Sunday, October 03, 2004

Special Education Inclusion: an extensive NYT Magazine article

The New York Times Magazine > The Lessons of Classroom 506 Sept 2004
"Inclusion'' is the latest in a series of evolving strategies for special-needs education. Though the definition of the word varies, inclusion, as used by educators, generally means making a child with a disability a full part of the class. Instead of merely placing that child in a standard classroom for part or even most of the day and expecting him to keep up (a strategy often known as ''mainstreaming''), inclusion involves rearranging the class -- both the physical space and the curriculum -- to include him. Ideally, once an inclusive classroom is rethought and reconfigured, it will serve clusters of children with special needs, not just one, so that impaired and nonimpaired children can come to see one another as peers. Proponents of inclusion say that it is the best way to prepare all children for the real world; skeptics contend that it too often gives teachers responsibility for impaired students without giving them sufficient training and resources, resulting in children with special needs getting improper attention and children without special needs not getting enough attention -- a poor-quality education for everyone in the class...

...Thomas did not belong in District 75, the city's classification for programs serving students who are severely disabled, because, they reasoned, he might get lost in a system that included so many children who were cognitively as well as physically impaired. Thomas might be a better fit in a school designed just for children with an array of physical problems, but they feared that that experience would not prepare him to interact in the real world. And while they could mainstream him into a standard public- or private-school classroom, that would present the opposite problem: he would not interact with anyone else like him.

A VERY long article. I've barely started it.

It's amazing what wealthy, brilliant, tireless and well connected people can achieve. The story exposes a fault line in special education -- between the cognitively and physically impaired. In this world, the cognitively impaired are a lower caste.

I think they're on the right track. I think our son would be happiest and most successful with children who are more like him, in a setting where he could learn without being confronted with how much further behind he's falling. This can only be cost effective if a number of similar children can be taught together ...

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