Inclusive Schools

Image of Alexa PosnyWhen I was in kindergarten, my neighborhood friends and I waved goodbye to our families and set off for our first day of school. All except one. My friend with down syndrome didn’t board the bus with us that day. I didn’t know why she wasn’t allowed to come, but I did know that it wasn’t fair or right.

A lot has changed since then. On Monday, Arne and I visited Beers Elementary in D.C., one example of the thousands of American schools where students with disabilities participate in general education classrooms and are expected to learn as much as every other student in the room. The next day, I went to Delaware, where I talked with a group of over 600 people who believe in the power of inclusion and the positive difference it makes for students with and without disabilities.

We know that children are more alike than different. We know that given the right supports, every child can thrive. That’s why we want to make sure that ESEA includes all children, including those with disabilities, and that Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) services provide the supports — expert teachers and highly trained related services personnel, proven practices, effective models, deft technologies, among others — to help students with disabilities achieve challenging standards.

I truly believe that we are all in this together and that we must collaborate to create a system that can meet the needs of each of our nation’s 50 million students, including the six million students with disabilities attending our schools.

Alexa Posny, Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services

86 Comments

  1. Ok, my son is fully included and he happen’s to have Down syndrome. I take offense to the fact that inclusive educatin is being based on grades. I offense that you feel that I am being cruel to my child. Because it’s like this, My son get’s straight A’s he does all the work, and he is learning in the classroom where he belongs. Inclusion is not about the grades or closing the gap, it’s about belonging in society, it’s about being part of a whole, it’s about non segregation, it’s about Brown vs. Board Of Education. It’s about civil rights. I find it crazy that someone would even try to take this right away from my child who has worked so hard to get what he’s getting. It can be done, I don’t care who argues with me on this subject, because I have the proof that it can be done. And he’s the first child to ever be included in our school district, so all of his teachers are green.

    Time to wake up, smell the roses, and embrase disability, don’t worry you won’t catch it. You might actually have to work a little and think out of the box, but you won’t get it.

  2. Educating students with disabilities in segregated settings only perpetuates the long-term outcome in which they will require more expensive, future care (which costs taxpayers more) and less value is placed on them. I have worked in special ed. for 17 years and see first-hand, daily, how successful students with significant disabilities can be when they are NOT separated from their peers. For instance, one young man I work with screams and becomes frustrated very easily when in the segregated environment. I won’t call it a classroom because the learning that occurs there prepares him for a segregated world. When he is in the general classrooms with other students he is quiet and does the same assignment as other students with minor accomodations. The other students learn there are people in their world who are not exactly like them, but they are not much different either. I consider that a major accomplishement for him, but am saddened that he has only been able to accomplish this at the high school level.

  3. I am an ESE teacher and inclusion facilitator at a high school. Through dedication, hard work, and support, I am able to include 14 students with severe physical and cognitive disabilities in general education academic and elective classes for at least five out of the seven periods in the day. There are another 22 students who are included in one or two general education elective classes. The points that Alexa Ponsy makes are right on target. Students are more alike than different. With the right supports, every child can thrive. Inclusion makes a positive difference on students with and without disabilities. I am not so unrealistic to think that these students will learn everything that is presented in these classes, but they are entitled to the opportunity. First and foremost are the IEP goals. How can the annual goals be embedded into the general education content and context? What content in the lesson or context would benefit the student? How can the student meaningfully participate with classmates in the context? These are the questions that I ask myself on a daily basis. The general education teachers and peers that assist the students with disabilities also ask themselves these questions. These questions help guide us to ensure that the students are receiving an appropriate education and their needs are being met in the general education setting. Academic and social gains are evident. Standardized test scores continue to rise for these students, and their circle of friends keeps growing. Students who were typically non-verbal are now speaking in sentences. Negative behaviors decrease when appropriate behaviors are modeled by same-age peers. Students without disabilities become acceptant of diversity and understand the concept of “different but not less”. High school general education students become advocates for students with disabilities on and off campus. Because inclusion is so widely accepted on our campus, the positive effects are spreading into the community. Parents of students with disabilities are touched when a student acknowledges their child outside of the school setting, stating “I know John. He’s in my biology class”. Inclusion opens the doors for endless possibilities. The general education students that experience inclusion in today’s schools are going to be the future business leaders in the community. They are going to be the ones to hire people with disabilities and help them have productive lives once they are no longer serviced in the school setting. Inclusion for students with severe/profound disabilities is happening and the outcomes have proven to be positive.

  4. I have been an elementary school teacher for 32 years. In my district, when inclusion was a new concept, we received grants to begin the inclusion initiative. I saw first hand how inclusion can be carried out effectively and how ALL students benefit. “Regular” education students actually benefited as much as the “included” student – you can’t ask for better character education lessons! Unfortunately, all of the supports cost more – when the money dried up, so did “the program.” What about the right thing to do??
    I am also the parent of a 20-yr old with Down syndrome. I have had to fight for her to be included since kindergarten. Junior high was less inclusive. High school – forget it! They don’t understand the concept, at least where I live.
    How we raise and educate ALL of our children has a profound effect on the future. Will they grow up comfortable around those with disabilities? When will it be natural to be around those who are “different” instead of a stare-fest? Who will be the future employers of people with disabilities?
    Thank you, Ms. Posny!!

  5. It just seems odd that in 2011 that schools would think it’s OK to exclude kids from their classmates. Is it just easier to clump the “same kind” together to teach? Maybe in 1911 not 2011! It’s almost like going to a Dr. who was trained 100 years ago, and getting that treatment for cancer. Good teachers welcome diversity. Do we teach all the boys separate from girls? Do all white boys who make “B’s” get into their little group so they can learn the same thing at the same time? Doesn’t this breed prejudice?

  6. This is a civil rights issue at it’s core. How can anyone believe that it is okay to segregate any group of people — especially children? My child did not ask to be born with a developmental disability and she should not be incarcerated in a segregated setting against her (and our) wishes and denied access to general education curriculum.

    To my knowledge, the only other means in the U.S. where you can legally segregate others is the criminal justice system. However, criminals have substantially greater rights than students with disabilities. Criminals are provided free legal assistance but students with disabilities are not. Our family purposefully moved from our home state to obtain a fully inclusive education for our daughter. In a period of 11 months, we moved to two states and fought 4 school districts, at great emotional and financial expense and we are still fighting. The special education system is an abysmal failure wrought with financial waste at the expense of our kids.

    We need one — non-discriminatory, universal design — education law, one funding stream, independent monitoring and accountability mechanisms, and authentic enforcement of civil rights.

  7. Thank You, Ms. Posey!

    I am a teacher of 17 years in the general education setting who is passionate about inclusion when followed through WITH FIDELITY. I have read all of the comments, but feel I must respond to the first comment.

    1. As Vicki (#26) above stated, professional development and collaborative teaming is critical and must include systematic and purposeful building of community and a culture for acceptance of ALL. I know this culture can be built, for that culture of love and acceptance of others was the hallmark of my own classroom. Although I am an Inclusion Facilitator now, I must share that my classroom included students with significant disabilities. Bullying was NEVER an issue because of the high expectation my co-teacher and I modeled. It is the responsibility of the teachers to build the culture.
    2. There is no doubt that collaboratively planning instruction for ALL students requires time. But let me say, when the right team of committed teachers come together to provide instruction that ALL children deserve to access, the outcomes shine both quantitatively and qualitatively. In my district, research proved that students with disabilities who are included show great achievement because of the access. Further their nondisabled peers show “no harm” in their achievement. Qualitatively, building a person to respect and love others because of their abilities, rather than their disabilities, is absolutely priceless. I actually was paid to help shape little souls!
    3. This is answered above. Good teachers build the culture of acceptance through building a child from within. This is never achieved by praising a test score!
    4. In my district the Class-Size Ammendment has actually impeded on inclusive practices for various reasons. Most schools that embrace inclusive education stick closely to a formula for heterogeneously grouping students and capping the number of students in that class when possible. In my former school my non-inclusive colleagues had up to 25 students (prior to CSA), while I was capped at 22. Most importantly, when two teachers are co-planning and delivering instruction, MORE needs are met. That is my experience.

    A question for the first responder: If a child can show achievement in the general education setting, don’t you think they deserve the chance? Further, if the chance for full access to the general curriculum even MIGHT allow that child to reach their potential, isn’t it their human right to access the curriculum just like their non-disabled peers?

    please visit imtyler.org to meet a young man who beautifully illustrates the call for inclusion of ALL.

  8. My son is special needs – Asperger’s. In some cases he needed a little extra help with a concept. In others he’s had to sit patiently waiting for his classmates to catch on.

    Soon, he’ll be out in the real world. He’s always been fully mainstreamed at my insistence. There are no restaurants, supermarkets, banks, etc that are just for special needs. He must learn to live and thrive among “typicals”. And THEY must learn to live side-by-side with him.

  9. Ms Posny has begun a very important discussion. Inclusion is not only the “right” thing to do morally and otherwise, it can be the best way to meet the needs of children with special needs as well as those who are typically developing.

    If we want our society to be just and inclusive, our schools must be also. If we want to teach ALL of our children tolerance and social justice then we must do so in our schools and communities through our own behavior. If we want our children with special needs to grow up to be citizens with meaningful lives we must teach them in their authentic community, in their schools with the students who will become their neighbors as adults. This holds true for all children. People with disabilities are important, productive members of our society. ALL children must be brought up in a school community that recognizes that.

    Bringing up examples of poorly implemented inclusion does not negate the need for or importance of inclusion…it simply strengthens the call to further investigate how to implement inclusion well and to increase the support for individuals who are doing this work. Practice makes perfect. Those of us who have seen excellent examples of quality inclusion know it is possible to meet the needs of children in inclusive ways.

  10. I am the parent of a child who was “included” and did not get his needs met. I do not believe the answer is to exclude children with special needs. However, all children should receive an appropriate education. Lack of education/interest/time to meet the needs of everyone should not be used as an excuse for the difficulties in implementing inclusion.

  11. Thank you very much for supporting inclusive education and visiting classrooms. You are changing the lives of children and helping them be the best they could be.

  12. Thank you Alexa. It is encouraging to know our top education leaders are supportive of inclusive education and visiting such classrooms. Schools are designed for learning and those that strive to teach all children provide rich environments. Families are naturally including youngsters with disabilities and it makes sense that schools with available resources partner with families and offer quality educational learning opportunities.

  13. As the mother of two, beautiful, high-function, autistic children I continuously advocate for my children’s education. Segregating children with disabilities no longer exists and thankfully so. It is important that everyone understands that children with disabilities have the same right to remain in an inclusion program and fully access their education as a typical child does. Inclusion works if it is done properly. Special Education Teachers are only in the classrooms for a brief, limited time (why is this ok with the Florida, Public School System)? ALL teachers must be educated about the existing disabilities and teaching strategies. Funding should be made available to children with needs (without making the parents fight for these rights continuously). Inclusion is the real world, so let’s make a difference in EVERY Child’s life.

  14. I agree wholeheartedly with Judy…until the mandate of standardized tests, even on a modified basis, is abolished, special ed students who are 3-5 levels below their peers academically ARE mandated to perform as if they have no disabilities! Until we inclusion teachers can work with weak areas in the regular classroom where necessary, then we all are doing an injustice. The clash between the state and federal mandates are way out of whack…the federal covers the child’s right to a free and appropriate education…the state covers the monetary path via their mandates…and, trust me, watching even the modified version of the state tests given to children with modifications is very painful. Please keep this in mind when you make judgements that we teachers have no idea what we are talking about…the county then, mandates that we tweak the grade level concepts to teach those who developmentally have major lags (this would be neurological lags)…I see only a few students get their ‘aha’ moments from tweaking the curriculum…but something must be done to help those who have no skills to read, write, add, multiply, divide, and then jump into slope intercepts or change of percents…or congruent figures…OR ALGEBRA!!!! If all are included in the elementary school, then it would be feasible to continue on in the upper levels…yet this is just not happening…please keep in mind that we are subjected to researched based programs…yet these researched based programs allow these flaws? Not so good…just not so good…

  15. Alexa, Thanks so much for your comments and clear support of inclusive classrooms and settings for all students. Separate, segregated education classrooms are inherently unequal- this was settled some 50 years ago under Brown v. Board of Education.
    What would happen if we all dared presume that students were competent, and that the assumptions we’ve always made about their lack of potential was untrue. Inclusion requires a network of supports and services infused throughout the school. It will also require a complete revamping of our teacher preparation programs- with ALL teachers and related services personnel being trained with the expectation and skills that prepare them to work collaboratively to teach ALL of the students that show up in schools and that sit before them in our classrooms- regardless of race, language, SES, or disability status. I too refuse to believe that we can’t do better. We must. This is not a special education issue. This is a social justice and a civil rights issue and it impacts the education of all of our children, and SHOULD be expected for all of our children and all schools- traditional public, charter, or private.

  16. All students belong together, how else can they learn that everyone matters? We need to provide support without attaching the heavy weight of useless words. IEPs need to be teacher & student friendly. They need to be 1 or 2 pages deal with strengths have a few measurable goals that are able to measure if the student is making progress and the SAS that enable the student to learn. How can anyone, teacher or student feel they belong with all the labels and paperwork making them “look” different.

  17. I am a seasoned special ed teacher who started teaching in 1975, wherein we were at the initial stages in our programs that we have now. Things have changed since then…until about ten years ago, my caseload would contain students with 1 to 2 years below grade level and I was able to teach in a diagnostic way so that we could pretty much depend on a year’s growth. Ten years ago we became mandated to teach on the grade level, which is way beyond their instructional level…in order to expose them to the end of grade tests. So now, students in the special education programs are 4 and 5 years below, yet their test scores remain 1 and 2, which is failing. Why? Well, first of all they are disabled. Second of all they are working on a very high level of frustration. But most importantly, their level of instruction is way below the norm, yet they are being included in the mainstream with the SAME EXPECTATIONS of their normed peers! This is a tragedy. These are the children who, legally, qualify for separate setting or resource setting, yet they are now placed in the regular classroom.
    The classrooms next year will be adding more students to the rosters and will have less teachers spread around to teach. Inclusion is great for those who are able to utilize this concept. Yet those who just cannot mesh MUST BE ACCOMMODATED! This does NOT mean to take them out of the regular class altogether. But it DOES mean to allow them instruction AT THEIR INSTRUCTIONAL LEVEL in the MOST APPROPRIATE setting. Now, you may believe inclusion will help all…take a look at the scores…it’s just not going to happen. Let us work with those who need it…down the road our schools will be bankrupt due to the immense amount of parents who will be DEMANDING the most appropriate environment, which ISN’T THE REGULAR CLASSROOM for instruction. We have come such a long way. We have a long way to go. Come to my school and see what type of kids we have…Title 1 last year and the first half of this year…new school, kids routed from the worst of the bunch so we have MANY FIGHTS, MUCH BULLYING, and SEXUAL HARRASSMENT…I, myself, have been attacked twice in the last 4 years…so if this is happening to me without provocation, then how many others? How many of our children are being recruited into gangs? Do you really know? Come and see…it’s a major battlefield and teachers are leaving left and right…they are just plain worn out! That is what we must concentrate on in the regular setting.

  18. As a parent of a 7 year old I am 100% for inclusion. The problem I find is that ‘inclusion’ means different things. I like the statement of ‘inclusion is like being pregnant…either you are or you aren’t…there is no kind of pregnant or partial inclusion.” I think the biggest reason people are critical of inclusion is because it is seldom done correctly. Whether because of lack of knowledge of staff, lack of resources, etc, etc.
    For my child…the first barrier we had to overcome when we insisted on an inclusive education for our daughter in her neighborhood school was what door of the school she could enter. All children with disabilities entered one particular door…the other children entered doors directly into their classroom. It felt like we were fighting the same fight as those who had separate drinking fountains, restrooms, etc. I will continue to hold out hope that someday in the United States parents will not have to ‘fight’ for inclusion…is will simply be the norm.

  19. Alexa- excellent statement. As a former teacher and principal, I could not imagine any other way but to educate students deeply inclusively. I now see this issue from a parent of a child with a disability, university researcher, and school consultant perspective. I work with hundreds of schools and leaders a year. I can say without hesitation, that I have never met a child who cannot be included – across the entire range of disabilities.

    I have seen lots of programs that say they are inclusive – but are not, lots of schools and districts that continue to exclude, many teachers, administrators, and parents who do not know how to make good inclusion happen and sometimes who do not want to… But for each one of these example, I see teachers work tirelessly to include each and every child, parents advocate for their children to be given access to engaging general education curriculum and peers, and school leaders who have vision of including all students and the skills create appropriate service delivery and support.

    The concept of inclusion is very simple…each and every child, but the work to make it happen is not easy. At the current moment we know more now than ever before about how to make schools work for all students and the positive impacts authentic inclusion has on everybody. We have to stop seeing inclusion as a program or a package to be implemented and see it as a principle that guides all of our decisions.

    I believe it is time to stop debating if inclusion is good or not; inclusion is the only hopeful option for a pluralistic democratic society. We must shift our energy to make all schools authentically inclusive – the kinds of places that children and adults want to be and flourish.

  20. I am the Mom of three wonderful children, one of whom happens to have Down syndrome. To me it comes down to the simple fact that in my family we do not value our son with Down syndrome any less than we value our daughters. As a result, we believe that our son has a fundamental right as a full-fledged member of his family and community to attend school with his siblings and neighbors. Education professionals often say that putting a “special” child in a regular class is harmful but it is so much more harmful to deprive the child of the opportunity to learn to function in the regular world. I empathize with the concerns of educators who lack training, support and resources to perfectly implement inclusion. However, if we wait until we have maximum training and funding we will be waiting for a very long time. Change is only going to come if we all work together to insist that ALL children be full members of their schools and communities.

  21. I too have shared the joy of watching many, many students blossom under an inclusive service model that is truly supported and integrated. There is no other joy like it! I feel that we have addressed segregation in many other areas of society and are thankfully beginning to truly recognize and address the segregation of children with disabilities. I so appreciate all of these comments. I have to articulate a strong concern in the State of Florida however. We are now going to a system of teacher’s merit pay. On the surface this sounds great. Oh boy let’s reward the good teachers. However, how are we going to support the law (least restrictive environment) when a teacher’s pay depends on test scores? It is sometimes difficult now to get buy-in from teachers of general education. It will be impossible if it impacts their pay!

  22. I am the father of a fully included 9 year old with Down syndrome and a leader of the special education parent group in my very diverse District. The problem with relying on parental choice is that unless the parent has the means to be educated and informed, the “choice” is not much of one. In spite of laws and regulations, the culture in my state New Jersey is for segregation, and parents are wooed with the carrot of small, safe, loving classrooms, not realizing that even if that were true, it may not be the best preparation for as independent a life as possible. Most inclusion of students with significant disabilities is parent driven and results in segregated classrooms of mainly lower s.e.s. students. While the law dictates LRE, the practice is far different.

  23. As a parent of a child with “special needs” I can tell you that his basic needs are the same as every other child in the classroom – the need to participate, contribute, and be a valued member of the community. Inclusive education is the foundation for meeting these basic needs.

  24. Reading this blog and others’ ideas about inclusive education has been interesting. I am a proponent of inclusive education for students as well and inclusive lives! Just as my daughter is a valued part of our family, I believe that inclusive education shows how students are valued in their schools. I know that she is being educated next to some of the same people that will be employers, health care providers, and educators someday. I hope her life will enrich theirs just as it has the lives of our family. I believe inclusive education is the way to help make this happen.

  25. My daughter was taught in an exclusive class which I was not pleased about. Exclusion means exclusing one from learning simple everyday actions from one peers. She does not understand how to take turns or how to make friends. Inclusion would have help make her everyday life easier and more fulfilling. I asked for inclusion and was told it would not be fair to the regular ed students. Thank God inclusion has become a possiblity. Thank you for opening up this discussion. Inclusion allows every students to reach their full potential.

  26. This is a complex issue, and I have sat on both sides of the IEP table, both as parent and professional. My son, who is now in college, has CP, and has been fully included all his life-even before inclusion was mandated by the IEP. For many students, with the right training and staff support, inclusion will work, especially with the plethora of tools coming out now that provide Universal Design built in (think iPads, features in Windows accessibility, etc). However, I have also seen children fail at inclusion- generally, when they get overwhelmed by the curriculum, get “lost” even with appropriate modifications but can no longer follow the classroom conversation, or if their behaviors are not controlled. Thus, the Individualized in the IEP.

  27. As the director of the Florida Inclusion Network for nearly 20 years, I am so pleased to read the blog and the ensuing comments expressing support and concerns. The comments mirror the variety of viewpoints heard as we work with families and educators. I believe that in order to implement and maintain inclusive programs in school settings, we first win the hearts and minds of teachers and administrators. This requires sustained effort, reallocation of existing funds, and a willingness to see challenges as opportunities. Most importantly, it requires all of us to remember the faces and voices of the children who are waiting for us to remove the barriers to their human rights. I believe we will get there. It is the only choice that makes any sense!

  28. I appreciate those who have commented on the benefits of inclusive education. I have seen transformations in students ‘assumed’ to have very limited ability, achieve beyond the initial predictions for those students, because they were allowed to flourish in inclusive settings. Inclusion benefits all involved – the students without disabilities, the general education and special education teachers – IF schools can create an environment that respects all students, expects all students to learn, and understands the importance of training and collaboration for the educators.

  29. I think that regular ed teachers need training when special needs students are placed in their classrooms. In the past 20 years, this training has been part of the regular teacher’s training. Teachers who have trouble with these students must have trained more than 20 years ago. This training issue is now resolved. It is important that all students have access to the most appropriate education. They also should have access to adult things when they leave school. The friends they make in school are friends that stay in touch later. My special needs daughter lives on a horse farm in her own apartment without any state help. She definitely would not be there were it not for inclusive education. It helped her read and know about the world. She loves history. And yes, her IQ is below 70.

  30. It is great to see our leaddership take the stance that all students are equal and deserve the best education whether having a disability or not. We get so focused on place we forget about the high expectations we need to have for all students. We cnnot afford to lose any child and through the years I have found that with certain lables we only have certain expectations. This needs to be gone as we must have high expectation for all students. Inclusive practices done right makes sure that all students have the higest epxectations to be good learners and will achieve much higher than we have ever thought. Look at the research and tell me that place makes a difference when it always comes down to good teaching and the right interventions for students. We get stuck on a place and lose the real issue of good teaching and practices. Let redirect our focus on what is needed and have equity for all students receiving the best education they can.

  31. My daughter was fully included from preschool through high school. This was the only choice I felt available to her as she deserved the same opportunities as her peers to receive all the knowledge that is provided through regular education. She was never able to show that knowledge at the same level as her peers (not a great reader or writer) but that should never be the reason for excluding a student from the wealth of information about the world we live in that is shared by our teachers. This lead to involvement in school sports, dances, field trips, and all school events; and most importantly to the expectation from my daughter that she is as valuable a citizen as all of her peers and deserves the same opportunities as others to jobs, housing, and community.

  32. my name is Franklin and i am autistic. i am telling you that inclusion is the best.. when i was in my first school they wouldnt let me out of the special ed. room. they thought i was stupid. then my mom moved us to inclusion school with paula and patrick. it was the greatest because they are the teachers that treated me like a person who was learning.
    then i had to move again for inclusion high school. it was the greatest because i got to take my spanish class and got to graduate with my friends.
    inclusion is the greatest.

  33. As an educator, I know first hand the positive impact that inclusive education has not only on the child with disabilities but on the rest of the student population. It teaches children empathy, respect and allows those less fortunate to feel accepted and loved. I honestly believe that no child should be denied the same rights other children enjoy just because they were born with a handicap. How are we going to stop the bigotry in our society toward disabled persons, if we start denying children with disabilities the right to the same kind of education other children enjoy?

  34. We, as a people, have accomplished great things that did not seem possible when they were begun. We can accomplish this, as well. Persons with disabilities require dignity, respect, and the very best we can provide in an educational setting.All of our children require and deserve no less. The debate and whining should be over. Its time to roll up our sleeves and do the work.The world, our children and we will be better, for having done it.

  35. I’ve read all the comments so far and many excellent points have been made. I am the mother of a 14-year old girl with Down syndrome. Our daughter has been in a regular classroom with an aide, has split her time between a regular classroom and a special ed classroom and is now in a “Life Skills” program in middle school in the new state we just moved to. The hybrid, co-teaching approach has been best, in my opinion. Life Skills may be very practical training for independent living and working, but it seems pretty early to focus on that so intently. My daughter only sees her “regular” schoolmates for lunch, gym, art and music. And even then, she and her fellow “special” students are trotted in with an aide and trotted out. I don’t think there is much interaction. She is so social and so outgoing and very lonely now. As a parent, I have to work extra hard to get her involved with extra curriculars (like Girl Scouts) that give her an opportunity to make friends with her peers.

    Being an accepted and integral part of one’s community is a fundamental human need and desire. No child should have a substandard experience at being included.

  36. I am the mom of, Craig, a young man who is thirty one and has Down syndrome. Craig graduated in 2000 with a regular high school diploma, meeting all and the same requirements as his classmates. Inclusion made this possible. As a young mother, I wanted the same things for my son, regardless, of his special needs. Craig deserved nothing less. Was it hard? Yes, it was! Was it worth it? Yes, yes, yes it was. Craig always felt like he belonged because he did. Craig’s classmates were able to see how very hard he worked and what he was able to accomplish because he was right there beside them, every step of the way. Today, Craig, lives independantly as do other young people his age. Craig has communicated in so many ways, that whether or not a person has special needs everyone wants to be included. How can the decision be made that some people deserve it and others don’t….not so! Everyone wants to belong and inclusion enables belonging!

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