Inclusion of Children with disAbilities

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August 20, 1996 EvaS: Evening, everyone!:) Our guest is KarenL, who'll be telling us her experiences with inclusion of her son in classes for non-disabled children. Welcome, Karen!

KarenL2888: Thank you.

EvaS: Karen, tell us about yourself and your family. What is it that got you involved with issues of including children with disabilities in schools?

KarenL2888: Well, Dan had been in segregated schools much of elementary school. He's my son, and he is 15. When we moved, the kids were all in regular schools, but in the "class down the hall". I thought if he could attend school out of district in a regular school, but another class, he could attend one at home. So, I set about to make that happen.

EvaS: Why did you decide to try this with Dan? What in particular moved you to do this?

KarenL2888: Well, Dan is more LIKE other kids than he is different. And part of why you go to school has so little to do with academics and so much more to do with socialization and belonging.

EvaS: That's true, Karen. Definitely.

KarenL2888: So, when I put him in his first "regular class," I chose Reading. They protested that reading was too hard for him, but I told them he was an auditory learner and it might do him some good. He was reading first grade level within a year...from no reading skills at all.

DXSMac: What was the basis for their "protest" that it was "too hard"? Did they mean too hard for "him" or to hard for THEM!!!

KarenL2888: Good question....probably both. Teachers really do want what is best for kids for the most part, but sometimes what is traditional is more comfortable.

EvaS: Karen, how did Dan feel about being in a regular class?

KarenL2888: Dan was a little scared at first, but he is very social and very egotistical. And I'm not saying it was always easy and no one picked on him. What I am saying is that he was picked on less than your average kid, and for the most part, the kids have been great. They are, after all, his future employers .

EvaS: Karen, how did he take being picked on? How did he handle that?

KarenL2888: He cried, since his feelings are hurt more easily than his body. But we discussed what "friend" really means and taught him that people who treat him badly or want something in return, are not friends. He learned.

LavonneS: What age and grade was Dan when he first began inclusion?

KarenL2888: Lavonne, he was in 4th. Quite old for a scene change, but it simply wasn't an option till then, and we felt so strongly about it, that we set out to make it work well. It was definitely a team idea.

LavonneS: Can you describe the "supports" the district put in place for him?

KarenL2888: Well, at first there were none. But we met with the Special Ed teacher and she was very helpful in coordinating his classes and teaming with the other teachers at least once a week. We made sure that his spelling was relevant to his science, and that his reading was based on social studies texts. We also established lines of communication that remain open.

Rae4129: What type of disability does Dan have, Karen?

KarenL2888: Dan has Down Syndrome, Rae.

Springblue: My daughter was in a school where they main streamed a down syndrome child and she loved him. She and he helped each other.

KarenL2888: I think it works well for all concerned. Spring, I find that when a teacher learns to teach each child on an individual basis, each child benefits. Even those who have no disAbility. Teachers often tell me that having Dan as a student makes them a better teacher for all.

Springblue: I totally agree, because each child and adult is an individual. Each with different strengths and weaknesses.

KarenL2888: I also firmly believe that your child will some day hire my child because of her understanding that he is more like others than not. :)

Rae4129: How do the teachers grade Dan since he can't perform as the other children do, Karen?

KarenL2888: The grades were an issue we discussed at length. The first thought was we cant grade him equally and the second thought was he should have the same report card as everyone else. We thought and discussed and haggled and then we decided that he would be graded on what he should learn and that percentage translated to a regular grade with a proviso on his card that the course was adapted.

LavonneS: He must have IEP goals. Is he graded on his progress on those?

KarenL2888: Lavonne, as for his IEP, he isn't graded on his IEP goals. They remain part of the MDT and part of his annual review. He is graded on his understanding of a portion of the curriculum and following directions, etc.

Bex22: I was included from the beginning of my education & at times it was very hard, but I'm glad I stayed with it. I have CP & have just graduated from college.

KarenL2888: I'm glad to hear that, Bex.

Springblue: You did a great thing, Bex.

EvaS: And Bex is was a computer science major!:)

KarenL2888: Well, I am very happy to hear that Dan will be glad I did this to/for him. Sometimes you question yourself, but for the most part, I know he learns more this way.

Springblue: I know nothing about computers, can you teach me, Bex?

Bex22: Sure.

KarenL2888: Dan can teach you computers. :)

EvaS: Karen, do you think all children should be included, disabled or not?

KarenL2888: No, I definitely don't. I think all kids should have the support they need to be included, but unfortunately, all schools don't include, and some that do call it inclusion merely "dump". I believe all parents and kids should have a viable option, and more are now than ever, I'm happy to say, due, in part, to the computer and AOL and Internet. :)

Springblue: I interned in a class of ED, emotionally disturbed 5th graders, and I think that class segregation made them worse.

VonVon S: Any suggestions for parent burnout?

KarenL2888: Von, it happens to all of us. It isn't easy to deal with, but it does go round and go away for a while, and you get a new burst of energy and a new reason for advocacy. How old is the child ?

VonVon S: Senior in high school, 17. Learning disabled in reading, math and spelling.

KarenL2888: Well, I'm sure you've had at least three crash and burns over the years. But I'm not sure if you let your guard down, that you will see anyone else pick up the torch. Is there a college plan? or Vo Tech?

VonVon S: You're right about that, no one to pick up the torch.

KarenL2888: I just wanted to make sure the school had some ultimate goal for your child, Von.

VonVon S: My son is in work program this year. I just will be glad when he finally graduates.

EvaS: Karen, has your example persuaded other parents of children with disabilities to enter their kids in public schools?

READ MORE ABOUT IT: Mainstreaming in Education (rev. 7/9/96 - jlc)

[NOTE: These brief bibliographies are not intended to be an exhaustive treatment of a topic .... instead they are intended to provide a starting place for reading on the topic.]

Creating Tomorrow's Schools Today : Stories of Inclusion, Change, and Renewal. New York, Teachers College Press, 1996.

Downing, June. Including Students With Severe and Multiple Disabilities in Typical Classrooms : Practical Strategies for Teachers. Baltimore, MD, Paul H. Brookes, 1996.

Fraser, Brian. Supporting Children With Hearing Impairment in Mainstream Schools. London, Franklin Watts, 1996.

Inclusion Strategies for Students With Learning and Behavior Problems. Austin, TX, Pro-Ed, 1997.

Jenkinson, Josephine C. Mainstream or Special? Educating Students With Disabilities. New York, Routledge, 1996.

Krmpotich, Janet G. Inclusion : A Classroom Teacher's Perspective. Apple Valley, MN, HBK Pub. Co., 1995.

Lucas, Karen. Mainstreaming Learning Disabled, Trainable Mentally Retarded, and Gifted Students in an Elementary Science Class. Research Project (M.Ed.), California University of Pennsylvania, 1995.

Miller, Olga. Supporting Children With Visual Impairment in Mainstream Schools. London, Franklin Watts, 1996.

Rebhorn, Theresa. Unlocking the Door : A Parent's Guide to Inclusion. Fairfax, VA, Parent Educational Advocacy Training Center, 1994.

Rief, Sandra F. How to Reach and Teach All Children in the Inclusive Classroom : Ready-To-Use Strategies, Lessons, and Activities for Teaching Students with Diverse Learning Needs. West Nyack, NY, Center for Applied Research in Education, 1996.

Successful Mainstreaming : Proven Ways to Detect and Correct Special Needs. 2nd ed. Boston, Allyn and Brown, 1997.

Wesley, Patricia W. Mainstreaming Young Children : A Training Series for Child Care Providers. Chapel Hill, NC, Frank Porter Graham Child Development Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1992.

Winebrenner, Susan. Teaching Kids With Learning Difficulties in the Regular Classroom. Minneapolis, MN, Free Spirit Pub., 1996.

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