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November 16, 2007

Parents of Disabled Students Push for Separate Classes - WSJ.com

Parents of Disabled Students Push for Separate Classes - WSJ.com

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In response to the article, Pamela Winton (senior scientist at FPG Child Development Institute) prepared the following letter to the editor. As of December 4th, The Journal has not printed any letters referencing the article.

Robert Tomsho’s article, “Parents of Disabled Students Push for Separate Classes,” is the WSJ’s second recent front page story to attack the merits of inclusion. While these articles raise legitimate concerns, they distort the issue by focusing only on the symptoms (the conflict), rather than the actual problems that need to be addressed.

Inclusion is like anything else. When done poorly, it doesn’t work. And simply calling something inclusion, does not make it so. In the most basic terms, inclusion flips the old special education model on its head. Instead of moving children to isolated classrooms to receive specialized services, inclusion requires that the services be brought to the child in the regular classroom—the same one that his or her typically developing peers attend. And far from the disastrous outcomes reported by the Wall Street Journal, when done correctly research shows that all children benefit—those with and without disabilities.

For inclusion to be successful, specialists, teachers and families must actively collaborate to best meet the needs of children with disabilities. There must be active support for inclusion from the administration and ongoing professional development. In other words, the resources to support inclusion must be in place to allow all children to reap its benefits. This was clearly not the case in the situations the Journal described.

In some early childhood education programs effective inclusion practices are becoming the norm. And when done well, it is producing significant results for children across a range of abilities. Research shows that children with disabilities make developmental gains in inclusive classroom. They engage in more positive behaviors. Parents report gains in social skills, acceptance by peers, and developmental gains.

Typically developing children also benefit. In one study parents reported that their child was more accepting of human differences, more aware of other children’s needs, had less discomfort around people with disabilities, and had less prejudice about people who behaved differently.

The articles do raise valid concerns for what happens when educators call something inclusion, but in reality practice “dumping”—simply placing children with disabilities in the same classroom as their typically developing peers. Inclusion is much more. Rather than using inclusion as a scapegoat for problems in schools, we should be providing the resources to support it and allowing all children to reap its benefits.