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Inclusion and your Special Education Student
By Judith Greenberg, Ph.D.
President, School Finders, LLC
Many parents are wondering what inclusion or mainstreaming will do to the special education population. How will my child be affected? Will services still be available? How large will the classes be? How can my cerebral palsy or autistic child be in a class of 30 mainstreamed students? These are only a few question that give parents nightmares as they begin to scratch the surface of this educational fright.
Inclusion is the concept that meeting the Least Restrictive Environment can best be done by not removing students from the mainstream classroom and putting them in small self-contained classes. Ideally, special ed teachers would be assigned to all mainstream or inclusion classes to work with the special ed students included in the population. The reality of this plan is spooky. In current co-taught classes, all over the US, these classes have a general ed teacher and a special ed teacher trained to work with Learning Disabled (LD) students. Unfortunately, parents report that their children receive no assistance and worst of all, the special ed teacher is rarely present. Instead, he or she is pulled from the co-taught classes to cover classes when other teachers have to go to meetings or when the school can’t get a substitute or lacks money to pay one. Imagine the effect of inclusion if special ed teachers are not in the classroom for these children.
General education teachers do not even take first aid classes in college. How can a math teacher be expected to reinsert a trachiotomy tube or give a feeding to a student with a feeding tube? Who teaches the rest of the class while the teacher is performing these needs? Who trains them for the many needs they will have to meet? Why has special education become such a big issue? Some parents of special ed children rightly feel the children will improve if allowed to learn with higher functioning peers and perhaps have an aid to help them. This is often true and an excellent answer for many students. For others it is a disaster. The bottom line answer is in reality, the bottom line. School systems nationwide are cutting special education to save money as Federal monies are cut from education budgets.
One county in Maryland tried to end all special education by 2005. A secret meeting was held to do just that. Enough teachers sent home flyers that over 200 parents made it for the meeting and put a stop to the attempt. Unfortunately, the plan goes forward and the date to end special ed is now 2008. Many educationally “sound” answers are used to explain why, but they make no sense. If we didn’t need to help these students, why have we been doing so for decades? Who will do it now? Can every child be placed in a private special ed program, and if so, who pays for it? Inclusion is appropriate for some students and that is the reason for parents to be present at every Individual Education Plan meeting. They should come with an advocate, lawyer, consultant, treating physician, or caregiver to help the team members understand the child’s needs. Get active, find out what your school system plans, get answers and solutions before they are history and your child is the loser.
Judith Greenberg is a special education consultant and school placement expert based in Maryland. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or (301) 230-9010
Disclaimer: Internet Special Education Resources (ISER) provides this information in an effort to help parents find local special education professionals and resources. ISER does not recommend or endorse any particular special education referral source, special educational methodological bias, type of special education professional, or specific special education professional.
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