Staff Training: Introduction
Reflecting on the kind of training that is required, and with the insight gained from facilitating inclusion in the post secondary education sector since 2001, it became clear that there exists a gap:
We are failing to explain the ‘why’ behind the tools we use to facilitate inclusion. Staff who have an understanding of the ‘why’ have said that they gained it through a combination of experience, personal values, and iterations of conversations about deconstructing the norms and expectations society has for people with developmental disabilities.
The historical legacy of how people with developmental disabilities have been supported has impacted those working today towards greater inclusion and authentic lives. Many are feeling disorientation and lacking a sense of intuition about their work that they can trust. This training is intended to provide staff with the tools to develop an intuition about the ‘why’ involved in the everyday decisions on how to facilitate inclusion.
Irrespective of previous experience in their field, there are a significant number of professionals in this field who are challenged to recognize the stereotypes and segregation still practiced today and which pervades the support of people with developmental disabilities. We feel that being informed about the history is a first step in supporting staff in being aware of when they may themselves be unintentionally replicating historical patterns and reinforcing stereotypes.
To provide a broader perspective in this guide we are borrowing from several traditional training methods from other social movements and social justice training. The first is an overview of anti-oppressive training.
The anti-oppressive module is designed to help staff be aware of their position of power over students, and to think about the systems of inequality within society that we are seeking to disrupt with inclusive post-secondary education.
Connected to this are tools and perspectives for social change that help us to think about how the day-to-day pieces of our work connect to the bigger picture of changing society to think differently about the meaning of developmental disability. We also are drawing on some facilitation tools from these disciplines that can be directly applied to working with allies, and through challenges, while pushing the boundaries of inclusion.
The other key component that we notice, and particularly important, is for staff to develop a practice of self-reflection. Embedding this reflective perspective into daily practice prevents staff from losing their ability to think critically and dynamically.
There are also some interesting ways of thinking about inclusion and exclusion that have been developed by others in this field that can be helpful for staff to draw upon. This includes bigger picture thinking on inclusion, as well as aspects of Social Role Valorization theory. This information will be helpful in articulating the philosophy behind inclusion to others by providing an understanding of the context of the perspectives of families we work for.
We understand and respect that learning about inclusion is an on-going process. Staff are not expected, in fact are actively discouraged from, reading these modules and assuming that they can now tick a box that says they have learned “how to” be a facilitator. This information is intended to provide a foundational critical perspective for staff to build on in their day-to-day practice.
These conversations will be revisited often at regular regional meetings with families and with staff; when we learn from each other, our mistakes, and gain insight into the work that still needs to be done to bring communities along to embrace inclusion in natural ways.