This post has been contributed by Natalie. What is the media saying about children with special needs? Please read her summary and respond to the questions to contribute to discussion. Thank you and enjoy!
Children with Special Rights in Reggio Emilia, Italy
For the past seven years, I have been teaching in schools in Massachusetts and California that take great inspiration from the municipal infant-toddler centers and preschools of Reggio-Emilia. As part of my graduate work at Tufts, I have worked as an assistant to Lella Gandini, US Liaison for the Reggio Emilia Approach to education. While my specific research has focused on children and teachers as researchers and the Reggio Emilia Approach in public schools in the United States, I have also studied a great deal about inclusion in this small Italian city.
For this post, I have uploaded an article titled “The Inclusive Community” by Ivana Soncini, taken from the book, The Hundred Languages of Children by Lella Gandini, Carolyn Edwards, and George Forman. In this article, Soncini describes her work as a Pedagogical Coordinator responsible for the inclusion of children with special rights in the municipal schools of Reggio Emilia.
According to Italian National Law (1977) children with disabilities are entitled to an inclusive education. And, since then, the system has “eliminated the deficit model and has placed the primary focus on changing the nature of the educational environment to serve all children” (p.189).
“I believe that children with disabilities have the right to live in a school that allows them to intersubjectively construct a positive representation of self—a representation that is in continuous evolution… We have learned from the children with special rights…that emotion and cognition are tightly connected. We have also learned, as I have described, to pay attention to other languages beyond the verbal…The children have motivated us…to analyze our own interpretation of the idea of change. How do we interpret change? Traditionally, change has been perceived as movement toward normality. Historically, the goal was to bring a child with special rights as close to a state of normality as possible. This idea of change focuses on the deficits of the child” (p.205)
Questions for Discussion:
1. What are the political and educational implications of using “children with special rights” rather than “children with special needs”?
2. According to Soncini’s articles, how would you describe the image of the “child with special rights” in Reggio Emilia?
3. How does this image influence the way teachers support children with special rights?
4. Does this article raise any questions in your own work with children?