Exchange builds leadership for inclusive practices

Faculty of Graduate Studies

Exchange builds leadership for inclusive practices

Five Brock graduate students packed their bags last year to take part in a unique international exchange that is bringing the world of inclusive practices for people with disabilities a little closer together.

The students spent several weeks in the United Kingdom with the internship program “Advocacy and Leadership: Enhancing educational and employment opportunities for persons with disabilities.” The multi-year project is led by Brock Education professors Sheila Bennett and Tiffany Gallagher and receives funding support through Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) and its highly competitive Canada-European Union Program for Cooperation in Higher Education, Training and Youth.

Bennett and Gallagher are co-ordinating exchange experiences for more than 70 students and faculty, from seven partner institutions in England, Belgium, Finland and Canada. The program brought graduate students from Finland and Belgium to Brock during the Fall semester. And, this summer, a second group of five Brock students will be on exchange in Belgium.

“Students who participate come from a broad range of disciplines and share a wide range of skills, expertise and ideas – for example, the Brock graduate students who were on exchange last year came from Education, Child and Youth Studies and Applied Disability Studies programs,” says Gallagher. “The goal of this experience is for these students to become leaders in their own communities with respect to advocating on behalf of people with disabilities.”

As part of the program, students receive two course credits in conjunction with internship experiences in educational and community settings, around the world, that relate to their studies.

MEd student James McInnis spent his exchange at a school in Bedford, England. He says the school has gained a strong reputation for its inclusive practices mainly due to the leadership of its headmaster.

“The placement was an ideal fit for me since my thesis research focuses on the pivotal roles that school principals play in inclusionary settings,” says McInnis who also teaches part time. “The Bedford headmaster will be one of several case studies that I will present as part of my thesis.

“Overall, the exchange allowed me to grow as a researcher, graduate student and educator – it’s all part of shaping what I want to do for students in my care as well as my own development should I assume a position of educational leadership.”

Ryan Ibay and Anne Brennan, who are both pursuing a master’s in Applied Disability Studies with an Applied Behaviour Analysis specialization, echoed similar sentiments about the personal and educational value of their exchange experiences.

Brennan was placed in a school where she assisted teachers in an autism provision centre to support the learning needs of six autistic boys attending mainstream classes.

“The way in which they approached disabilities was very different,” says Brennan. “ This really made me think about the systems we have in place and allowed me to critically examine them. Also, the conversations that I had with the staff at my placement provided me with insight and an objective perspective on the challenges in supporting youngsters with disabilites.”

Ibay is a full-time rehabilitation therapist with the Regional Rehabilitation Centre's Acquired Brain Injury Neuro-rehabilitation program, in Hamilton, Ont. His internship involved working as a learning support assistant for students with learning disabilities at The Grange School in Kempston, England.

“This placement was the perfect opportunity for me to gain experience working with children under the age of 16 with autism and/or an intellectual disability,” he says. “I’ve had very limited experience working with this type of population and I welcomed the opportunity to diversify my experiential portfolio. The placement also allowed me to learn and experience the field of disability from the perspective of a different culture.

“Personally this experience has given me something that is very difficult to put into words. The personal character development, the life experience, the people I have met and the places I have seen mark a distinct moment in my life. It has allowed me to meet goals and make choices that have led to my betterment as a student, a professional and as a person.”
 

“Overall, the exchange allowed me to grow as a researcher, graduate student and educator – it’s all part of shaping what I want to do for students in my care as well as my own development should I assume a position of educational leadership.”
- James McInnes

"The conversations that I had with the staff at my placement provided me with insight and an objective perspective on the challenges in supporting youngsters with disabilites.”
- Anne Brennan

“Personally this experience has given me something that is very difficult to put into words. The personal character development, the life experience, the people I have met and the places I have seen mark a distinct moment in my life. It has allowed me to meet goals and make choices that have led to my betterment as a student, a professional and as a person.”
- Ryan Ibay