New book captures critical voices on special education – Campus Life – Kamloops

The new book by Kim Calder Stegemann and Nan Stevens The Journey from Institution to Inclusion: The History of Special Education for Children of Different Ability in the Kamloops-Thompson Area 1800-2021takes an important look at how the education of students with different abilities has evolved over time – from institutionalization to an education system that meets the diverse learning needs of children.

inspiration for the book

New book by Kim Calder Stegemann and Nan Stevens.

“The grain of an idea started about three years ago,” says Calder Stegemann, TRU Professor Emeritus. “Associate Professor Nan Stevens, my colleague at the time, and I were at the School of Education and we were both involved in special education and presenting and writing papers on inclusion. At that time there was a really strong push for the full inclusion movement, where every student with a disability or different abilities is placed in a general education classroom. While inclusive education is important, it may not always work for all students.”

As the full inclusion movement gained ground, school districts across Canada also closed their resource rooms: designated spaces where a special education program could be conducted for a student of different abilities, either individually or in a small group.

“Nan and I have been in classrooms so we know what the reality is. One size does not fit all,” says Calder Stegemann. “We both also have personal experiences with children of different abilities, so we felt that alternative educational methods needed to be available for students who struggled in general classrooms.”

Despite reduced budgets, several schools in the Kamloops-Thompson School District continued to provide resource rooms to maintain the level of service required for students with special needs.

“Our district was one of the few school districts with resource rooms that allowed students with severe disabilities or behaviors to study in an environment more appropriate to their needs,” says Calder Stegemann. “So we thought we would do a book that would take the history of special education throughout our area to culminate with what is still happening in our district. We wanted to be able to highlight or show how unique our neighborhood is.”

Decisive voices

To gain insight into people’s experiences with special education, TRU graduate Lena Stengel interviewed local members of the BC Retired Teachers’ Association, school administrators, teachers, educators, teaching assistants, parents and students. Stengel received a grant from the Undergraduate Research Experience Award program in 2019 to work on the project.

“We are very grateful to Lena for her work,” says Calder Stegemann. “It’s labor intensive interviewing people, but we were very confident that we wanted those voices in our chapters. We included the credit list in each chapter, so even if their quotes didn’t make it into the text, the people interviewed were listed along with their role.”

indigenous perspective

Unfortunately, due to the challenges caused by COVID-19 and other unforeseen circumstances, the writing team was unable to speak to members of the Secwépemc community about special education.

“We wanted to include an indigenous perspective because we really wanted to know how indigenous communities deal with special needs or people with different abilities,” says Calder Stegemann. “We hired Indigenous students from TRU to interview elders and other parishioners, but unfortunately we couldn’t get that perspective.”

Instead, Mike Bowden, SD63 District Principal of Aboriginal Education, provides some insight into the book’s foreword.

“Mike talks a little bit about some of the challenges and issues surrounding special education in Indigenous communities, but we hope that at some point the Secwépemc community will tell their own story,” says Calder Stegemann.

The book is available from the TRU Bookstore.

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