Sunday, 14 October 2012

Day Three: The Importance of Presumed Competence

For most of us, presumed competence is a normal part of life when it comes to daily activities, school, work, etc.  When you first started school, it was presumed that you could handle a regular primary class.  If you’ve enrolled your own kids in school or sports or extra curricular activities, your kids were presumed to be competent until they may have proved otherwise.

The same is not always true for individuals with disabilities.  As a result of long-standing and incorrect perceptions, when we encounter an individual with a disability, the individual is often presumed incompetent.  It is presumed that they cannot handle the regular classroom and need to be segregated from the mainstream and isolated in special programs for treatments, interventions and services.  Hopes and dreams may be stripped away by physicians, educators, services providers, and even parents, as in, “People with ______ will never ____”.  But have we ever given the individual the opportunity to try?  

There is no proof that the presence of a disability automatically makes someone incompetent. 

As teachers, it is our responsibility to presume the competence of all students in our classrooms.  Presuming competence means assuming all individuals are intellectually complex, desire to have meaningful interactions and opportunities, and have the right to learn academic content, despite communicating differently or having other support needs.

Presuming competence for students with disabilities increases the expectations for academic and social achievement by including them in opportunities to learn what other students their age are learning.  By assuming that all students can learn and can participate, we are truly accepting and encouraging them as they are.

Presume competence.  Presume ability.  Give each individual a chance to try for what they desire: an education with peers, independence, a job, and a career. 

I encourage you to read the blog entry linked below entitled “Presuming Competence” by a young girl named Amy Sequenzia who stated “Because my parents presumed my competence, they included me in the family, they believed I was able to understand what I already knew I could: anything a girl my age would.”  Amy's blog entry does a great job of highlighting the importance of presuming competence.

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