Ezequiel Speroni (19) was in second grade and so far none of his school friends had invited him to play at home. One day, Judith, the mother of one of her classmates, proposed to her son to invite him. “I was wondering: what will a boy with Down syndrome play, what will he like, how will he communicate, but he came home and everything flowed perfect. Soon, he came again,” recalls the mother of who is one of his best friends.
That was the kick to achieve the inclusion of Zequi – as everyone calls him – and little by little more parents were encouraged. “It's beautiful to see them play and laugh together, to see them learn to be patient, supportive, tolerant, to see them feel proud when Zequi has a hard time doing something and they all look for ways to achieve it,” says Judith.
Zequi's friends tell what they learned by sharing the classroom together
“With inclusion we all win,” Ezequiel's friends say as they prepare to play a football game at the Caballito club where they meet every Saturday. “He is one of the group, there is no meeting, trip or party in which he cannot participate,” they agree. Tomás, Martín and Nacho (17 years old) feel they would not be the same if they had not shared the classroom with Zequi. The four friends attended elementary and high school together at the Caballito Model Educational Institute and graduated at the end of the year. Ezekiel will be the first boy with Down syndrome from his school to be received.
Greater tolerance, patience, solidarity and empathy are some of the values that children, teachers, parents and specialists highlight. Learning to value differences is another great learning. “To all those who doubt the value of inclusive education, I would tell them to take the test. It is the only way to lose their fears,” Tomás recommends.
“Inclusive education enriches all students and improves educational quality,” says Spanish psychologist and pedagogue Emilio Ruiz, who recently was in Argentina teaching courses for managers, teachers and parents. According to his vast experience, a teacher who receives a different child in his classroom, has to change his teaching methodology to adapt to that child and thanks to that, all students benefit. “Different children improve school because they do not allow teachers to fall asleep on the laurels of the pedagogical routine,” he says.
For this well-known Spanish, another of the greatest virtues of inclusive education is that it improves classmates because they learn to live certain attitudes that they would not otherwise incorporate.
On the other hand, “if you want to succeed you have to learn to relate to all kinds of people,” Ruiz emphasizes. That is why, according to him, that the world's great universities are receiving more and more varied people, children from disadvantaged backgrounds. “They do it because they understand that the great entrepreneurs of the future are going to have to live with people from many environments,” he concludes.
The voice of the specialists
José María Tomé, Gabriela Santuccione and Rocío Iglesias, Argentine referents in inclusive education offer their views on the benefits of a school for all.
Why is it good to choose an inclusive school for our children?
“What I learned as a Zequi teacher”
Claudia Fiorito was one of the teachers who went through Zequi's life. In a letter published on the Asdra website that had a great impact on social networks, he summarized how sharing the classroom with Ezekiel marked his life and that of his students.
Letter from Claudia Fiorito, Technician in Educational Conduction and Primary School teacher, 6th grade teacher of Ezequiel Speroni
“As a teacher, in my classes I always talked about respecting differences, being tolerant, sharing with others. With my students we filled the school walls with beautiful billboards, we put together school events that reflected how good it is to respect differences, we worked beautifully. stories and everything was very nice while we played 'so it should be'.
In 20 years of teaching in private schools I had only two opportunities to share my work with students with special needs, they and their parents taught me a lot. One day, my 6th grade classroom had a change and I had a new opportunity. It was neither billboards, nor new paint, but the fuel that is needed to fan the fire and create a comfortable environment. By 6th grade a group of 24 students had arrived who had spent seven years of sharing every day with a partner with Down syndrome.
As for how I should prepare the class and what changes to make, the integrating teachers, the team that accompanies my student and their parents every day give me tools and encourage me to learn more and more. I learn a lot from all of them and the information that is circulating in different media. But the best learning is that I live together with the group.
All my students know that they are different, they learned to accept and use these differences to do a good group work: 'What do you do best?', 'Draw?', 'Then you draw'. 'If we draw the lines, he can do it. It has large print and in print. the sheet will be able to be read better '. It is not necessary to make a billboard that says 'Respect and value differences', they live it.
What struck me the most was the first time my student with Down syndrome read aloud. His companions continued reading, nobody corrected him (I always used to the rest of the groups correct when a partner is wrong or usually complain when they are not heard or take time to read), attentive to my instructions he went back to review his mistake , at the end, before I could give a return his companions in unison told him: 'Very good Zequi'. How much they taught me at that time! Patience, love, recognition of your partner's achievements. It is not necessary to make a billboard that says 'Be tolerant', they live it.
Each class is a teaching. It is true, in school it is taught; but I speak of teaching that is not written in a classroom project as content. All human beings are, to a greater or lesser degree, competitive. We want to win and be recognized for it; and there are very few times where the achievements are shared with the heart (many times they are only to look good). Two groups. Set of questions and answers. Scores 'I know your answer,' said one student. All coincided with the success. No one shouted. They approached his partner and told him the answer. 'Right,' I replied. They celebrated together but congratulations were given to his partner who answered in a loud voice. It is not necessary to make a billboard that says “Know how to share”, they live it.
To understand a little more the experiences shared previously, it is important to quote a student's comment while everyone made the billboard for the Day of Down Syndrome, which included concepts such as 'we all have rights', 'educational inclusion', etc. His words, as a reflective question were: 'Why should we continue saying it if it is something so natural?' It is very clear that, given their daily experiences, inclusion is in their lives, in their thoughts and in their hearts; and they are the protagonists of the desired change, proposed, declared.
Therefore, when we talk about inclusion we talk about learning to live human values every day knowing and sharing with everyone else, beyond their differences.
What can help us the general culture that every teacher seeks to achieve their students if as human beings we do not seek that our children, without distinctions, are good people to be happy, provide happiness and develop autonomously. And that is not learned by reading a school textbook or with a master class, you learn by “practicing” and how we can practice it if we do not have the opportunity for an inclusive education.
It is in my desires that everyone in the not too distant future live in an inclusive education and society.
Finally, a huge thanks to Zequi and my students (friends and classmates), for allowing me to grow with you. “
Where to report
Any person who faces any of these or other obstacles can file a complaint with the school or with the Ministry of Education of their province. In addition, you can file a complaint with the National Institute against discrimination, Xenophobia and Racism (INADI) 0800-999-2345 or on the National Coexistence line: 0800-222-1197.
Group Article 24
A coalition of more than 150 organizations across the country fighting for a school open to diversity.
Learn more at:
ACIJ and Grupo Article 24 offer a site with information on the tools that can be used to claim the effective fulfillment of the right to inclusive education