School books must be subject to an inclusive language audit to ensure they promote respect, equality and inclusion, a Senator has said. Senator Mary Seery-Kearney, Fine Gael Seanad spokesperson on Children, Disability, Equality, Integration and Privacy Rights, said: “In recent weeks a number of autism campaigners have contacted me with their concerns in relation to a paragraph in a school text book called ‘Lift Off’.
“Language contained in the book highlights the need for an inclusive language audit across the whole school curriculum.” “The book, which is on the English programme for fourth class pupils in primary schools, contains a passage on the feelings of a sister regarding her brother with autism. Describing her thoughts it reads ‘someone would invent a pill so David (her brother with autism) would wake up one morning without autism, like someone waking from a long coma, and he’d say… where have I been? And he’d be a regular brother…. a brother who’d give back as much as he took’.
“While I’m sure it was not the intention of the authors to cause offence, the language in this passage does not have a place within an inclusive curriculum. It is completely disrespectful of children and adults with autism and their value and contribution to family life and society. I am shocked that it passed what is presumably a vetting process for approval as a textbook for our national curriculum. “Undoubtedly siblings of children with disabilities experience frustration and anger on behalf of and with their sibling, and it is important we find ways to support them. However, language such as this in a textbook, with use of words like ‘regular’ and suggesting that a child with autism takes more than they give, is not the way.
“I have written to the Minister for Education asking her to instruct that this textbook is immediately removed from use. I have also asked that a review is undertaken of all approved textbooks on our curriculum to ensure that nothing similar is within any of the other books used in the education of our students. “Approval of textbooks for the curriculum should be subject to an inclusivity audit that ensures they contain language that promoting respect, equality and inclusion”, Senator Seery-Kearney concluded.