As many of you know, we moved a few months ago in order to be in a better school district for all of our children. After Charlotte was born, I made it my goal to find out everything possible about the special education programs in the districts around us. As we looked for houses this past summer, I immersed myself further into the research process by talking to parents of kids with special needs, touring schools, and talking with principals and teachers. What was I looking for? A school with a progressive, inclusive model for their special education programs.
Some may think that we are jumping the gun a bit. After all, Charlotte is just a baby! How the heck do I know what her needs are going to be in a few years? You're right. We don't. However, with Katherine starting school this fall, we wanted to be in set in a new house for her to start school and not have to move a few years later. So, we trusted our gut feeling and made the move.
Why do I feel so strongly about this? It is my belief that kids with special needs learn best among their typical peers. This is not a belief I have taken on since the birth of Charlotte; this is something I have witnessed first hand. When I was teaching, I worked with an amazing special ed teacher who fought tooth and nail to keep her students in the regular ed classroom as much as it was beneficial for the students. I witnessed her kids achieve some pretty amazing things surrounded by loads of peer models. I also witnessed the positive effect having students with disabilities in the regular education classroom had on the students without disabilities.
I know a lot of the resistance against moving to a more inclusive model comes from lack of funding. Though, I am encouraged by what I see, schools have already come so far. 15 years ago when I was in high school, kids with disabilities were non-existent. I know they were there; I graduated from a very large high school. However, kids with disabilities were self-contained the majority of the time.
Wouldn't is be nice if every school can be like the schools in this article? I can dream, right?