What Is an Inclusion Consultant or Specialist?
While I was in college, one of my roommates told me she wanted to be a consultant when she graduated. I had no clue what such a job would entail so I asked her. She confidently replied that she’d visit businesses, observe how they operated, take notes on what they were doing wrong, and then give feedback on ways they could improve.
I thought to myself: Hell, who wouldn’t want to be a consultant! That sounds like the cushiest job on the face of the earth. It sounded like being a taster at a chocolate factory, sampling the candies to see if they were delectable enough to be boxed up and shipped out. It sounded like being a movie critic, watching films all day and then trashing them with savage reviews.
Nice work if you could get it, I thought!
Little did I know these cushy positions as consultants would one day infiltrate my field of teaching. Sadly, because special education budgets have been slashed and resource rooms were eliminated, inclusion consultants (aka inclusion specialists) have proliferated.
With that in mind, let’s look at five tragic consequences created by the rise of inclusion consultants, resulting in worse outcomes for teachers, parents, students, and society.
The Difference Between a Special Education Teacher and an Inclusion Consultant
Special Education Teacher: The job of a special education teacher has been around for decades. They work directly with students who have special needs in a resource room. Kids come to them for all or part of the school day. They’re trained to work with youngsters one-on-one or in small groups, tailoring lessons to accommodate their unique requirements.
Inclusion Consultant: The job of an Inclusion consultant is a new one. The creation of this position was necessitated by a lack of funding for special education programs. Inclusion consultants work indirectly with students who have special needs. They observe them in their regular classrooms, take notes, and then brief the teacher on ways to offer instruction that will better serve their particular needs.
4 Reasons Parents Should Be Alarmed If a School Hires an Inclusion Consultant
1. Because Inclusion Specialists Don't Teach
When investigating the teacher shortage, media folks typically pinpoint the conspicuous causes: low pay, disrespect from students and parents, and too much importance placed on standardized test scores. Unfortunately, they miss a critical but less obvious reason that explains why experienced educators are fleeing their jobs en masse and young people are uninterested in joining the profession.
It’s simply this: At too many schools, special education teachers have been replaced by inclusion consultants.
As a result, some students with cognitive, emotional, and/or behavioral issues are no longer spending all or part of their days with special education teachers. They’re no longer receiving tailored instruction, one-on-one or in small groups. Instead, they remain in regular classrooms with 25+ other students where they feel stupid, frustrated, and angry.
Experienced educators are leaving because this situation is untenable to them. They can’t adequately instruct a large classroom of students in which one or two are acting out because they’re lost and in desperate need of special help.
2. Because Studies Show That Students Need Direct Instruction
Without enough funding for special education teachers, school superintendents and administrators must now mislead parents. They must convince them that their children with special needs will be fine and dandy with only an inclusion consultant.
In reality, though, they’re well aware that’s not the case.
They know that countless studies show these youngsters benefit immensely from direct instruction in a small group setting. In this style of education, teachers give explicit guidance, repeat information frequently, allow time for practice, and expect mastery.
Students can’t fall behind because there’s only a small number of them so the teacher constantly monitors their progress.
Sadly, superintendents and administrators must also deceive parents of kids who share a classroom with special needs students.
They must reassure them that these youngsters with cognitive, emotional, and/or behavioral issues aren’t disrupting the learning environment for the rest of the class when, indeed, they often are.
They try to put their minds at ease by telling concerned moms and dads that an inclusion consultant oversees these students. In reality, though, these consultants just pop in every now and then to observe but never offer any concrete help.
3. Because Your Student Will Not Get the Help They Deserve
Maryanne, a long-time kindergarten teacher in Napa Valley, California had watched for decades as her young students with special needs flourished when receiving services such as speech therapy, occupational therapy, and direct instruction.
When she and her husband moved to Oregon, though, Maryanne worked at an elementary school that had few special education services and instead relied heavily on inclusion consultants. She knew this was “penny smart pound foolish” and a huge disservice to these children.
Although she was a veteran teacher with a master’s degree, Maryanne had an inclusion consultant popping into her classroom throughout the week to observe a student with special needs. The consultant would then hand her a lengthy report of her observations, full of nit-picky remarks on ways she should alter her teaching to accommodate that one particular child. This was especially galling since this consultant had never been a classroom teacher.
By the end of the school year, Maryanne had experienced enough of Oregon and its over reliance on inclusion. She tendered her resignation and took early retirement as so many veteran teachers are now doing.
She couldn’t bear to see students not receiving the help they needed, especially during their early years when research shows how incredibly effective it is.
4. Because Individual Students Will Be Overwhelmed and Abandoned
The Russian scholar Andrei Lankov said, “To not have your suffering recognized is an unbearable form of violence.”
Today, with fewer special education teachers and more inclusion consultants, students are hurting. Since they’re not receiving the help they desperately need, some are acting out: interrupting lessons, fighting with classmates, and destroying school property.
Others sit quietly and comply while feeling dumb, worthless, scared, and alone. At an early age, they’re getting the message that school isn’t for them. Therefore, they want to be liberated from it as soon as possible.
Teachers are frustrated by being expected to be miracle workers who can reach and motivate every single kid. Without a special education team supporting them, they feel overwhelmed and abandoned. Inclusion consultants just add to their already intense workload.
When schools start to unravel like this, our society follows. You can see it all around us: the homeless, the mentally ill, the drug addicted, the suicidal, the anxious, and the depressed.
A lot of these down and out folks were once little kids who were crying out for help at school but nobody heard them. With the proliferation of inclusion consultants, we’ll see a lot more of them in the future.
© 2022 McKenna Meyers