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Article of Interest - Inclusion

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Everyone Together: Local Group Promoting ‘Inclusion'
Students with disabilities can learn from getting experience in a traditional classroom setting, a speaker says.
by Cynthia Remnarace, Monroe News Online, October 9, 2003
For more articles like this visit http://www.bridges4kids.org

 
An expert in educating children with disabilities told a crowd of teachers, parents and therapists Wednesday that just because a child has different academic needs doesn't mean he needs to be sheltered from other students.

Dr. Jill England, an authority on inclusive education, told the crowd of 40 at Monroe Middle School that when a child with handicaps is kept in a traditional classroom setting, everyone benefits.

"When students are included in regular education, the typical kids do better," Dr. England said. "In a co-taught class, where there were students with disabilities, students scored an average of 30 points higher on state proficiency exams."

The philosophy is called "inclusion," and is being touted by Monroe Everyone Together. The group was started by parents of children with disabilities who want their children to have a traditional school experience.

"We talked about our dreams for our kids," said Beth Kohler, a Monroe Everyone Together founding member whose son is handicapped. "It was for them not to go to a special school on a special bus. For us, it's not just about inclusive schools, but inclusive communities."

The inclusion model guarantees that the civil rights of children with disabilities are protected as well.

"People with disabilities are the only segment of the population for whom segregation is accepted," said Carolyn Das, parent coordinator for Every-one Together, the statewide organization.

Inclusion works by taking a child with handicaps and placing him in a typical classroom. That child has an Individual Educational Plan (IEP) that lists his academic goals and what is recommended for him to reach them. He may need a speech therapist, or a paraprofessional.

"In inclusion education you still do one-on-one, but you don't take him down the hall to the speech therapist to do it," Dr. England said.

Instead, depending on what lesson is being taught at what time of the day, necessary specialists are brought into the classroom to co-teach.

Assignments for the child with special needs are modified.

Lauri Stein, also a parent coordinator for Everyone Together, explained what is done with her son, Gene, who is in a mainstream eighth-grade class.

For a science project, the class was told to collect 18 different bugs and arrange them by family. Gene has Down's syndrome and autism and communication is a challenge.

To modify his assignment, the teacher asked that Gene collect nine bugs instead of 18. Instead of classifying them by family, he was told to determine which ones have wings and which don't. Writing is difficult for Gene, so instead he used the computer to type out labels for his display.

"He had something to turn in when the other kids turned in their assignments," Ms. Stein said.

Thomas Koepke, assistant superintendent for special education at the Monroe County Intermediate School District, said the inclusion model is already in use locally.

"We share the same vision that children should be included," Dr. Koepke said. "But there are parental preferences. We try to create opportunities for everybody. We have as many parents demanding special services in a small classroom setting. It comes down to what is appropriate for the child."

Any child with any level of disability can be mainstreamed, Ms. Stein said. Getting parents to understand the benefits of inclusion is one of Everyone Together's missions.

"I truly believe that if most parents knew their children could benefit, that they could learn in an inclusive environment, they'd want it. We think that inclusion in the community leads to inclusion in adulthood."  

 

 For more information on Monroe Everyone Together, visit http://www.home.earthlink.net/~monroeeveryonetogether/.  Readers are encouraged to view the concept and position paper for Everyone Together which promotes full inclusion for all children at http://www.home.earthlink.net/~monroeeveryonetogether/id13.html.  All children, all together, all the time.  It just makes sense! JDI

    

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