Sunday, October 02, 2005

Special Education: An Introduction to Inclusion

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This preface is meant for those who are new to the topic of Special Education.
Since the Kennedy Administration Congress has been concerned with equality of education for all persons. The US Civil Rights Movement set the stage for special education. Before this legislation was enacted. People with disabilities were hidden away in institutions and/or homes. It has taken a long time to change public perception of people with disabilities. As a society the US has come a long way, but we still have a long journey ahead of us before we achieve equality in the public schools and work place. This is demonstrated by my own experience in high school. I am sharing my experience so that you as readers will gain some understanding. In these postings we will be examining special education laws and related issues. I invite your questions or comments.

A Personal Experience With Inclusion

This posting is written from the perspective of a former student with a congenital disabilitiy I spent the first thirteen years of my education in a self-contained campus environment, then in the Spring of 1980, I was informed that because US Public Law 94-142 was being implemented, I would be transferred to a public school campus. I was very much afraid even though the principal from the school I was coming from held a special meeting with the supervisor of Special Education of the new school.

When it was time to have the official Annual Review and Dismissal (A. R. D, a term used in the State of Texas for the meeting to discuss my needs and plans for meeting them), my mother and I were in attendance plus other staff members from the new school's Special Education Department. The staff of the new school did not expect me to attend the ARD meeting, so furniture had to be moved so that I could get inside the room in my wheelchair.

A statement was made that they had never had a student attend their own ARD meeting. At that meeting we agreed on thirty days trial in the cottage. We were not informed at that time that the cottage was for self contained students that were mostly mentally retarded (M.R.).
At the beginning of the fall semester I started in the cottage. This only lasted two weeks, because I was learning my colors, and I was assigned to write my name fourteen times everyday. I knew I had to do something about this because it was not in my Individual Education Plan (I.E.P). This term is used by most States in the US.

There was no instruction given. The teacher had the attitude she was just a baby sitter, therefore I knew I would have prove to the people in authority that the allegations that I was making were true. I started gathering my work sheets and bringing them home. At this time I told my mother I felt like quitting school because I was leaning nothing new. I was just repeating what I already knew and it was degrading to me. I was eighteen years old at that time, and I could make this decision myself. My mother informed me that this was not the right thing to do, and I pulled out the assignments that I had done for the past few weeks, and I gave them to her.

At this time my whole family was going through a grieving phase due to the loss of my father. The day after I gave my mother my assignments, she made a surprise visit to my classroom. When my mother arrived, the teacher placed a tenth grade biology book in front of me. This was the very first time I had ever seen anything appropriate for my grade level. My mother called a emergency ARD meeting at that time, where they asked us to prove that the curriculum was not appropriate for me. My mother pulled assignments I had given her out of her purse. They were all taken by surprise that I had samples of my work. We were reminded that we had agreed to a thirty day trial, but my mother proceeded to let them know that the longer I stayed in the cottage the further I was going to get behind and it would be harder for me to catch up with the other students. So that day, a Friday, I was checked out of the cottage and on Monday morning I checked into the high school. One of the reasons they wanted me placed in the cottage was that they didn’t have ramps at the high school, but by the following Monday when I arrived they had the ramps ready. At the high school I was placed in several resource classes; the only regular education class I was allowed to take was American History. I had to struggle to get used to the regular campus and the need to be changing classes every fifty minutes. To enable me to move from class to class, they hired a paraprofessional to stay with me through out the day. The Texas Rehabilitation Commission evaluated me for services that I would need while I was still in high school and beyond. I was supplied me with an electric chair that enabled me to increase my mobility on my own. Therefore I did not require a paraprofessional full time only when I needed her, then I would go get her.

During my senior year the wheel chair became a issue for some of the freshman and sophomore students. They reported that I had hit them with the wheel hair, but they were the ones walking or jumping in front of me. After being reported to the office the principal had the paraprofessional follow me from class to class, but I was not aware of this as did not know that I had been reported.

My curriculum remained a challenge for my mother and myself. It was a continuing battle to get me placed in regular classes. However in my senior year I was in all regular classes, with the exception of math. My math teacher discussed my goals and he asked me “what I wanted to learn or achieve in that year” I explained to him that I needed algebra. He backed me up at the ARD meeting as I felt I needed algebra, but I did not know his way of teaching me algebra consisted of placing me in back of the class room with the paraprofessional who knew nothing about algebra. The first year that I had the resource math class my skills level jumped five grades. I was so happy because I planned to go on to college There were times when the amount of the homework was so great that I went to school looking tired and because of this some staff members tried to talk me into going back to resource classes, but I refused to go back. It was very much a challenge for me. I knew to be able succeeded in college I was going to need as much regular education exposure as possible. I was eligible to graduate with honors but because no one expected me to, my records were not elevated, therefore I did not graduate with honors. I found out later that if I had paid attention to my grade point average and had been able to bring it to their attention I would have graduated with honors.

I earned my Masters Degree in Special Education in May of 2001. This account should reflect my reason for wanting to be a Special Education Consultant. I am looking forward to combining my social work degree with my Masters degree in Education.