Sometimes inclusion isn’t the right choice

16 Jan

This morning, yet another article about the wonders of inclusion for special ed students popped up in my social media.  It was about myths and misunderstandings about inclusion, dispelling those ideas of how inclusion is interruptive to the other students or costs more, or how it shouldn’t be seen as a fad.

All in all, it was a good article.  Yet once again, I realized that the choice we made for Maura is not the popular one.

When we lived in Michigan and Maura was about to start kindergarten, we were told inclusion was the only choice.  There was no other place suitable for her.  The district’s special school was for those with severe physical and mental disabilities.  We were actually told to be thankful Maura didn’t qualify for the special school.  And yet, the local school was unprepared for a student with Maura’s many needs.  Highly unprepared.  And yet, it was our only choice.

This is something those who sing the praises of inclusion don’t always witness first hand – a child with moderate disabilities going to a school that isn’t ready for such a challenge.  But neither party has a choice in it.  Inclusion will happen.

While we were uncertain of how inclusion would work for Maura, everyone told us how inclusion was the best option.  As we didn’t have much of a choice in the matter, we went ahead with it.  And it seemed to work.  Maura had many lovely wonderful staff people working with her, and school went as smooth as it could while behind the scenes, we fought with the administration for silly things like proper medical plans and seizure training for the staff.

Her second year in inclusion, I began seeing trouble with it.

First was the fact that because Maura was a special ed student with many needs to be filled, she actually had a busier schedule than her regular ed peers.  She transitioned more times per day than the average student.  She had more to do, because she had to spend time in regular class settings, but then also go for speech and OT and special ed time.

Maura was exhausted.  She’d come home and spend the evening screeching at us if she didn’t get some sort of rest time.  I couldn’t take her out in public because she was too tired and would have melt downs.  But because she was in an inclusion program, she had all these goals she had to meet.  The only way to cut her work load at school was to cut out things like art and music – classes she actually enjoyed and could participate in.  So we kept up the pace.

The second problem I discovered was that inclusion didn’t make Maura’s regular peers  more understanding of her.  Instead, in first grade, it became a “thing” to laugh when a special ed student cried, and call them babies.  It happened in front of me once, and it happened in front of my older daughter’s friends, who quickly told her what happened.  When I talked to the general ed teacher about it, I was told that this had been an ongoing problem all year.  All year.  So much for acceptance.

The third problem we discovered was that because Maura had such a full schedule, between regular academics, special ed academics, and therapies, she didn’t have time to learn a lot of what she really needed to learn – life skills.  Yes, we would work on these things at home as well, but she spent the majority of her waking hours at school, and was exhausted by the time she got home and not in the mood to learn anything.

By the time we moved to Ireland, I was sort of over the mythical wonders of inclusion.

And yet, we tried to get Maura into a regular school in Dublin as well.  Because special schools had the stigma of being for the “worst cases” in our minds.  Inclusion was the ideal.  Inclusion would help her mature and grow in ways a special school couldn’t.  Inclusion was the thing we should fight for, or so every website and article about it told us.

Luckily, the principal at the local school was blunt with us – they didn’t have the resources for a child like Maura.  But he got us in touch with the right people, and a spot at a special school was offered.

I’m almost embarrassed by my reaction to the special school the first time I visited it.  I looked at the students there, and thought “But Maura is my bright beautiful girl!  She doesn’t belong here!”   And then I went home and cried a little, because part of me knew that Maura was really actually disabled.

See, inclusion can give this idea that your child, with all their struggles and difficulties, is still somewhat normal.  That normal is still within reach.  They could learn how to blend.  They could be part of that normal group of kids.  It’s a false sense of security, even for those of us who are quite aware of our child’s challenges.  I also realized that despite being part of the “special needs community”….I hadn’t actually been around that many people with disabilities.  Most of us haven’t.  And yet there I was, in a sea of varying disabilities, for the first time in my life. It was overwhelming – I was able to admit that.

The second time I visited the school, my husband came along, and I was able to actually see the school for what it was – a place that could be very good for Maura.  The principal explained how while they did cover academics, the primary goals were life skills, preparing these children for adulthood.  Including potty training.

I allowed myself to get hopeful that this would be a good choice for Maura.  And it was.

What we learned at our time at a the special school was that inclusion isn’t for a lot of kids.  It might work for a few years, but as they age, they grow further away from their “regular” peers.  The gap widens.    At the special school, Maura’s peers were actually her peers.  She had a group of kids around her age, who were at her level.  She got to really be part of the community in the school.  Everyone knew everyone, and everyone was understood.

Maura still didn’t learn to write.  But that was okay.  She learned how to use the toilet thanks to that school, and let me tell you, toileting trumps writing ANY day.  She went to school functions, and discos, and outings, and birthday parties for classmates.

I also got to see how children like Maura could grow up. Her school was for ages 7-18.  I was amazed at how much the older kids could do, and that gave me hope that Maura would be able to get to that level someday.  I watched the teens tease their friends like any other set of friends, or comfort one when they got nervous.  In the walls of the school, they were the normal ones.

Maura’s time in the special school dispelled some of the myths of “Inclusion is always better” for me.

One was the idea that inclusion will help a special ed student mature more, because they will have their “normal” peers to model proper behaviors.  Yet as it turned out, Maura was one of the more immature students in her class.  She was also the last to be toilet trained.  I think it was because the special school’s goals were based around preparing these children for life after school, instead of meeting specific IEP goals or academics.

Another was the idea of special therapy times.  Maura had speech several days a week when she was in the inclusion program.  The special school didn’t have a speech therapist in house.  Instead, the entire class program was built around communication skills.  Her speech grew during her time there despite the fact that we didn’t do a single session of speech therapy the entire time there.

Mostly though, there’s this idea that sending your child to a special school means hiding them from society.  This was the furthest from the truth.  The students went on tons of outings, to learn how to use public transport, how to shop, etc.  They were known.  And the school was known as well.  When people asked us what school our kids went to, we’d mention Maura’s and the reaction was immediately “Oh!  That is SUCH a good place!”

And it was.

So when we moved back to the states, we didn’t want to throw Maura back into inclusion.  We had realized that for her, it wasn’t ideal.  We found a school district with a life skills program.  Maura is in a special classroom in a regular school, where she spends most of her day.  She is thriving.  Which at the end of the day, is all we want as parents.

I think, having been through all the school options for a special ed student, that the biggest problems we have in the U.S. when it comes to our students with special needs is that there aren’t options in most cases.  Originally, the problem was that students with some needs were thrown into special classes or schools, and left to rot.  But now, we have the LRE (least restrictive environment), where you’re kind of forced to try inclusion because it’s the only option.  And when it’s the only option, it’s not really an option.  In Ireland, we had the right to inclusion, but it was an option. The idea of the LRE had to be explained to them.  Seriously.  The social worker reading Maura’s forms had to ask what LRE stood for.

I am thankful that we found a place for Maura where we could have the option that was right for her.  No amount of inclusion in the world will make Maura normal.  But at least in her special class, she has the chance to learn the things she needs to learn.

So my advice for those of you who have a child with moderate disabilities, who aren’t sure about inclusion for your child and are offered a life skills program, or special classroom is this – give it a chance.  Take an honest look at the program, and what your child truly needs.  Special schools and classrooms don’t equate to giving up on your child.  It might be actually giving your child the best chance at meeting their own full potential.  It could be the best choice.  It was for us.


Maura, waiting for the bus, wearing an Irish school jumper. Because she misses wearing school uniforms, lol!








74 Responses to “Sometimes inclusion isn’t the right choice”

  1. franhunne4u January 16, 2015 at 3:17 pm #

    Thank you for dispelling that myth. I am NOT against inclusion. I just had my doubts it can work for every disability. You confirmed that.

    • Michael Carpenter May 10, 2016 at 10:36 pm #

      I respectfully wonder why you’d characterize either side of this issue as a “myth.” Both sides of the inclusion/self-contained classrooms argument rests on a certain set of assumptions that might or might not be true in any given situation. Even when some sense of reality is factored into the trade-off between inclusion/self-contained classrooms, I’d think that general academic considerations are outweighed by what really goes on in a given school system. So your “myth” might be my truth because I am faced with a different set of circumstances.

      I think parents who are struggling with the inclusion/self-contained classroom decision would be better served by guidance on how to tell when they’re faced with good/bad/indifferent options, and how to make the best choice between the options they have (few as they often are). As passionate as this article is, it is only one perspective under a specific set of circumstances. Even if my child were just like Maura, I’d still have to do my own homework to decide what’s best for him because the factors contributing to our decisions are different, not the least of which is a different set of life experiences and values than the author.

      • franhunne4u May 16, 2016 at 2:05 pm #

        Myth is that inclusion is for all.
        Not that inclusion can be very useful for a lot of children. Myth is the absolutism.

      • Michael Carpenter May 16, 2016 at 3:54 pm #

        OK. Fair enough. 🙂

        The original article left me with the impression the author is a bit frustrated with inclusion, particularly since it’s no longer is a viable approach for her daughter. But I think more care is due in articles such as these because not all school districts are automatically pro-inclusion for all. There are still districts in which the opposite placement decision is offered for some students, i.e., if there are doubts about placement for a particular student, parents can find themselves in a very difficult struggle to find a more amenable situation for their child as the will school argue for a self contained classroom – even as soon as 1st grade.

        The bottom line is that just about every option has its pros and cons. I don’t see inclusion as the holy grail, and a leading academic on inclusion that we have access to even conceded that we might eventually encounter more negatives than positives in a mainstream-like setting as our son gets older. On the other hand, I’m not going to give into a highly self-contained situation either – at least not not without a fight. 🙂

  2. 90maz January 16, 2015 at 3:51 pm #

    What a fantastic read. Thank you – I will share with parents who are in your situation – and are unsure that special school is right for their child

  3. whatsonlaurismind January 16, 2015 at 4:38 pm #

    I read the same article and my thoughts are about the same as yours. My son is in a Life Skills class, and doing as well as he can for his abilities. Community outings, cooking (safety mostly), laundry, shopping and dining out, are part of his and his peers curriculum. Inclusion at his school means attending some classes with the regular ed kids, such as art, library, and music. It is unlikely he will ever read, but he loves to be read to and memorizes his favorite books and can fill in the blank if I leave off the last word of a sentence. He recognizes numbers and most letters, but doesn’t have the motor skills to write. It may change, it may not. I am amazed every day by something he does or says. It is sad we parents have to fight so hard to get what our children need.

  4. Eileen January 16, 2015 at 4:44 pm #

    This article could easily describe our journey with our daughter. Oddly enough we are in Ireland and when it came to starting school we were told inclusion was the only way and that she was “too good” for any of the special schools. Five years on we are now in the process of getting her moved to a special school. I totally agree that inclusion only works up to a point, but as the gap widens and your child begins to be left behind from her peers it starts to affect confidence and behaviour. I just hope that down the line we will have as positive an experience with her new school. Thank you for sharing your story with us.

    • phoebz4 January 16, 2015 at 5:42 pm #

      Eileen – Maura was at the St. Michael’s House Grosvenor School in Leopardstown – it was a very good environment. I hope your new school is just as lovely as that one is!

  5. annmcl January 17, 2015 at 12:30 am #

    Thank you so much for this beautifully written article that leaves me feeling good about myself and the choice we made to send our son to a special needs school. He is thriving and is understood cared for and loved within that environment while progressing academically at a pace suitable to his ability. At times I’ve been made feel like I’ve given up on my son for not choosing inclusion but we knew that eventually as you say that gap would grow too wide and he’d be the odd one out the boy with the needs the cry baby the one who still plays with trains who can’t use a ps4 or X box Live etc and therefore has nothing in common with his classmates. As it is and in the school / class he’s in he’s perfectly normal..They chat together play together grow together and nd no one’s different. Thank you. Best of luck to you and did your beautiful daughter. X

  6. teresamcnally January 17, 2015 at 6:27 am #

    Very interesting article Phoebe


  7. Cathby January 17, 2015 at 8:23 am #

    Yes, yes, yes! When our son was young, a prominent developmental pediatrician told us to “run screaming from the room” if anyone suggested a separate classroom…. but over the years (he’s 13 now) it very clearly became the best situation for him.

    “Success” in a typical classroom was him not disturbing other kids. Not to mention I don’t have to hear anymore self-congratulatory remarks from other parents about how their kid is so great because they were nice to *my* kid.

    Thank you for sharing this… I think a lot of parents (and their children) will benefit.

  8. Kelly D January 17, 2015 at 11:36 am #

    As a special education (and inclusion) teacher, I couldn’t agree more! Forcing some kids into inclusion when what they really need is practice with life skills just because they can do the academic work is a huge disservice to them and to their families, who have to bear the brunt of teaching those skills without any school support. My favorite situation, for those kids, is to spend part of their day in the life skills room and then they are sent out to specific academic classes usually not more than 1 or 2), which are still special ed classes, called resource here, so they are getting the majority of their education via the life skills program.

  9. Amy McGinley January 17, 2015 at 7:21 pm #

    Excellent–I agree with everything you wrote. LRE is different for every child with special needs. Even students with mild to moderate disabilities could benefit from smaller class sizes that self contained classes offer. “We’ve” gone from one extreme to another.

  10. Christine Stimson January 17, 2015 at 7:42 pm #

    I agree that it really is about what works for your child – there ought to be options. I have a friend with the opposite problem. Her daughter is autistic but is high-functioning enough that she ought to be in a regular classroom most of the day. The catch is that she would need a one-on-one aid and therefore the school system has dumped her in a substantially separate classroom. The biggest problem is toiletting – she was trained but has now backslidden, especially in school. The school cites her behavior as a reason she is being kept out of a typical classroom but when she is in the typical classroom, she does not exhibit any of the behaviors. She knows she is being kept from the “regular” kids and doesn’t understand why.

  11. olivedavis January 18, 2015 at 11:44 am #

    Thank you for this. I can relate and understand everything you have written. It is not for everyone but it is for some. Every person is different with different needs and abilities.

  12. Nicki January 18, 2015 at 12:37 pm #

    Thank you for writing this. My son is about to turn five with moderate different abilities. I don’t want my ego stroked and to be told he can be included. My son is already 2-3 years behind his peers and they school is trying to tell me he’ll be just fine in a normal classroom. I want what is truly best for my son, not what is cheapest for the school. We tried an inclusive preschool and my son completely shut down and regressed. Just now we are restarting to potty learn with my son. Maybe someday we can readdress his skills and if he is closer to his typical peers then I will discuss inclusion but right now I am with the author, toileting trumps writing any day.

  13. Linda McBride January 18, 2015 at 1:30 pm #

    I sure wish I’d read this article two years ago when I was faced with the decision to move my son from main stream education to special ed! The decision to move was based on the fact that he got a second diagnosis of ASD, along with down syndrome at birth! Main stream wasn’t working for my boy even before we got the ASD confirmation.
    Your point about ‘you’ having to come to term with your daughters abilities is one I too had to embrace. I remember telling myself it was about finding the a ‘better fit’ for my sons education needs only.
    But it was hard! I felt massive feelings of failure at the time….I could only put that down to the fact the integration model was the only one suggested to us when my son was starting school. And here I was with my son not able to fit into that model!!!
    Strangely enough we checked out the school your daughter went to in Leopardstown cos SMH are our service provider. In the end we chose a Special Ed class in a mainstream class in Dun Laoghaire mainly cos there was only three other kids in the class, 100 other kids in the school. Basically it was a small school with qualified S/N trained teachers.
    And it was the best decision we have ever made for my son. He has blossomed so much in the last two years. Language, life skills, social skills, peer friendships, understanding of routines, going on the special ed bus have been big bonuses for my son. And of course academics at his pace!
    Hopefully we will be in this school for two more years….then secondary educations! Now that scares me! LOL!
    Thank you for taking the time to write this article. Its crystallised so much of what I felt in the last two years!
    I used to read your blog when you lived in Dublin. Didn’t realise you’d moved back to the states…..I want to wish you well! In think we could have been friends in another life….

  14. tammy wilson January 19, 2015 at 8:50 am #

    Inclusion is a joke. LRE is a joke. Lifeskills in my district is a joke. Throwing the teachable kiddos over to a class to be babysat is not teaching. Yet still recieving full SpedEd funding for these kids?? Coloring in the lines of a Kinder coloring page in HS is not a Lifeskill.

    Sincerely. …

    Mom of a 13 yr old Autie boy that has to fight for even his IEP to be followed and him not be thrown over to Lifeskills to be babysat. ….So frustrating and tiring. Just teach my kid. I’m going to have to make up for everything they aren’t doing after he gets out of school. They DONT see that big picture!!!!

  15. Wendy January 19, 2015 at 10:13 am #

    Thank you for sharing your family’s journey with us. It is obvious you put a lot of time and thought into your decisions. I can’t speak for every child but I can say that inclusion is so important for not only our special kids but for our typical kids as well. You stated in your article that you hadn’t been around many people with disabilities in your life and that is exactly why inclusion is so important. Our special kids will be working with our typical kids when they grow up and if they learn to work with one another from the earliest of ages then our kids will be a little less “special” in the eyes of society. While I respect your decision to segregate, I think inclusion is the best decision for many ( not all). I make this statement not just as a mother of a special needs child but as a teacher, an advocate, and a soon to be special education attorney. Additionally, if you read the GAO report on restraint and seclusion, you will find that segregated schools and classrooms are where our children can become victims of abuse. Over 200 children have died in the last 5 years in educational settings. These children are disabled ( mostly autistic) and segregated in schools and classrooms far from the public eye. No one hears them cry and no one knows this is happening because no one sees them.

    • phoebz4 January 19, 2015 at 11:58 am #

      Wendy –

      Thank you for taking the time to comment. But I think you missed a couple things. Yes, I hadn’t been around many people with special needs, but the special school made sure that the students weren’t hidden from society. They were known in the area, part of the community. I remember mentioning to a mover, when we first got to Ireland, that Maura had special needs. His response? “Ah well, there’s nothing wrong with that, is there?” And that was the general attitude.

      Meanwhile, when she was mainstreamed, many of her typical peers made fun of her. Even those who had “grown up” around her in her dance class mocked her for her babyish ways. It was quite hurtful that after all that time in the typical school community, in with typical peers, she was the subject of 1st grade bullying.

      And I have not chosen to “segregate” my daughter. I chose the best program for her so that she’s able to reach her full potential. Her classroom is among the regular ed classes, and other contained classrooms are sprinkled through out the school. It is like having the special school in a regular school. The students are not hidden away, locked in the proverbial dungeon. But they are also not made to be the “class pet” either.

      We as parents have to choose the path that is best for our children. The problem is, that today, there aren’t always options. Abuse happens – yes. But during Maura’s time in her special school, I could have never imagined anyone abusing any of those kids. Just as I can’t imagine any of Maura’s current staff abusing anyone.

      Maybe though, abuse wouldn’t happen if we paid the staff working with our most vulnerable kids more than minimum wage after hiring those who genuinely wanted to work with these kids instead of just someone qualified enough and in need of a job, and invested in these children’s lives by giving them the best start in life, not just the easiest option for school district administrators to make.

      • Wendy January 19, 2015 at 5:09 pm #

        You are right that those working with special needs children should be paid a lot more. Additionally, a minimum qualification should be a masters degree. Sadly, most of the people working in self contained classrooms are not qualified for the position.

        When we take our special needs kids and put them in special schools and special classrooms where everyone is disabled then that is segregation. Remember that we used to do that the black students before Brown v. Board of education. It is now an outlawed practice for everyone except children with disabilities. Sounds discriminatory to me. We don’t need special schools and special classrooms for our kids. Rather, we need schools that are special. Our children with disabilities should be in the same schools and same classrooms they would have been in had they not been born with a disability.

        I worked in an SVE classroom that was made up of 3-5 graders of varying exceptionalities and varying abilities. It was the most hateful class I had ever been in. The higher functioning kids made fun of the lower functioning kids. Bullying happens in all settings. We can try to insulate our children as much as possible but our children will always be vulnerable to attack even in segregated schools and classrooms. How do we prepare our children for the world when we isolate them from it? How do we prepare the world for our kids when we self-segregate?

      • phoebz4 January 19, 2015 at 8:41 pm #

        Wendy, most of the people who have worked with Maura don’t have their Master’s. My best friend taught special ed, she was a very gifted and loving teacher, but without an MA. Why limit the pool of professionals, especially with the ever increasing cost of higher education?

        My child does not belong in the same classroom as if she hadn’t been born disabled. The fact is, she IS disabled. She IS different. Putting her in a regular classroom setting does not benefit her.

        As her mom, I am the expert in what she needs. We have run the gamut of special education and for us, the best choice to give our daughter the best chance at meeting her full potential is a special classroom or school, and I see the benefits of that decision every single day.

    • shannon December 27, 2015 at 7:45 pm #

      you can NOT even compare disabled students to brown vs board of edu… the black students did not have different learning needs !! apples to oranges ! and partial inclusive classes can be cool- like band music art, science, ect.. but so many students do better in sped, where theyare taught the life skills, i seen so many of those kids became more independent, then the so caled mainstreamed kids… and i agree so many times– not always– but many times the special students end up a ”inspiration porn” or a class pet feel good object” in regulared… btu in sped class they have more geniuine friendships andare accepted and valued !

  16. marie clare January 19, 2015 at 6:37 pm #

    Wendy, This: “Our children with disabilities should be in the same schools and same classrooms they would have been in had they not been born with a disability.” is such an idealistic view of the world parents of children with moderate to severe disabilities live in. Yes of course it should be ideal to educate all children in the same setting but unfortunately the school system is not there yet, to draw parallels with the black civil rights movement is such a ridiculous statement. We are talking about moderate to severe cognitive difficulties here, children who learn in a vastly different way than their peers not just a different color of skin, there’s a huge difference.
    And a masters degree doesnt ensure the best person for the job, my son has been in a special school setting since he was 3, and most of his best aids and classroom assistants probably barely graduated high school, but they loved those kids with a genuine passion. Regardless of their level of education they should be paid much better, working in the moderate / severe cognitive disabilities community is tough, really tough and they deserve to be compensated much better..

    • Wendy January 19, 2015 at 7:46 pm #

      The parallels to the civil rights movement are so obvious it would be ridiculous to ignore it. Until the Brown v Board of Education case in 1954, children with disabilities were outlawed from public schools. Disability rights advocates used the Brown decision to demand equal opportunity for our disabled children. That case is still sighted in special education due process cases today. Look up the definition of segregation and you will see it is to set apart from others because of race, religion, gender, nationality, or disability. The only difference between the segregation of the 1950’s and the segregation of disabled students today is the black children had no choice in being segregated while many in the disability community self-segregate. While I would never tell another parent how to raise their children, it is my duty as a disability advocate to share the facts. It is a fact that those in the disability community are discriminated against in educational settings, it is a fact that removing them from the schools and classrooms because of disability is segregation, and it is a fact that our children with disabilities are abused and neglected in self-contained environments. Read the GAO report on seclusion and restraint and it lays it all out for you. I have taught in gen Ed classes with severely disabled students in my gen Ed classrooms and they were welcomed and loved. I have also taught in self-contained classrooms where the bullying was so bad I wanted to cry each day. It is not idealistic to think kids on the lower functioning end of the spectrum can’t thrive and learn beside their non disabled peers. I have witnessed it over and over again. Parents just get beat down by the IEP process and the continual fight with the schools and eventually give up. There is no shame in that but know that inclusion can and does work for all kids regardless of ability. Just because you may not have experienced success with it or you are not able to visualize it doesn’t mean it does exist. Inclusion is way too important to the disability community to brush it off as unsuccessful just because you haven’t had success with it.

      • phoebz4 January 19, 2015 at 8:50 pm #

        I am not brushing it off as unsuccessful. I am sharing my experiences and what worked best for us.

        I too am an advocate, for my daughter, and others like her. What you describe sounds almost Utopian. And while that would be lovely, please realise that yours is the only dissenting viewpoint that I’ve gotten about this subject.

        My child was not removed from the traditional school setting. Instead, we were given choices and options, and we chose the one we felt was best for our daughter. Maybe you don’t agree with it, but that doesn’t mean it’s always the worst choice. Just like inclusion isn’t always the best choice.

        And really, we all know abuse happens. But I won’t tolerate fear-mongering. I would not willingly choose to put my child in an abusive situation. In every setting – mainstream, special school, contained classroom – she has had teachers who loved her, aides who have cared about her, staff who smile when they see her. Just because they work in a special school or classroom doesn’t mean they’re abusers.

        Really, what we need to do is look into the ones that have abuse incidents, and make those programs and settings better. Make them more like what we’ve experienced.

      • Wendy January 19, 2015 at 9:51 pm #

        While mine may be the only dissenting viewpoint on this blog I can assure you that I am in the majority and all the data backs me up. As I stated before,I am sure you made an informed decision for your daughter and you did what you felt was right for her. However, for the majority of children with disabilities, inclusion is the answer. I have spent most of my adult life working in inner city schools in south Florida where I can promise you is no utopia. Inclusion is wonderful and rewarding for both the disabled and non disabled students when done right. Again, I help prepare due process cases every day and what I am sharing us not fear monger get it is stark reality. Hide from it, ashes it, or face it, children with disabilities who are in inclusive settings are not dying. It is only children in segregated settings that are. every day I meet with parents whose children have been abused or neglected in self contained settings. Everyday, these parents tell me the same thing you told me that they would have never guessed in a million years that thus could happen to their child. They too thought their child was in a perfect placement for them. I toured a seclusion room a few weeks ago in a beautiful school which primarily serves children with autism spectrum disorders and Down syndrome. I cried for two days after seeing the seclusion room. But was horrifying and was certainly no place for children. The parents at this school had no idea the seclusion room even existed. I have heard that there are some great “special” schools out there but after researching and taking part in prosecutions, I have yet to find one. Doesn’t mean your daughter’s school isn’t a panacea, I hope for her sake it is. However, I would do a little more research on this before I started calling anyone a fear monger. You simply have no idea what you are talking about if you make a statement like that. Good luck and God bless!

      • phoebz4 January 19, 2015 at 10:10 pm #

        I’m just going to let you have the last word here 😀

  17. Cindy January 19, 2015 at 10:35 pm #

    I would like to comment on this in saying my son was mainstreamed in his school and taken out for speach, OT, etc. Yes he did ok. But he was going into 3rd grade and could not read beyond a pre-K level. He was having frequent meltdowns because he was either picked on, or made to feel ashamed because he could not keep up. My heart would break because I felt like he was not wanted there, and he felt it too. He loved school in the beginning but then as the years went on he began having meltdowns when it was time to get ready for school. The teachers and staff at his elementary school tried, but were not equipped to handle my ASD child. He now goes to a private school that is for children of all abilities but specializes in special needs children. Most specifically ASD children. His school is wonderful! In just this year he has learned to read. He is learning life skills he couldn’t get before, and he is understanding stories and literature like never before. And like the writer of this blog he has real friends! Friends who understand him, and he relates with. In the elementary school his so called “friends” would talk him into doing things that would get him into trouble because he wanted so much to please everyone. Now he has real friends that have a real interest in hanging out with him and just being boys. He loves his new school and looks forward to going every day. His teacher and the staff there are so amazing with these kids. They have a genuine love for the kids and really do everything possible to help them function in society. They know that all children have a different way of learning and they pick up on the way each specific child learns and go with that. They bring them out into the community and have shown the community what amazing kids these are. The children are so happy. I have become friends with the other moms there and they all say the same thing, their child has never been so happy to go to school before. So to say these schools all have a potential for abuse is not fair. I really do not believe all these children would be this happy if that were the case. Mainstream inclusion is ok for some special needs children, but not all. I know that my choice has been a good one. My son has never been happier. He is learning. He is grasping concepts that he couldn’t before because no one had the time to sit and help him. He has only had one major meltdown in the whole year and that was just because he was getting sick. Compared to 2 or 3 times a week at public school I think I made a good choice.

  18. marie clare January 20, 2015 at 4:34 am #

    Wendy, i think we all know that inclusion is the best for most children with disabilities, what you are failing to understand here is that we are talking about the choices that children with severe and moderate cognitive disabilities need. Until you have walked in a parents shoes with such a child you can not imagine how different their needs are from even their disabled peers, and fighting the “good” fight to take away segregated schools for these children will do them a huge disservice in the future. My point about the ridiculous parallels you due with the the segregation of black children and those with disabilities IS ridiculous as any “sane” person you meet on the street will answer a resounding OF COURSE black children should be educated with white kids, there is absolutely no grey here. BUT there is alot of grey when talking about kids with different cognitive challenges, to be an advocate you can not just speek for the majority of the community you must speek for all the communitys needs. Unfortunately there is even still discrimination within the disabled community itself to those with cognitive challenges, this has to change but it wont change until we all realise their true needs, and fight to meet them. Their needs are just as important, and unfortunately have the quietest voice, hence the reason parents of these kids must speek up when we feel someone is talking for our kids without really knowing the challenges. As a teacher you leave our kids at the end of the day, you do not face a lifetime of diapers and drool, and non verbal communication, educational prioritys change when you are faced with that future.

    • wendy January 21, 2015 at 12:32 pm #

      Marie, apparently you didn’t read my reply earlier so I will say it one more time. I am the proud mother of a child with autism (not high functioning.) I am also a teacher and a soon to be special education attorney. I advocate for all children with disabilities regardless of their functioning level. I have spent decades studying and working with children of all abilities. I can assure you I have and do walk in the same shoes as you I just have a different perspective because I am uniquely qualified to see things from all sides. I also stated that 100% inclusion is not right for all children but 100% segregation is not right for any child either. You can feel however you want but the data does not back you up. Facts are facts. I support parents through difficult times with schools and I find appropriate placements for children every day and there is no one size that fits all. However, giving up on some sort of inclusion is the wrong answer and I have seen the consequences as a teacher and advocate. You make whatever decisions you want for your child, and you try and justify it in whatever manner you need to, but in the end, ALL children benefit from inclusion. That is a fact. Inclusion is not the same in every school. Some schools get it and do an excellent job of it, many do not. It is our job as parents and advocates to find the schools that work and fix the schools that don’t. Giving up and accepting anything less then extraordinary for our children is not an option (or shouldn’t be an option.) Segregation is in no way extraordinary. Our goal should always be to include our children in their world. Some kids need to be separated for a while to learn the skills they need so they can be re-introduced to inclusive settings. Children with disabilities can get both an inclusive education and a vocational model where they learn life skills. However, the research shows that skills taught in vacuums do not generalize to all settings. For example, social skills taught in a speech therapists office will not generalize on the playground or the classroom. Our kids will only learn to socialize and use pragmatics in natural setting and with typical kids. Do the research and then get back to me.

      • marie clare January 21, 2015 at 2:10 pm #

        Wendy, youre my hero. Im glad you have your unique perspective, and have the balls to judge and bully other parents with kids with disabilities for the decisions they make. Of to do my research now, thanks for enlightening me about what awful decisions Ive made for my child. BTW if my child was to go the inclusion route he couldnt even have gone through the front door of the school due to steps, he would have had to use the back door, and couldnt get to the assembly hall due to steps etc, using the back door because of a wheel chair is the type of inclusion I dont want or need for him. We fight huge battles in these house already just to make it through another day, we have nearly lost him many times, I have not the energy or will to fight to include him in a regular classroom when those children will never be his peers. Thats a really sad fact but its something some parents have to come to terms with. We have just made a move across the world so my son can be with his family, his same age cousins and my friends children etc, thats inclusion for us. Taking part in many outside activities within our community is inclusion for us. But as far as an educational setting my child needs extensive support that most regular schools are not equipped to deal with. Believe me I did not make this decision lightly and have cried many many tears about the school my son goes to, it takes major courage to walk into a school with wheelchairs and walkers and feeding chairs lined along the halls, put your own feelings, hopes and dreams aside and say “yes, this is where we belong”

  19. Rebecca Ellison January 20, 2015 at 9:38 pm #

    Thank you for sharing this. I have an IEP meeting in the morning with a team that is bound and determined to make my son a neurotypical kid through behavior and I just felt drained to even deal with them until I read this article. My son has high-functioning Autism so he sort of gets perceived as disrespectful when he’s really just anxiety ridden over the fact they are making so many choices for him and not allowing him to learn some of those life-skills. I appreciate your views on this topic and you’re right, like your daughter, my son has more transitions throughout the day than the gen-ed kids do. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

    • wendy January 21, 2015 at 12:34 pm #

      It doesn’t have to be either or. Your son can get an inclusive education AND get a vocational model that emphasizes life skills. Do not give up on him.

      • phoebz4 January 21, 2015 at 2:28 pm #

        It didn’t sound like she was “giving up” – in fact, it sounds like she’s been battling for him tons. Choose your words more wisely Wendy.

      • wendy January 21, 2015 at 5:18 pm #

        Marie, I’m not trying to be anyone’s hero but thanks for the offer. However, I am going to be bigger than you and not resort to name calling and trying to make myself feel better by putting others down. From your last post, that is your approach to life. I worked in elementary school for years and I saw that tactic employed often by my students when they didn’t have any idea about why they were angry but they just knew they wanted to take it out on someone. I’ll be that person for you if it makes you feel better (ok, maybe I am your hero.) My brother is a quadriplegic so I am very familiar with your wheel chair struggles. If your son’s school is not making proper accommodations for his wheel chair (which is what you stated in your last post) that is an easy fix. See a disability rights attorney and they will invoke the ADA and have that school wheel chair assessable in a quick moment. I understand your fear and frustration for your son. this world is, and will always be, a scary place for our most vulnerable citizens and the people who love them; your fears are not unfounded. However, you will always have those fears regardless of his educational placement. I would be more afraid for him in a self-contained classroom. I went into one last year and a young student with CP was lying on the floor with his wheelchair on top of him because a large child with autism had gone into a meltdown and knocked the child’s wheelchair over. Medically fragile children are at greater risks in rooms with children with behavioral issues. Not telling you to change his placement, not trying to fear monger, just trying to give you real life scenarios that happen regularly. There is no sense arguing with you over this stuff, you have your mind made up and are not very tolerant of other peoples perspectives, even when those perspectives could help you. Good luck on your journey and I hope for the best for your child.

      • phoebz4 January 21, 2015 at 7:28 pm #

        You know Wendy, I am hoping that in all these places, with all this abuse and all this bullying amongst special ed peers, I really hope you’re contacting all the proper channels to make changes.

        Where do you live anyway? Because obviously it’s the worst district ever and we should all avoid it like the plague!

      • Wendy January 21, 2015 at 8:07 pm #

        I live in Florida and the schools are horrible here. However, abuse of special needs students is prevalent throughout the US. I have attached the government accountability report so you can read for yourself. After you read this, let me know if you need more references. I have tons of research. My main goal is educating parents and holding schools legally accountable for providing quality educations to all of their students.

      • phoebz4 January 21, 2015 at 8:21 pm #

        I’m sorry you live in such a terrible district and have seen so many terrible things in your own classrooms. But let me just give you this last piece of advice –

        To be a good advocate, you have to actually listen to the parents. Don’t let your own bad experience cloud your judgment. Read through these comments, and the comments on my FB page. Everyone else has been commiserating about the need for choices, doing the best for the child. Yours is still the only dissenting voice out of 15K views (well, expect Jazzy the Troll, lol!)

        Since you’ve been in the “field” for decades, I’m just going to assume that you’re more old school, and don’t quite understand what the next generation of parents are fighting for – the truly best options for our children, not just what fits the guidelines.

      • Wendy January 21, 2015 at 8:52 pm #

        I am 40 years old so not sure if I qualify as old school but whatever. I listen to parents everyday. What I hear overwhelmingly are parents who have no idea what legal rights they and their children have. I also hear parents who have been beat down by the education system and are ready to give up. I hear parents who are frightened for their kids and just want to do what’s right for them but don’t usually know what that is. Sometimes I hear parents who have unrealistic expectations and sometimes I hear from parents who have no expectations. It us my job to listen to them, analyse their issues, and give them solid information with which they can make an informed decision. The abuse I referenced didn’t happen in my class but happened in cases in our state and federal court system. You can’t make informed decisions for your children without all the facts. My job is to get the facts to you. You can take it from there. Read the GAO report I attached. Then make an informed decision.

      • phoebz4 January 22, 2015 at 12:16 am #

        I guess when you were talking about working in special ed for decades, I imagined someone older than me by another 15 years, not someone who’s the same age.

        And do you not think no one here does their research, or make informed decisions? Telling me to read one report or two then make an informed decision is insulting, just as it is telling another reader not to give up on her child.

  20. Jazzy January 21, 2015 at 9:40 am #

    Yikes. Sounds like you have no real clue about anything. Your only choice was inclusion? Ever heard of Home Schooling, or Private Schools? Maybe you just needed to “get rid” of poor Maura for 5 days a week so you could bitch on a blog.

    • phoebz4 January 21, 2015 at 10:53 am #

      Oh sweetie, you’re going to have to work much harder than that to offend me. But thanks for the laugh!

  21. Wendy January 21, 2015 at 9:14 pm #

    I have one more reference for you regarding the prevalence of abuse of students in segregated classrooms and schools. Read the first paragraph on page 5. This resource is from the COPAA.

  22. Josephine January 21, 2015 at 9:36 pm #

    The more I research I try to do, to make a educated response, the sicker I am feeling. Perhaps this is not our argument. But our particular situation still seems to be ‘hidden’, or pushed to the side in the US system. (?) We are in Australia, where there are numbers of people advocating as Wendy does, and apparently wishing to deny parents of disabled children choice in how and where their children are schooled (for our little one ‘educated’ is rather too strong a word). So of course I am interested, and concerned, about the situation in the US.

    Can I first say – there are all levels of disabilities in children, from the profound to the mild [to those that don’t even rate as ‘intellectual disabilities’, just learning disabilities, or learning disorders]. To assume that all these children belong in a typical classroom is to my mind just crazy*.

    Hard to believe that people who are all in for reform, and supposedly the best interest of the child, are blind to the other option – of making sure that there are safe learning environments for children who cannot learn a mainstream curriculum.

    My 8 year old grandson is profoundly intellectually impaired (or to use the ‘positive’ model – “in need of pervasive support”). He has no concept of sitting at a desk, or table, to do anything. He could not grasp the slightest amount of any mainstream curriculum. But the Government says he must be schooled. He does not have enough control of his hands, or organisational thought, to participate in a purposeful activity. He has virtually no receptive or expressive language. Does he know his name? It’s debatable – he may (or may not) eventually turn his head if you call him a number of times. He does not understand “No” or “stop” (even with handsigns added). He certainly does not understand discipline (discipline is mentioned in the IDEA). What possible benefit could there be for him in a mainstream or traditional classroom? [He knows when he hears the song “Happy Birthday to you” that cake is usually forthcoming, and gets quite upset if it is not.]
    {Please don’t ask all the “have you?” “do you know about?” “have you seen?” questions. Of course. We ‘live’ at hospitals, and therapists (and internet), have had all the tests.}

    That typical children get to know and be familiar with people with all kinds of disabilities is certainly to be recommended, but having disabled children disrupt their learning, while the disabled children themselves are not capable of learning what is being taught, is probably not the way to go about teaching mutual respect. If it is not in the best interest of the actual child with disabilities, that argument is totally pointless, cruel even.

    Bottom line, the point of my grandson’s existence (and any disabled child’s, or person’s existence), is not to be an object lesson for more fortunate children/people.

    From what Phoebe wrote – there are still ‘special school’s’ for children like my grandson, in the US:
    “The district’s special school was for those with severe physical and mental disabilities. We were actually told to be thankful Maura didn’t qualify for the special school.” (2nd sentence makes me shudder). When I try to find out anything about them, I find nothing. It is an absolute blank. Seems that people like him are still shut up behind closed doors – the less said the better. ? [The only information I could find on special education “schools” in the US was about private schools, which seem to be for children with basically what could be termed moderate to severe learning disabilities (perhaps mild intellectual disabilities).]

    from Wikipedia : “IDEA’s primary purpose is to assure that students with disabilities receive sufficient services to enable them to lead productive adult lives.”
    This is not my grandson – does that make him, and children like him, no-where children? still hidden children?
    It does also say somewhere that “no child is too disabled” to be covered by IDEA. But that does not help when there are no suitable places for them; when reformers seem prepared to ignore children who patently do not fit into a mainstream classroom.

    *As Marie Clare also quite rightly points out – comparing the situation of inclusive schooling for (all) disabled children to educational rights for black children is wrong (even if Brown v, Brd of Ed. did lead the way in social justice issues) – and dare I say, racist, in and of itself? We are talking about the difference between someone whose skin is a different shade, and someone who is incapable of understanding the curriculum (incapable of learning what is being taught – surely the whole point of education?). I am a person of European descent with a grandchild of 50% African descent, and also a severely disabled grandchild (just to make my standing point clear).
    To bar my (extremely literate for his age) African Australian grandson from a mainstream education, would not be very nice. To try to remove an option (special schooling) that is the most suitable for my disabled grandson, and many similar to him (to force him into a classroom where he could learn absolutely nothing, and only be uncomfortable, and a disruption), or to not be prepared to spend money on improving special schooling (because the money should all go to inclusive schooling!) is also not very nice.

    • phoebz4 January 22, 2015 at 12:36 am #

      “Bottom line, the point of my grandson’s existence (and any disabled child’s, or person’s existence), is not to be an object lesson for more fortunate children/people. ”

      YES!!!!!!!! YES YES YES!!!! *applause*

      And special schools – I will state, that in our old district in Michigan, I could not find out one word about the special school, just that we were “lucky” Maura didn’t qualify (seriously, that special ed director had a way with words…that made you want to kick her in the shins…)

      I asked who went there. I couldn’t get a straight answer. I asked if I could visit it. Nope. I looked it up online – could find NOTHING about it except address and phone number and one exterior picture. Finally, I called the school itself, and was told they couldn’t tell me anything – I actually said “It’s like the school’s the dirty little secret of the district, I just want to know if my child qualifies to go there or not.” Those kids were hidden away, yes. But the entire special ed program was not ideal – especially mainstreaming. Now that I’ve had two great special ed experiences, I can see just how much more we need better options for all our kids.

      • marie clare January 22, 2015 at 8:05 am #

        i just wanted to add how my sons NJ school dealt with inclusion, it was a school for the multiply disabled (but not autism), a school where most of the kids had severe physical and cognitive disabilities. In their preschool class 1/2 the class were typically developing, these kids paid for the pleasure of attending the school and it was very over subscribed for every term. A win win situation, the school recieved money and the typical kids recieved an amazing preschool education alongside disabled kids, bear in mind the ratio of kid to adult was nearly 1:1. There was no hiding away in this school, they had an open door policy and due to being private were very involved in the community and relied heavily on donations. Great special schools are out there!

      • phoebz4 January 22, 2015 at 11:09 am #

        Maura’s Irish school, which was a special school, had an open door policy as well. Not once did I ever feel unwelcomed there.

        Her current program, her classroom is in a regular school, mixed in with the other 4th and 5th grade rooms. There’s a big window on the door, you can see right in. Which is great for when I just need to get the teacher’s attention but not let Maura know I’m there, lol! And again, every time I walk into the school, I’m greeted with smiles.

        Where Maura went during her mainstreaming times, there were stories that came out about how other parents were “banned” from coming to the school during school hours by administration.

        So yeah, there are great special schools and programs out there. And inclusion isn’t always the golden child.

      • marie clare January 22, 2015 at 11:27 am #

        Im having the same experience with Ryans Irish special needs school, the kids are a little less disabled here, but still moderate – severe, but theres an open door policy and Ive heard nothing but great things about the school from the wider community. Ireland has a small village mentality (in a good way) and my guess is if there was any bad to hear i would have heard it. Its like with any other child, you have to view alot of options and then fight to get the placement you want.

      • wendy January 22, 2015 at 8:10 am #

        It took me months of trying to get into a “special school” to tour their seclusion facility. I had to call the Florida Department of education and negotiate with them for months. The reason they do not want to give you info on them is there are some scary things happening there. There are some wonderful ABA centers that work with students who are of all levels (including profoundly disabled such as Josephine describes) in day programs. I have seen profoundly disabled children learn to read and write in ABa day centers (not to be confused with special schools who say they use ABA principles because I can promise you they do not.) I have seen extremely self-injurious children become better in ABA day programs. I NEVER stated that parents shouldn’t have the choice in how they educate their kids, not sure how anyone would pull that from any of my writings. I only wish to encourage parents not to give up on inclusion just because you have had one or two bad incidents with it. We should always try to include our children in everyday normal activities. For kids, everyday normal activities is going to school. School for some kids is different than for others. I run into parents who think pulling their child from inclusion settings because it is too frustrating for their kids and placing them in special school will be the answers to their prayers. My only response to that is good luck and buyer beware. According to the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), in their 2009 study of 185 incidents of abuse of special needs students report, they found that “When children with disabilities are segregated, a perpetrator may be more willing to abuse them, believing the abuse will remain secret. This is particularly true of children with cognitive, communicative, and developmental impairments who are often placed in disability-only classrooms.” I sent you the link in a previous email so you can check the reference if you wish. While I am not saying that will happen to every child who is segregated, I am simply stating that the parents of those 185 children never thought in a million years that would happen to their child. They thought they were doing the right thing by putting their child in a segregated placement.

        At the end of the day, my job isn’t to pat you on the back, be your hero, or be your friend. My job is to make you aware that these things are happening to special needs children and they are ONLY happening in segregated placements. As I stated earlier, buyer beware. If you are insulted by this then that is a you problem not a me problem. My ultimate goal is to keep students safe, healthy, and happy. The end!

      • phoebz4 January 22, 2015 at 11:04 am #

        And now, I’m just going to go back to taking my own advice and disengage.

      • Josephine January 22, 2015 at 7:25 pm #

        Yes, Wendy, I know.
        This is what the would-be-reformers in Australia are saying; “Of course, we respect your opinion” …… “We are not trying to take away your options” ………………. we just don’t want any government money spent on special schools, because they are useless (paraphrasing).

        You clearly have no idea what this all sounds like to parents of more severely disabled children, of children who just won’t fit into a mainstream classroom. This is what is sounds like: “There is no way money should be spent making the options suitable for your child work better – it should all be spent on the options suitable for our children.” (or “… the options that I say work.” ).

        Don’t you dare try and tell me my grandson is ever going to be able to read and write. And pigs might fly.

        To other (more interesting/interested) people:
        While my grandson’s special school’s classrooms are not open-door as such, we can at any time, go to the school and view any of (our own child’s) classrooms on video-streaming from within the school.
        In the end his attendance is not much above nominal. He can only attend half a day as by 1.00 or 2.00pm he is asleep, or desperately needs a sleep, and is not ready to wake by finish of school time. Then there are all the days he is just sick, recovering from seizures, in hospital, seeing doctors or therapists of some description, or being tested or fitted for something.

        While my grandson enjoys sitting (must be strapped) in a chair for a while – he is not self-mobile in a chair. He spends most of his time kind of bunny-hopping around on the floor. Actually the best way to get him to do anything active (like emptying all my shelves) is to leave him alone. When anyone is with him he mostly just hops up to them and pleads with his arms and eyes to be picked up.
        If those gorgeous eyes don’t work, he may start grizzling, or worse, a heart-breaking weeping (without tears) [or sometimes throw a spectacularly cute mini-tantrum – because he is only mini – and while he can be very vocal {not verbal} his volume level is not high]. At his special school, he usually manages to find a lap (he enjoys being read to, and handling books, and sensory play).
        My grandson’s goals in life are to eat (preferably chocolate), and be cuddled – wouldn’t we all!

      • Wendy January 22, 2015 at 8:16 pm #

        Josephine, I never told you your grandchild would be able to read. Not sure where you came up with that idea. All I said is that I have witness severely disabled children learn to read and write. You are putting words in my mouth. I would appreciate it if you didn’t do that. Not sure what your laws are in Australia but in the US a good attorney would bring up IDEA’s provision that states schools MUST offer a continuum of placement options. What that means as per case law is the school designs a placement around your child’s needs rather than telling the parent this is what we have to offer if you don’t like it oh well. Schools don’t have an option, they must design a placement option that suits your child’s needs. Again, I am unfamiliar with AU law. What I find is parents try to navigate the special education system on their own or with a well meaning but under qualified advocate and end up settling for less than what the child truly needs. Every parent should be represented by a highly qualified advocate of a special education attorney at IEP meetings if you expect to get what your child needs. I can’t pretend to know what your child needs all I can speak to is what I have seen. If you went it alone chances are you didn’t get anywhere what your child needed. Schools are represented by professionals and parents must be as well. I hope the sky rains Hershey Kisses for your grandson because it sounds like he works his tail off for it and deserves it.

      • phoebz4 January 22, 2015 at 8:43 pm #

        And now, I think, we need a sing-a-long –

      • marie clare January 23, 2015 at 10:05 am #

        Im singing, Im singing!! lol

      • Josephine January 22, 2015 at 9:34 pm #

        Wendy, I am up for the challenge (so sorry, Phoebe, then I’ll sing, promise.)

        extract from one of Wendy’s posts (above):
        “While I respect your decision to segregate …………………….”

        a few more quotes from Wendy’s posts:

        “When we take our special needs kids and put them in special schools and special classrooms where everyone is disabled then that is segregation. …………………… It is now an outlawed practice for everyone except children with disabilities. Sounds discriminatory to me. We don’t need special schools and special classrooms for our kids.”

        “How do we prepare our children for the world when we isolate them from it? How do we prepare the world for our kids when we self-segregate?”

        “Look up the definition of segregation and you will see it is to set apart from others because of race, religion, gender, nationality, or disability. The only difference between the segregation of the 1950’s and the segregation of disabled students today is the black children had no choice in being segregated while many in the disability community self-segregate.”
        (hmmm, let’s force everyone to go to church together as well – might not be such a bad idea – – – – – – in a perfect world). (and get rid of male/female toilets, & all) (perhaps hospitals are suspect, long term rehabilitation centres surely are?)

        “…. it is a fact that removing them from the schools and classrooms because of disability is segregation, and it is a fact that our children with disabilities are abused and neglected in self-contained environments …..”

        ” Just because you may not have experienced success with it or you are not able to visualize it doesn’t mean it does exist.”
        (I didn’t catch anyone saying inclusion was not suitable for some kids).

        “children with disabilities who are in inclusive settings are not dying. It is only children in segregated settings that are.”

        “I toured a seclusion room a few weeks ago in a beautiful school …….. was horrifying and was certainly no place for children. The parents at this school had no idea the seclusion room even existed. I have heard that there are some great “special” schools out there but after researching and taking part in prosecutions, I have yet to find one.”

        “because I am uniquely qualified to see things from all sides. I also stated that 100% inclusion is not right for all children but 100% segregation is not right for any child either.” (I also agree that social inclusion is important – that is not the same topic as educational inclusion for children who cannot come close to grasping the basics that curriculum is founded on).

        “You make whatever decisions you want for your child, and you try and justify it in whatever manner you need to, but in the end, ALL children benefit from inclusion.”

        “There is no sense arguing with you over this stuff, you have your mind made up and are not very tolerant of other peoples perspectives.”

        “(not to be confused with special schools who say they use ABA principles because I can promise you they do not.)”

        “good luck and buyer beware …………………………………………………..……………………………”

        “…. the parents of those 185 children never thought in a million years that would happen to their child. They thought they were doing the right thing by putting their child in a segregated placement.”

        “ONLY happening in segregated placements.”
        (? children die, and are abused in ordinary schools, including non-disabled children. ? )
        … .. … ..
        … .. …

        I, for one, am not seeing the respect, or acknowledgement of validity of a pro special school choice.

        Polite, controlled words do not mask or change what you are saying. To repeat, pretty much, some words I just read somewhere:
        There is no sense arguing with you over this stuff, you have your mind made up and are not very tolerant of other peoples’ .. experiences.

        P.S. Did that last post from Wendy just read like an ad. ?

      • phoebz4 January 22, 2015 at 9:53 pm #

        Well, she is uniquely qualified. And obviously, my husband and I weren’t able to make an educated choice for our child, as we put her in a segregated classroom. We need help and guidance, before we become another statistic!

      • marie clare January 23, 2015 at 10:10 am #

        siting on my fingers ………… and singing louder ………..

      • Josephine January 24, 2015 at 8:49 pm #

        we love pigs here, and believe they should be able to fly.
        Youngest daughter actually collects pigs – some with wings.
        We would love flying pigs, but we are realists.
        The flying pigs that we would be looking for before ‘reading and writing’ would be ‘no respiratory problems’ and ‘no seizures’.
        If we could just find long-jumping pigs (standing, communicating, toileting) there would be dancing in the street, yelling from rooftops, and treats for all!

  23. Bean's Daddy January 22, 2015 at 3:14 am #

    “I’m almost embarrassed by my reaction to the special school the first time I visited it. I looked at the students there, and thought “But Maura is my bright beautiful girl! She doesn’t belong here!””

    I had the exact same reaction the first time I visited the special school my little boy ended up going to. I remember it well and the cognitive dissonance that occurred afterwards. Deep down I knew that it was the best school for him but another more emotive part of me “knew” he didn’t belong there. Thankfully the intellectual and objective part of me and my wife won out and he is now thriving at his special school, although we did manage to also get him a split placement. He goes to special school 3 days a week and then 2 in a mainstream setting. He has a consistent 1-1 worker who goes with him to both settings. This gives the best of both worlds and take a bit of fighting to get but it can be done if you push. Not all kids will cope with two settings but the Bean seems to take it in his stride well enough. Things might change and I suspect that he may well end up full time at special school later on but that no longer holds any fear for us. We are looking at it objectively and will do whats best for him.

  24. Karen January 23, 2015 at 12:08 pm #

    Lovely insightful article on a subject close to my heart. I have been pondering the same predicament for a few years and it’s always helpful to hear other peoples stories.

  25. Marti Lindsey January 24, 2015 at 12:59 am #

    I could have written this post, only I have a boy, Max, and we moved from San Diego to a small ranch North of Los Angeles. We had success with inclusion in our neighborhood school in K-1-2. We saw that as the gap between Max and his clasmates widened, inclusion stopped working. I saw it clearly when the class made the switch from “learning to read” to “reading to learn”. Max started having behavior issues because his day was like a 6 hour therapy session with his 1:1 paraeducator. When we moved, we chose a Functional Skills class where Max can learn at his pace with some independance. His peers are really his peers. So many parents are “fighting for inclusion” that when you choose a different placement, it really is unpopular. Thanks for the insight and the validation that we made the right decision, even though I know we did. Cheers~Marti

  26. Holly January 24, 2015 at 4:14 pm #

    I will only say that I have a daughter with significant disabilities and I don’t share your sentiment. She’s in a typical 3rd grade class, with about 45 mins a day of pull out time for focused work. It’s been the right choice for her, 100%. Her peers accept her as she is, do not make fun of her and do not pity her as “one of those children in that room down the hall”… She’s simply herself, as she is, with her needs, but no worse or less than them. They work along side her, with her, befriend her and they champion her. They’ve learned not to make assumptions about “ability” based only on what they see. The positive stories I could tell are numerous. Disability is a natural part of life. We are ALL different, NONE the same. While I respect that we all have to make the decisions we feel are best for our children, I am seriously terrified that there is such dissent within our own community over this issue. Inclusion done well works and it works for most children with disabilities, even those with significant disabilities. Basing a push for more “options” on poor inclusive experiences, risks us backsliding on all the progress that has been made the last 40 years. Segregation and discrimination of people with disabilities is ABSOLUTELY a civil rights movement that runs very parallel to other civil rights movements of the past and present. I choose to accept my daughter for who she is, with her abilities and her challenges, and I simply ask the rest of the world to do so as well. I’m not out to fix her, just the world she lives in.

    • phoebz4 January 24, 2015 at 4:47 pm #

      Actually, I’m basing my push for more options on good experiences. Our inclusion experience, while not great, wasn’t horrible. It was just “meh”. Our special school/classroom experiences have been fabulous.

      And special school/classroom has not meant seclusion for Maura. Her class now is very much part of the school community – they’re just a separate classroom – just like all the other classrooms. (Though hers does one inclusion class with her more traditional peers – science – and it goes well.)

      • Josephine January 24, 2015 at 8:25 pm #

        With Phoebe;
        and please note the “sometimes” (not “always”, not “mostly” [not even “often” – which I might have put]) at the very beginning of Phoebe’s headline statement !

        At least Holly, you do seem to be admitting that you do want to take away our options (?). And yet the word “respect” still comes up.

        I too am seriously terrified. There is no way my grandson belongs in a typical classroom. He is closer to belonging in a hospital bed than a typical classroom. So what are the proposals for children like him? [the shrouded Special Schools, that no-one wants to let anyone into?]. And why should other children who fit so much better into a non-typical classroom, not have that benefit (!!!), and be forced into a mainstream classroom for the gratification of the rest of the community? [There has already been one very serious proposal to close my grandson’s special school.]

        Well and good, fight for children, who can benefit from being included, to be included; that does not mean that some other children are not far better off is specially catered for facilities. It is about the individual children, not your particular ideals, in a world that is not idyllic. While your writing so far, perhaps sounds more personally concerned and less pompous than Wendy’s, you still seem to be ignoring our experiences, and situations, which are not yours, but do exist never-the-less – are very, very real – worrying – and different to yours.

        Exactly – “we are all different” – there is no ‘one size fits all’ – you write it, but you do not seem to understand it.

  27. HT February 1, 2015 at 7:56 am #

    I work in a mainstream school in the UK and we take children with Special Educational needs. Whilst a lot of children fit in very well it is not for all SEN students. Each child is an individual and therefore their needs must be viewed on that basis too. I have worked with SEN children who have positively flourished in mainstream school. One thing I will say is I have NEVER heard any of our children laughing or making fun of a child’s disabilities. I feel that this is where there is a strength for inclusion as children learn to understand and accept that we are all different. However there are some children who do not benefit from a mainstream education and special provision is a more suitable option. I am extremely proud to be part of a school where inclusion is at the forefront and everything possible is done to ensure a childs’s needs are met. I have a degree in addressing Additional Needs, SEN and behaviour and whist I have a very sound understanding in this area, experience is key to success with a child. If staff are given the training required there is every chance a child will succeed.

  28. Frances February 5, 2015 at 3:37 pm #

    I think some of my classmates need to read this post! I’m currently in school to become a special education teacher, and many of my classmates are convinced that inclusion is always the way to go. In my observations, I’ve seen a whole range of situations that work for different students. All people are unique, and everyone’s needs are unique. The same applies for children in special education. I’m glad you have found a situation that works well for Maura.

  29. Vikki February 7, 2015 at 4:23 pm #

    I have found this exact same thing with my kids who are at a special ed school in the states. The community they belong to empowers them. They don’t feel different, they have friends and not just kids who might be kind (or not kind at all). My kids are academically okay for the most part and they still did not access their LRE in public school. Best thing we have ever done! Emotional health trumps writing any day too.

  30. JannaAD February 27, 2015 at 9:07 pm #

    Just read this: “But now, we have the LRE (least restrictive environment), where you’re kind of forced to try inclusion because it’s the only option. And when it’s the only option, it’s not really an option. In Ireland, we had the right to inclusion, but it was an option. The idea of the LRE had to be explained to them. Seriously. The social worker reading Maura’s forms had to ask what LRE stood for.” (after reading an article on LRE for grad school). Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and what has worked for you. I love hearing from families as I think they are truly the most important part of helping students be successful. If you know of any other articles about this topic I’d love to hear about them – I’m looking at writing my thesis around the topic of inclusion or not, and looking at schools here in the US vs. England. Thanks!!

    • Nicki March 2, 2015 at 8:14 pm #

      As a parent of a child with multiple needs I want to thank you for looking into and writing about LRE and Inclusion. In my district, in NE Pennsylvania, I was told that my son had to FAIL at inclusion academically, socially, and emotionally before a more restrictive option would be considered. This is wrong on so many levels. We have just spent the last several years since his DX at 18 months providing support on every level and now our district wants to pull it all away since he is now school age. It’s like now that he is 5 he is magically ready for life without support despite needing them yesterday.

  31. Erin April 13, 2016 at 11:47 pm #

    Thank you for sharing your daughter’s journey and yours as well. I was beginning to feel really horrible about my parenting……I know my child,he’s going into kindergarten and I know a full inclusion General ed class is not right for him right now. That could change and I’m open to that, but I felt like maybe I was giving up on him and I never want to do that. I’ve listened to people I shouldn’t because they are not in the same situation as my family is. This helped me to remind myself that I’m his Mom and know him best!!!


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