Have you ever experienced the feeling of being left out? At times, I have felt that way. It’s not a good feeling. It makes me sad to think that many students with disabilities must cope with this feeling every day.
Often, children in a self-contained classroom are isolated from their peers. They can miss out on the bonds that develop naturally among kids in regular classes who learn, eat lunch, and play together during the school day.
Making friends does not always come easy for kids who have disabilities. It doesn’t help that parents are often told that the “special ed class,” also known as a self-contained classroom, is the only place their child can learn. This just isn’t true. With the right supports, children can work on their Individual Education Program(IEP) goals alongside their typical peers in the same classroom.
Being in a regular classroom benefits all children. Learning expectations are higher. Neurological-typical kids provide good speech and behavior models. And our kids teach them about kindness and empathy.
The best time to start is in kindergarten when children are most accepting. Often the bonds formed in the early years last all the way through to high school. The time when natural supports are so important.
Some schools support inclusion. But it’s up to parents to make it happen. Parents must learn their rights and how to be good advocates for their children.
The federal special education law is called IDEA. It says that children with disabilities are entitled to a free and appropriate public education. Placement should be in the Least Restrictive Environment.
Also, consider attending the annual Inclusion Works Conference. This is a great place to learn more about how to work with your school to get the best education for your child. Stipends for parents and students may be available. The Inclusion Works usually happens in February of each year and moves around the state, so it could be in a location near you.
Critical thinking and problem-solving skills go beyond academics. Everyday life provides opportunities to apply these skills. During my son’s educational career, a lack of critical thinking and problem-solving skills was often noted in his Individualized Education Plan paperwork. While he may struggle with these skills academically, he solves problems all the time in his daily life.