Different yet still the same

27th October 2000 at 01:00
WORKING WITH HANNAH: A special girl in a mainstream school. By Liz Wise and Chris Glass. Routledge, Falmer pound;12.99.

This book provides a detailed description of the successful inclusion of Hannah into her local infant school and community. Hannah has complex individual needs, including hearing impairment, language delay, physical disability and severe speech production difficulties. She also has Down syndrome.

The book is written by Hannah's classroom assistants. It conveys the positive attitudes that surrounded Hannah and her brothers and the positive relationship established between school and Hannah's parents.

The authors' sensitive and common-sense approach helped them and others in the school to understand and interpret Hannah's needs, with the perception of Hannah as a young girl with the same fundamental needs as everyone else.

Their expectations for Hannah's behaviour, understanding of Hannah's need to express herself and be independent, and their methods for nurturing friendship and communication, set the context for meeting Hannah's additional individual needs in school.

Hannah's parents wantedher to attend a mainstream school against the wishes of Hannah's local education authority at the time. It was a major conflict that only the most determined and cohesive of families would come through unscathed. The outcomes for Hannah clearly indicate that the family were right to fight for her to be included in mainstream school.

Hannah received full-time support for her learning and development in school, and the key notes for guidance in each chapter make it clear how successfully these support workers, including lunch time staff, helped Hannah learn, be independent, and share time and experiences with her peers.

This was achieved by thoughtful facilitation, such as lunchtime games and active development of peer support.

This book should be in all school staffrooms. It is a practical guide to the successful inclusion of children with significant needs and it should make a major contribution by encouraging schools to include all children.

Sue Buckley is director for research at the Down Syndrome Educational Trust, and emeritus professor in the Department of Psychology, University of Portsmouth

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