the conversation at deficits, which is kind of a whole other, kind of a whole other thing. You know, where do you start conversations, um, as a whole other thing. But I think lots of parents are really nervous when they are navigating the education system, um, about what they, the trade offs might be in, um, in care and in services when they look at inclusive education settings versus special segregated settings where, you know, oftentimes the, the structures appear, I argue they’re not, but they can appear certainly as the brochures are provided to the parents. Like there’s a, um, um, more of a safety net there.

Julie:              Yeah. So I love that you’re willing to consider the appearance of those places versus the reality of those places. So if I told you that I was in a hundred segregated settings a year, I think I would be underestimating and I’ve yet to see a place or a space that I thought was better than an inclusive space or place. And um, safety. We’ll just start with safety. The safest place for kids to be is surrounded by other kids who have strong communication.

Genia:            Yeah.

Julie:              Um, when we put kids together in a room, um, maybe that all do not have access to communication. That’s one of the least safe places in the school system. And I mean this because I do a lot of litigation work around exactly this. So the safest place to have a kid is in a general education content classroom where they’re surrounded by peers who can be supports to them. So that’s a piece that is really important. I also appreciate that you said, you know, parents are being told this is the safest place for your child. Um, the placement itself doesn’t keep kids safe. It’s the surrounding, it’s what a general education placement and the supports offer. So all the supports that were, kids might need. And you are right, there are kids with very significant medical needs, very significant behavioral needs, emotional needs, communication needs. Yes, yes, yes. But all those supports are called portable supports that can be brought to the students.

Genia:            Right. Yeah.

Julie:              And I look to the Roncker portability test, which is a, uh, piece of some, um, Roncker versus Walter, which was a case in the United States where it was found that if supports are portable, they should be brought to students instead of students to supports. And then when you look closely at what supports aren’t portable, there aren’t very many that aren’t portable. I would say sometimes, you know, G-tube feeding and sometimes, almost all the time bathrooming and all those kinds of things can be not portable supports, but beyond that, everything else really is. Um, and so when you’re in an inclusive placement, that’s the starting point. And then, then the question is what supports do we need to provide? Um, I also liked that you said, you know, most of these conversations are deficit based and some of that is just logistics, right? We have to talk about all these issues so that we can make sure kids are safe and supported. Um, but I think kind of the, I think the best conversations are ones where we’re talking about challenges for sure but we’re definitely pairing those with all the ways that the student brings something to this classroom, um, into this environment and what those things are. Because literally it’s often in those strengths and gifts and talents that we can come up with creative solutions to challenges.

Genia:            Yeah. I think, um, I think that you’re absolutely right. I agree with you. The only thing you said that I’m not sure I agree with is that G-tube feeds aren’t portable supports. Um, the, um, I was just chatting with somebody yesterday about this and I was saying, you know, G-tus, G-tube feeds, um, are only, um, like it couldn’t be easier. It’s actually safer to G-tube feed somebody than it is to help them eat by mouth. And so, um, uh, there are lots of creative ways of making that, um, portable and in,

Julie:              I just want to respond to that, Genia. That’s, I’m so glad you said that. I’ve been saying G-tube feeding as not portable for a long time and the reason why is because I am talking to systems of people who think that idea is bananas, right? But when I talk to someone like you and in many, many school systems, as soon as we’re about a year in to including kids with more significant needs, right away, the question is, “Wait, where can we be doing G-tube feedings?” Can it be done in the cafeteria? Can a peer support it? And all those kinds of things. So I want you to know that I’m definitely not only in agreement, but also have seen such cool and successful inclusive G-tube feeding.

Genia:            Yeah, we, yeah. I suspected that you were not super committed to the idea that G-tube feeds weren’t portable. But just to put it in context for our family, we, we are really committed travelers. Um, and so, you know, we have done G-tube feeds in tents and in the Sahara desert and in the, you know, planes, trains, buses, subways, automobiles. Um, um, we have, excuse me, blended food, um, using the electricity in the back of a Walmart parking lot. Like, I’m not recommending that by the way. Um, but really, you know, if the school has the facilities to wash a dish, um, then they have the facilities to, to safely, um, help somebody to eat via, via G-tube foods, uh, feeds.

Genia:            And the, um, it really, really fits into that medical model, you know, and it makes people very nervous. And I think it actually, the, it’s not surprising that it makes people nervous because it’s unusual. It’s not, it’s not typical to, to help a child to eat via a tube that comes out of their belly. Um, but I think it can be, people can become very comfortable very quickly depending on how the issue is presented and supported. Um, you know, both from the family’s perspective, like I think families have a lot to offer in desensitizing people’s nervousness around this. Um, and, and then also from the school system. You know, we, when my son first went to school, we had a little, we put it on a cue card so it would look very informal and it said “Oops” on it. And it was like, this was the basic, like what to do with G-tubes came out or, you know, that kind of thing.

Genia:            At that point, he had a central line, which is an IV line that goes into somebody’s chest. So that’s a lot, actually a much bigger vl than a G-tube. But, um, it just said, “Oops.” And it was, “Step 1: Don’t freak out. It’s okay”, you know. “Step 2: Just give us a call, we’ll figure it out”, you know. Anyway, we digress. But these sort of areas that are like often high acuity, um, emotional areas for people as far as integration, um, or inclusion I think often can be really, really, um, distracting and big barriers where just some calm creativity is often more than enough.

Julie:              Calm creativity, I have to write that down. That’s half, when it comes to a lot of people ask me, what do people need to do this? Well, I’ve never heard of it so succinctly said, but that’s it, right? We need, um, I’m going to use an example. This week I was in Chicago working with the team and there was, a kid was having really challenging [inaudible] and um, when we were meeting everyone was panicking, like just panicking, panicking, panicking. And I just sort of compared it, I just paused and I’m not saying that it’s easy and I’m not saying that it’s not emotional, but I was saying, you know, as a group of professionals, imagine if you went to the doctor and had some really significant diagnosis or something really happened, your doctor’s not going to say, “Oh my gosh, it’s bad. It is really bad.” You know, instead it’s going to be, “Here’s where we are today. Here’s where we were, where we want to be.” And it’s all about calm creativity. Cause when you can move from your own lizard brain of like, “Am I going to survive this?” to “How can I make sure that the student is safe and, and um, included?” It really helps. So I just, I just want to highlight that phrase, calm creativity cause that’s it.

Genia:            And I think too about the way that that frenetic, um, lizard brain kind of response, which I understand I’m not in any way criticizing people for having that response. But when you take a step back and you look at, you know, not the why people are upset, but what are the effects of that? None of it is good, including the feedback loop to that student. Hmm. Yeah.

Julie:              Thank you. That’s great. Yeah.

Genia:            So Julie, do you think there are any kids, um, that you know, we’re talking about placement matters. Um, are there any kids that are too anything, too disabled, you know, too difficult, um, too complex for whom inclusive education is not the absolute first choice?

Julie:              So I’m asked that question everywhere I go and the answer that I give and I stand by wholeheartedly is I’ve yet to meet a student that we couldn’t figure out how to include from most of each day. Um, there are obviously crisis moments and challenges that people need. Um, private and specialized supports around. But I don’t only mean the goal is return, the, the plan is returned. So how do we support? Um, so there are times and days when students need different things, but um, I’ve yet, I’ve not met a student who we can’t include for most of each day. Um, and it’s with careful planning and thoughtful teams, really kind of starting with the assumption that this will work and then getting to the place where we’re successful, which has, has always happened.

Genia:            Yeah. I think it’s interesting when you, when, I’m sure you’ve had this experience far more than I given your work, but the kid that one school district said, says just cannot be included is not even a big deal somewhere else.

Julie:              Well, an email came yesterday and I, I won’t give details, but the email came yesterday from a student that we won the court case. It was a district who was putting the kid in a self contained school and we got her back. And now we’re only 12 days into school and the student was mandated to return to her inclusive setting in our general education, um, school and with the new team of teachers, they’re like, “She’s delightful.” I mean, if I would just, this email was so great because I guess in science she’s adding to the conversation and really engaged in all these ways that prior to, when you’re making the decision that this child can’t, all of a sudden the conversation is very different. But when the question is how can this child, uh, with a new team of people? It’s, it sounds like it’s being incredibly successful.

Genia:            It’s interesting to me too when we talk about, you mentioned, um, people, you haven’t met a child that couldn’t be included at least for most of, most of the day and that they’re going to be some times or situations in which, um, pulling out might be required. But the goal is return. And one of the things that interests me about that is that when we talk about removing a child from school because something is going on or removing a child from their regular classroom in their neighborhood school because something is going on, disability is one of the few um, variables that then equals a self contained or segregated program. So I can think off the top of my head of at least half a dozen kids in my small community who don’t have a disability label, who have been withdrawn for school, from school for a period of time because things weren’t working.

Genia:            They were, you know, um, experiencing some sort of negative impact from being in school. I’m not talking about abuse or neglect or bullying or any of those things. It just wasn’t working for the student at that point. And so all kinds of really not very dramatic, um, you know, uh, compensations and, and, um, solutions were created for that student. And then when they could go back, they went back. But when we’re talking about a student with disabilities, if it’s not working for them, then they get shunted off into a segregated program, which really doesn’t then often help solve whatever was the issue for them in the first place. But then also then tends to be like a one-way door. Right. It’s very hard to come back from a segregated program.

Julie:              Yup. And that’s why parents of young children need to understand that that placement decision is such an important one to be crystal clear about because it is, you said in one way door, I often use one way street, that’s the concept being that kids typically move in one direction, which is less and less or more and more restrictive, I guess less and less inclusive. Um, the return rate for kids that go one direction is 0.002%

Genia:            Oh wow.

Julie:              in the United States. So what that means is kids go in one direction and a lot of times. I don’t, I wrote an article about this, it was about the special education myths awhile back. But one of the things that parents are often told is that, um, we’re gonna just work on this and then return. Um, and I don’t mean that people are saying this with ill intention, I think they mean it. But what happens is once we create a new placement, a new program, a new, we’re not constantly thinking about the return. We’re, we’re finishing out the school year in that setting and then we’re starting the next year in that setting. And, um, it’s a really big deal and people need to look closely at, um, what that might look like for a particular student.

Genia:            And those decisions are often about, those decisions to go and work on one particular thing or often, not always, but often a readiness issue while the student, in order for the student to be successful in an inclusive classroom, they need X skill, competency, ability. Um, behavioral modification maybe any number of different things and Good Things in Life has an upcoming free event with Norman Kunc and Emma Van der Klift, um, entitled You can’t learn to swim in the parking lot of the pool. And it’s really questioning that idea of, um, readiness or competency-based criteria for access to rich opportunity for learning. Um, and, and talks about that sluicing as you’re saying, you know, it, it tends to be a one way street, so that’s, that’s great.

Julie:              Yeah. Um, Norman really does a beautiful job of making that analogy clear about swimming lessons. Um, another person, Lou Brown was my mentor and he said the word pre means never. And he said, so if they’re leaving for pre-reading skills, that means they’re never reading. If they’re leaving for pre-vocational skills, that means they’re never vocational. If the, um, and so when I hear that word, like just, you know, someone will say, “So, Julie, you don’t understand. We really need this kid to have pre-reading skills in order to be in the reading class or whatever.” That just tells me that we’re going to slow things down even more for this kid and um, we’re never going to get to the place we’re headed. Um, I just, anytime I hear that word pre means never, I think it or that phrase, I, it sticks in my head and makes me think about, “Huh, I wonder what’s about to happen.”

Genia:            Yeah, yeah. I love that phrase. I have typed to that down here. Um, so I, we’ve kind of touched on it a little bit. We’ve talked about supporting kids with challenging behaviors or we’ve acknowledged that some kids are going to have really challenging behaviors and that, um, that those kids are also good candidates, excellent candidates for inclusive education. I wonder if you could talk a little bit about, um, supporting kids with difficult behaviors in inclusive education.

Julie:              Yes. So, um, statistically speaking, students with intellectual disabilities and students with challenging behavior and students with the label of autism are the three most likely groups of students to not be included. Um, the challenge for me is, uh, when we start to create an inclusive school system, the first group of people that pop up are students with challenging behavior and it’s fairly public, right? So we might find a student who, um, swearing or running out of the room or doing things that are dangerous and those kinds of things. And, and I’m not, I’m not minimizing the effect of that, but, um, so it’s the 13th day of school here and in the past 13 days I’ve probably talked to 10 teams that are wondering about students with challenging behaviors. And it’s kind of that calm creativity that you mentioned before. Um, really helping them to first realize that many students at the beginning of the school year and throughout the school year, um, are facing significant trauma in their lives and outside of their lives.

Julie:              And I use a roller coaster analogy. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard me use this analogy, at first came to me from Josh Shipp who I respect greatly. And, um, it’s basically this like when you get on a roller coaster, I’m usually asking a big room of people this, but I say to the room, you know, if you get in a roller coaster and you sit down and usually that bar comes down, that safety bar. Um, what’s the first thing you do once you sit down on the roller coaster? And it’s fun to watch cause the room full of people kind of mimes that they’re shaking the bar, right? I say, well, “Whoa. Okay, so tell me about that. Why do you shake the bar? That’s a, that’s a weird behavior. Why did you shake the bar when you sit down in a roller coaster?” And they say, “Well, I just, I need to, I want to check if it’s safe. I want to make sure that it can hold me, dah, dah, dah, dah.”

Julie:              And, um, I asked the question, “Are you angry with the bar? Like, do you not like the bar?” “No, it’s just that we’re, you know, making sure that we can, you know, trust that bar.” And one of the things to be true when you’re supporting kids with challenging behavior as they will be shaking the bar or testing you multiple times a day to make sure you can hold for them. That you’re going to be safe for them and make sure that on Monday, as well as Thursday before and after school, you’re going to respond with calm curiosity and calm creativity and help kids get to where they need to go. Um, we’re very quick to send a kid to a new placement based on behavior. And I think it’s interesting when I’m in a large group setting and I’m working with teachers, I’ll say to them, “Raise your hand if you’ve ever done something that you’re not proud of.”

Julie:              Right? And everyone in the rooms, their hands goes up, right? “Raise your hand if you’ve done something that just really surprised you”, your reaction really surprised you. Yeah, sure. And, and the same is true for kids, right? And so what we tend to do in schools as we document those things that kids do, they’re not proud of, we take data on those things that kids do, that they’re not proud of, where our energy showed in can be spent, um, teaching new behaviors, supporting, loving, connecting, um, and holding for kids really so that they understand, here’s the boundary. It’s always going to be the boundary. I’m going to support you to follow this boundary. Um, teaching kids to behave well in school is a lot like teaching kids to learn to read. You wouldn’t do kind of a day of instruction and then give him war and peace and expect them to be successful. It takes consistent conscious support for days and days and days and days and days until some, some of our learners can behave in ways that would be considered school appropriate. But probably the worst decision is to put, I’ll just take any one of the kids I’m thinking of, put any one of those kids in a room with a bunch of other students who struggle to behave well because we know what will happen for them.

Genia:            Yeah, I am interviewed Bruce Uditsky, I’m not sure if you know Bruce.

Julie:              Yeah. Yeah.

Genia:            So I interviewed Bruce Uditsky and he talked about, um, his own son, uh, who he and his wife adopted and the profound trauma that his son had experienced early in his life. And, um, and that he really struggled with behavior really, you know, dramatic issues. And one of the things that Bruce was saying is that if you met his son now, you would never believe what the reality was when he was a child. And it took years of, of very consistent, um, reassurance that the bars were gonna hold. Um, and years of reassurance at while, um, maybe not reassurance, but, um, repetition around this is the way to modulate and you know, manage what you’re feeling. Um, and, and his part of his point was it could have ended very differently and probably would have ended very differently if his son hadn’t been, um, adopted into a family that already had a good, strong sense of this and was working on this as some would have ended up in prison. And I think in the moment in the classroom, gosh, that, that I, you know, that reality that we’re raising, um, kids to be good citizens and that it’s a long game is really hard. It’s really hard, you know, when you’ve got a challenging kid.

Julie:              Yeah. So right now I’m writing a book called, um, From Behavior to Belonging with my colleague Kate MacLeod, and it’s going to be through ASCD. I’m really excited about the book. Um, and it’s, so many people hire me to come talk about, want me to say, here’s the sticker chart that’s going to do it. Or here’s the quick fix. And the, the downside is it’s the long game of love and connection.

Genia:            Yeah.

Julie:              And the upside is it’s the long game of love and connection. So many, many educators have such deep understanding of how to do, if they understand the job to be the long game of love and connection, they can do that. But, um, we’ve, I think education had been sold a bill of goods, which is kind of like, if we just have another reward system up or a dojo system or a manage this classroom. But in reality, it’s, it happens. The magic happens when you take time to really truly connect to the kid that we’re talking about and you actually problem solve with the student, with them at the table not, um, outside of that. Right. So, so what we do is we have a team of adults that create a plan and then we let the kid know the plan.

Genia:            Yeah.

Julie:              It doesn’t work that way.

Genia:            Yeah. Well, in the sticker system that you’re talking about that, that sort of widgety way of approaching it is also really consistent with the way school has been organized around grades and evaluations and assessments. Right? So it is, um, we are, when we’re, when we’re looking at an inclusive school, um, an inclusive classroom, we really are talking in lots of ways around or talking about coming at this from a different direction that’s not widget based. And that’s a shift that creates some challenges as any systems change does.

Julie:              I think the hardest part is the unlearning, right? For educators is that many have gone to school and learned ideas and have learned these ways of thinking about individuals with significant disabilities and um, you know, in textbooky ways. Or like, um, I think it was before we were talking about, um, when you have a student with the diagnosis and you go to Google, you learn about all these particular medical ways of thinking. And some of our educators have been trained in those ways too. And so, um, when you unlearn the question is, what do you learn instead? What’s the replacement learning? Um, I just was presenting about, about behavior charts in this large auditorium with, with educators. And um, I did not expect what happened. So it was the day before school. I thought it was a very, um, inspirational a whole day about how to create inclusive schools for kids.

Julie:              And what I didn’t expect is when I was finished presenting, four teachers came up to me and in a form of a semi-circle around me and said, “Okay, we heard you loud and clear. We’re gonna, um, throw away our behavior charts and we’re not going to have him for the first day of school. I’m going to go to school right now and rip them off the wall.” And then they say, “But what do we do instead?” You know, um, and as if I can explain in five minutes what to do instead, but the answer is sort of, it’s is simple and not simple, which is, it’s the long game of love and connection. Um, and then I just sent him to an article I wrote called Beyond Treats & Timeouts. If anybody’s interested in more reading about it, it’s just a free article you can print called Beyond Treats & Timeouts and it basically explains what else to do besides treat and timeout for kids.

Genia:            I’ll make sure I’ve linked that to the, in the show notes.

Julie:              Okay. Yeah. Great. I think I wrote it with Chelsea Tracy-Bronson and Kate MacLeod.

Genia:            Um, so talking about the long game of love and connection, let’s talk about friendships. Um,

Julie:              Well,

Genia:            Yeah.

Julie:              The reason I wanted to talk about friendships particularly on your podcast is, um, your goal I believe, um, is to help families see that there are so many incredible opportunities for human beings. Um, and most of those incredible opportunities for human beings come in the package of friendship. Couple of thoughts that I have on friendship, uh, after placement, I think friendships are the next thing to really place to place your energy.

Genia:            Yeah.

Julie:              It’s create close connections with people, um, people in classrooms, families, et cetera in your community so that your child is surrounded with by friends, um, who are there to support and love your child as they grow and that your student learns to be a friend.

Genia:            Right.

Julie:              Learns everything it takes to be a friend, um. Uh. I think so often we use these helper roles and that’s not what I’m talking about. And I’m not talking about giving anyone credit. I’m not talking about any of that kind of stuff.

Genia:            I’m so glad. I’m so glad that’s not what you’re talking about. So what, let’s, let’s just pause there. Why aren’t we talking about the helper role? The, the, um, you get a certificate because you were nice to the kid with the disability.

Julie:              All we do is reify this idea that this person, this child is not worthy of friendship. Um, we reify this idea that it’s a pity model. We basically let kids know that there’s a new feather in your cap because you’re a good person because you supported this person when in reality this person probably is bringing you more joy and then you could externally be rewarded before. And so it starts with this strong expectation that all humans in our system or classroom support one another by using their strengths and gifts and talents.

Julie:              Um, this is where I ask parents to do some of the really hard thinking about, um, sometimes strengths are not as evident, right? And then we need to really dig deep. And so we’re looking to see what are all the ways that this child can contribute to a classroom, contribute to friendship. Um, and then we start to, we go from the strengths, right? We start with what are the strengths, interests, and gifts and talents of students. But when I see and I see it every day, um, school systems saying, you know, “Thanks for being a helper, it was so nice of you to blah, blah, blah”, you know, to kids. And it is with good intention. But what it reifies is there’s not a natural reason to be friends with this particular individual. It’s very outdated thinking.

Genia:            Yeah.

Julie:              Um, I dunno. Did that answer your question?

Genia:            Yeah, it does. Yeah, thanks. Yeah. Yeah. I think that there’s, there’s a lot of, um, I think that we, we in general want to teach our children to be helpful and that’s a very positive personal attribute. And so I think, and schools definitely love teaching and should love teaching, um, students that being helpful is, is a really good thing. Um, so I think it often that it’s so easy for that to be the, the model or the framework that, that gets used in schools. Um, and you know, I want to, I want to use this as sort of a segue into the idea and the power of, um, of peer supports in school, an invisible supports in school without it being a model of helping John. You know, who’s going to help John today in that, in that model.

Julie:              Yeah. So, um, support. So anytime, and I’m going to imagine it’s a classroom and there’s a student with a more with significant support needs in the classroom. In that classroom, anytime the student that we’re talking about needs support, you can assume that other people need support too. So for example, let’s just say it’s turning to the page, the right page and maybe the student doesn’t have the motor dexterity to turn to the right page.

Julie:              If you have set up a system of support, so you say everybody turn to your table partner and help each other get to the right page, you’re asking for social support all around. Um, and anytime you’re asking a student to do anything, even read a passage, if you do it in a buddy reading system, you’ve got someone to talk about the article with. You’ve got someone who can read that article to the student who maybe doesn’t decode on level. Um, if you build, so you create your classroom with the concept that we all support one another. What happens is, um, the management needs go way down because kids want to help more than anything else. But what we do is we channel helping and make sure it’s reciprocal, reciprocal in two ways.

Julie:              Um, and so I’ll give an example. I was just in a classroom where a student uses an iPad and we loaded up his, um, particular device with a really good example of what was about to be explained. And so there was someone who his role in every setting was to come up with an example. Well, his example was right there and it was a video example and he pushed it and everybody watched it. And then he had questions that followed. And so it was a way for him to take the lead in that moment. And other kids maybe were Googling or finding, but then sharing. Um, and we’ve got to figure out ways to make sure everybody has the role of helping and helper. Actually you mentioned Norman Kunc’s my favorite, I was going to say favorite article, but maybe I, I have a lot of [inaudible]

Genia:            Right.

Julie:              articles, but hell-bent on, Hell-Bent on Helping is one of my faves. Um, which really gets to this concept of people want to help, but we’ve got to really make sure that students understand how to ask if someone needs help, when to help, how to help and then how to make sure everybody’s a helper.

Genia:            Can we talk a little bit more about how to make sure everybody is a helper? So you gave one example of pulling, so having an example set up on an iPad. Um, and um, and that’s, that’s a great example, but there’s a couple of, of things that come to mind around that. One is that, um, somebody else perhaps pulled that example up and put it on the iPad. And so the student, um, it’s about sort of the authenticity of that interchange between kids when the student is, the student with a disability is heavily supported and scaffolded to, um, interact with their peers or to have those examples put on the iPad or, you know. And the, I think the kids know that. And so the, the reciprocity still feels just a little bit tilted. So I’m interested in your thoughts about, um, about reciprocity and whether sort of how to, there needs to be some sort of critical mass of contribution before it really feels like contribution. I don’t, I don’t actually have, um, myself good thoughts on how to think about that in a way that’s productive.

Julie:              So, um, I’m curious what you’re going to say about this because my first thought is when I’ve been teaching in a classroom, one of the ways, and I’m, I’m thinking about a student named Claire who uses eye gaze to communicate. And one of the most powerful things that I learned, students have better ideas than I did about how to make sure that she could participate in really great ways. But what we, what I didn’t do is say, how can we get Claire to be included in this particular activity? But instead when I allowed kids to help me think of roles that everyone’s, so that everyone could contribute. I’ll give an example. We were doing a group project and she uses eye gaze to communicate and has a pretty, pretty consistent yes or no eye gaze. And so, um, I was about to do something that it kind of falls in line with what you were saying, which is what we can do is start with that group, can have a background and Claire can be in charge of starting with the background.

Julie:              And one of the students said, “No, no, no, we’ll paint the background, but we want to make sure Claire really loves all of the pieces of the background.” So they figured out prior to that lesson, how to get so clear, what do we want on the bottom of that? What do we want over here? What color? And it was great because they were so incredible. Um, and they always had this option for Claire. It used to be a yes, no, and something else. And so they would always, and Claire would say no, something else. Like, so they’d be like, “Do you want it, you want it green?” Something else, something else, something else. And they finally were like, “Oh, you want patterns.” They got to the place where they could get to what she wanted. And it was like the most delightful interchange. But what had to happen was we had to make sure to have the time in place to get Claire’s with her communication needs to get Claire’s reveal true, um, feelings about the art project and what she wanted.

Julie:              Um, and so what it takes is deciding how can we make sure that there’s critical mass, um sort of project by project day by day. How can we be sure that this student is offering something, um, that is, that contributes to the group? And I think the best way is to talk to kids about authentic contribution, not only for Claire, for example, but for anyone else in the room. Um, because a lot of kids will phone it in and do something that they’re used to doing, right? So it might be, um, I do a lot of work with menus for kids, so they have menus of ways to contribute. And so I asked questions like, “Is this your, is this menu option really challenging you to stretch?” And there are lots of kids who say, “No, actually this would be a bigger stretch for me.”

Julie:              And same thing is true when we’re asking about what would be a stretch for Claire, um, in this case. So it’s about that authentic relationship and talking about kids’ own learning and allowing them to help create opportunities. Um, so I, I told you about my son Sam, who’s legally blind. He, um, couldn’t find his friends at the playground. And so he came to me and said, you know, “Can you help?” And I said, “Sure. This is what I do for a living.” I’m really, you know, this is it. And he realized that with my kind of excitement about it, he thought, “Forget it, mom.”

Genia:            It’s going to be really lame.

Julie:              Yeah. Put your markers on chart paper away, like, no thanks. So he literally was like, “Actually, I changed my mind. I don’t, I don’t need help with this. I’m going to talk to my teacher.” And I was like, I was devastated. But he, his teacher has created this community where kids can talk about challenges and he, I, so I got a phone call from her, her name is Tracy Procopio. She’s amazing. But I got a phone call from her the next day that Sam apparently went into school and said, um, “I can’t find my friends, you know, during recess because of my vision. And I’m wondering if we could talk about it at the morning meeting.” And so they talked about it at the morning meeting. They came up with ideas. The second graders came up with all these ideas. The first idea was these dayglo hats that they could wear so everybody could, uh, find, they could know who is in the class. And second idea was pennies from gym class. And then the third idea was, um, walkie-talkies. And so, um, the kids came up with the idea of walkie-talkie.

Julie:              So everyone voted on it, agreed on it. And so what it looked like is Sam has one end of a walkie-talkie and someone else always has another end. And he can literally ask at any point, you know, “I’m looking for Baden over and out” [inaudible]. And they’ll say, “Oh, Baden has been located and he’s on the slide” and then he can go play. You know, and that was the moment, one moment, there are many, when I realized kids know how to do this way better than we do. We actually give students a chance to, um, help us solve problems that are very solvable.

Genia:            That’s really helpful. That’s really helpful. Thank you. Um, can we talk a little bit more about, uh, well maybe it’s not more, maybe it’s a little bit different. Lots of parents advocate for one-to-one support, full time, one-to-one support for their child, um, because their child needs a considerable amount of assistance. Um, and, and, and often educators are also not, not clear about how the student might be able to be in the class without a full time paraprofessionals. Um, and I’m wondering if you can talk just a little bit about some of the principles around, um, decreasing visible supports, decreasing paraprofessional presence, like one-to-one hip to hip presence. Not necessarily, like you’ve given some excellent examples, but just the concept of one to, one-to-one full, time, hip to hip support.

Julie:              Yeah, so this is what I did my dissertation on and the reason was, is I realized that, um, in the field of inclusive education, we have made a deal that I think was the wrong deal to make. And the deal was sure so-and-so can be in the classroom as long as a paraprofessional comes with them. And the reason I realized that, I think it’s the wrong deal is, um, the reality of it is different than the intent of it. So the intent is safety sometimes. Sometimes it’s, um, all, all different types of supports. And I need to say this before I jump into what I’m going to say. The human beings that are doing the work of paraprofessional work can be worth their weight in gold.

Genia:            Yeah. No question.

Julie:              And yeah. And, um, but essentially what we’re asking is to say to the least trained people in our systems that, “Hey, we have the most complex problem here, we’re going to send you in to solve it.” And all of these challenges happen with good intention. But what I notice is that, um, the very nature of paraprofessional support that hip to hip or Velcro phenomenon as people call it, creates distance between students with disabilities in their peers. It creates distance for social interactions. It creates distance for, um, you know, even at the very beginning when you talked about G-tube feeding and you said, “You know, Julie, this is not a difficult thing to learn how to do and it, as soon as it’s normalized”, right? Paraprofessional supports keep students, um, stigmatized all day long. I recognize there are kids that are going to need certain kinds of supports, but almost always we can figure out how to fade that paraprofessional to do something else, um, and still keep the students safe at the same time. So working with other groups of kids and really supporting the whole classroom.

Julie:              So, um, I am a huge proponent of not starting with a one-to-one support, but instead looking to see across the whole day where are those moments where one-to-one support is needed and then asking the question, “Well, who are the natural supports in the environment that could possibly give those supports?” And um, then using something called stop by supports instead of constant support. We’ve studied kids who talk a lot about the presence of a paraprofessional impeding everything from social to academic to any kind of access. Um, I wrote an article called, um, well I’m trying to think of which, I wrote an article about paraprofessionals, um, the deleterious effects of paraprofessionals in inclusive classrooms and how, it’s called the Boy in the Bubble. And essentially being that this kid, the day the paraprofessional was absent, had 42 interactions with peers, prior to that have had none. For the four weeks of my observation [inaudible] out the kid goes rogue and starts to interact with other children and it’s just the very presence of that human that makes it so that this kid can’t connect to other people. Um, and so I understand with the safety stuff that we of course will put in those sorts of supports, but they’re not always a paraprofessional.

Genia:            Yeah. Yeah. We had, I think thinking about young teens is a really easy way for people to conceptualize this, although it applies to kids that are younger and then, and older as well. But, and maybe I just think this because I have two teens. So my kids are 13 and 16 and at the end of the last school year, um, we, we got a call from the school, um, saying, “We’d like to have a conversation, like we want to talk.” Um, Will is expressing that he’s, he’s missing, he’s missing his friends basically. Like the social interaction isn’t as good as it used to be. And so we had a, we had a meeting and we figured it out that, um, and this is the easy to conceive part, essentially at the age of 13, as soon as an adult in the school approaches the huddle, the conversation changes.

Julie:              Of course.

Genia:            Right? And so they had, there was just too much adult presence. Um, and the, the, at this age, there’s, um, there’s a little plaza down the street from my son’s school and at a certain age, as long as the kids have permission, they’re allowed on Fridays to walk at lunch down to the plaza and back. Um, and so they were trying to make that happen as well, but they were sending an adult with them. And, and they just didn’t, they didn’t realize that we would be okay with Will going with his friends and they said, “Oh, okay, so just as long as we can still see him.” I’m like, “No, no, no.” It’s, you know, he uses a wheelchair. He requires somebody to push his wheelchair. So it’s not even like he can make a mistake and do something unsafe. Like, unless some sociopath has joined the classroom, I think it’s probably okay.

Genia:            You know, they’re probably not going to push them out in front of a bus. Like it’s okay. But at the 13, and that’s kind of, um, like often I think if you peel it away and look at what are you really afraid is going to happen, especially if you have had a child in the inclusive class their entire education. By the age of 13, the kids know each other and it’s actually unlikely that somebody’s going to push them in front of oncoming traffic or leave them at the plaza and not come back or, you know. Um, but the, the teen, that early teen sense of like, “Oh my gosh. My mom is not cool. The teachers are not cool. Nobody is cool except us.” Um, in fact, cool is probably not even a cool word anymore. You know, and I’m a perfect example of like. You know it’s gonna get, it’s gonna get impeded, but the communicate, the messages when kids are younger that this child actually doesn’t, is not like me, you know, requires that barrier, that buffer, that wall of an adult is equally an impediment to social interaction as it is when you’ve got that teen saying, “That’s just not, like you’re not cool”, about the adult, not about the kid.

Julie:              That’s right. And just think about, I also liken it to, let’s say you woke up tomorrow, someone you know that you didn’t get any say about who they were. So pick anyone randomly off the street. They might, you might, they might be lovely and they might not, they might have coffee, breath and they might not. They might, you know what I mean? Like there’s all the things that you have to, and then they’re going to follow you all day long, every day in every interaction. Um,

Genia:            Right. Wow.

Julie:              It’s, yeah, it’s just sort of like, of course. And then the thing that I notice is students, kids have all kinds of ways of communicating that I want this person to move away. Get away from me, you know, these kinds of things. And um, those things aren’t often honored, right? Because, because, well, your example is a perfect one. Your son wants to travel to the plaza with his friends and everyone’s worried. That’s a safety issue. When in reality it’s perfectly safe. In fact, you’re on board with it. All those kinds of things. We’ve got to, we’ve got to move away from this parole approach to inclusion, um, which is I’ve got to have my eyes on this student every minute. Now, there are some kids that we have to nearly have our eyes on every minute, but it is a tiny percentage.

Julie:              And the last visit I’ve made, I made to a school system, over support was the number one challenge that I saw which are kids just being over supported all day long by people who are doing their job. And I put that in quotes “because that is what they think is right”. Um, and yet these kids are, are demanding independence.

Genia:            It’s interesting what you’re saying about the, what it would feel like if somebody that you didn’t even choose, um, followed you around that closely all day. And I think even the people who I love and choose to spend my, my life with my family, my friends, um, I would be very, very unhappy if they followed me around. Um, all of the time like that. And in fact, it would make me less able to just have the sort of emotional energy to want to engage with other people if I was spending all of my energy just tolerating somebody being stuck on my back all the time.

Julie:              That’s right.

Genia:            Yeah. Yeah.

Julie:              Just think about what your brain, you know, “Oh, she’s next to me again. I’m watching a movie. Does she really have to sit with me? Okay. I guess she’s sitting here. There’s nothing I can do. Kids are looking at me.” Right? The way that your mind is, might be spinning, um, when in reality, so a lot of people think that, so honestly, I think we could reduce the use of paraprofessionals greatly. I think we could use peer supports in many, many cases in much better ways. And then when, and then when peers, a paraprofessional support is truly necessary for safety and other reasons, the treating of paraprofessionals really needs to be focused on the dignity of students, the independence of students, um, and then how to fade and what to do when you’re fading your support. A lot of times we just tell paras to fade your support.

Julie:              Well that’s not enough. You have to give very specific information about what to do instead of fading because literally I work with paraprofessionals a lot and they say, if I’m not next to the kid and the principal walks down the hall, I don’t want them to think I’m not doing my job. And so it’s reframing. It’s unlearning a lot of that, that really good support is a visible support and it is only present on a stop by basis and best case scenario when it’s requested. So when a student finally says, “Hey, this is what I need right now”, then the support is available.

Genia:            Well, I feel like we could talk for hours about peer support and how to make that happen in the classroom. But I feel like we’re also kind of running out of time. Um,

Julie:              I can tell you

Genia:            Maybe another podcast episode?

Julie:              Maybe, but I can tell you a couple of, if you’re really interested in peer supports and, and natural supports, I can tell you three downloadable articles that are free to you.

Genia:            Awesome.

Julie:              Um, one is called The Golden Rule. I wrote it. So Julie Causton, C-A-U-S-T-O-N, and then golden rule. And I think it’s called The Golden Rule of Inclusive Support: Support Others, How You Would Wish to Be Supported. Right. So I kind of help people think about what it would feel like to be supported all day long and what to do instead. Another one is called Building Bridges. Um, if you Google my name Julie Causton and Building Bridges and it’s about how to create peer supports. And then the third one I would just tell you to look at anything Erik Carter has written about peer supports. Um, and so Erik Carter has a new book about peer supports that I love. I don’t remember the title, but maybe you can link it. Uh, he is the researcher I kind of respect most around, um, peer support.

Genia:            Great. That’s very helpful. And I’ll make sure I link all of those in the show notes. So Julie, if you were speaking to, um, parents or educators who are feeling a little unsure or nervous about inclusive education, what would you tell them to increase their confidence that inclusion is absolutely the way that they should go?

Julie:              Okay. So I would tell them to increase their confidence that there is no other area of research and education that is more clear than inclusive education. So what I mean by that is when a student is included, they are more likely to reach their academic goals. They’re more likely to reach their social goals. They’re more likely to reach their behavioral goals. They’re more likely to reach their communication goals when they’re surrounded by others who have those skills. And the opposite is true. When students without disabilities are in quote, “inclusive classrooms” where supports are being brought in, those students are more likely to meet their academic goals, their social goals, their behavioral goals, their communication goals, and people learn to live, work and play together. Um, I also want people to really think about the evolution of inclusion. And we used to think it was okay to separate students by race.

Julie:              We used to think it’s okay to separate students by language. We used to think is okay to do a lot of things that it’s no longer okay and inclusion is just the last bastion of that. So anytime I sort of hear the question, you know, “Is this right or not?”, if we instead ask the question, “How do we make this happen?”, we’re putting our energy into the right place. Um, I have never been more confident and in fact, you know, the more that I work, I’m 47 years old. I think I’m going to work until I am dead because every day I become more and more passionate about this because of every single success story I see in school systems. Where, I mean, today’s a good example. As I’m talking to you, an email pops up from a principal who I worked with last week who just got rid of an eight to one-to-one classroom meaning classroom for kids who are all in separate, a separate place. They got rid of the room and now those kids are included. And as I was talking up comes this email telling me, it just says, “Thank you. You won’t believe”, is how it starts. And it’s just, “You won’t believe what happened for Jake. You won’t believe what happened”. And so, um, when we get rid of these structures that, that segregate children, it’s unknowable what can happen.

Genia:            That’s a beautiful place to end I think. So Julie, if people want to find you, find out more about you, where would people, where would people go?

Julie:              Yes, so if you go to my website, it’s called inclusiveschooling.com and there you can see a lot. Um, I’ve written many books on inclusive education. Uh, you can link to my podcast on inclusive education there. Um, there’s a lot there and you can also contact me directly. I think it’s under a tab called Work with Us. Um, and you can contact us directly that way or you can email me at juli[email protected] and I’d be happy to talk further.

Genia:            Great. Thank you so much Julie. I really, really have enjoyed our conversation. I look forward to looking up the resources that you have suggested and I hope that we could do this again.

Julie:              Thank you Genia. And I wanted to say that I learned you were a midwife and I was just thinking about that concept. And I think you’re a midwife of hope for families, so keep doing the work that you’re doing.

Genia:            Thank you very much.

Julie:              Yeah. Thank you.

Genia:            I just loved talking with Julie. I had so much fun and really some great takeaways. Things that are resonating with me are what we talked around around calm creativity and recognizing that this is a long game and that there is no child for whom inclusion is not just a possibility but the absolute right and best opportunity. Now again, the doors to The Inclusion Academy are only open for a couple of more days, so you really should jump on over there and check that out. I know that ongoing supports and problem solving are required when you’re talking about and trying to implement inclusive education. Whether you’re a parent or you’re an educator who’s committed to figuring it out, but frustrated by not having the resources, tools, time, and energy that it seems to require, The Inclusion Academy is absolutely for you. I hope to see you there.

Thanks for Listening!

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Special thanks to Dr. Julie Causton for joining me this week. Until next time!

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Genia Stephen
Genia Stephen

Sister, mother, midwife, writer, speaker and perpetually curious. Dedicated to bringing you the voices, ideas and conversations of world class mentors and thought leaders in the field of disability.