As parents of children with special needs, it’s hard to find the balance between what’s right for our child and advocacy. There are many elements to consider at any given time. School districts are balancing budgets, personnel, and the needs of many children. They will always recommend an appropriate solution that fits into their schemas.
Our job, as parents, is to fight for the best possible placement for our children. We are the only ones that will have nothing but our child’s best interests at heart.
When it came time for our son to go to school, the IEP team recommended placement in a class with children with severe orthopedic impairments. On one hand, there is validity to the placement as our son DOES have severe orthopedic impairments. We believed, however, that our son would benefit from being included in a typical classroom setting and that this would be the Least Restrictive Environment for him.
After learning about inclusion and the latest research on brain development, we believed that it would be to his benefit to be in an environment where children are modelling speech and other age-appropriate behaviors. Even with severe physical impairments, our son has the capacity to learn and he is absorbing plenty of information from his environment.
After months of asking the school to work with him on language development with a communication device and hoping they’d agree to inclusion, we had to hire a lawyer. We were supremely fortunate to find an amazing, compassionate lawyer to help us with the case: Our lawyer Rich fought for our son and went above and beyond our hopes for a FAPE offer. With his help, the school agreed to inclusion, a one-on-one aid, and purchased a high end communication device for our son to use at school.
Now that our son is in the classroom, we couldn’t be happier with the results. Our son is learning many new concepts, and most importantly, he LOVES being in the classroom with his typical peers. The kids adore him and they all benefit from the situation.
What is Inclusion
Inclusion allows all children, whether they have special needs or not, to participate in a normal classroom setting. The idea is to bring the necessary help for your disabled child into this environment, such as a therapist or one-on-one teacher, as opposed to taking the child and teaching them at home or at a special school. This way they are able to benefit from all the advantages of being in schoolroom with other children.
What Should Inclusion Look Like
Inclusion in schools and nurseries should promote positive attitudes and foster a healthy environment for disabled children. Teachers and staff should act as helpful companions there to encourage your child to reach his or her full potential.
A supportive and understanding staff should:
- Be knowledgeable about the needs of children with cerebral palsy, which includes understanding how your child learns and develops.
- Secure an environment and activities that are appropriate for children with CP.
- Have references such as books, doctors and therapists where they can gather more information on the disease and get advice on how to cope with it.
- Treat each child as an individual, rather than viewing the entire classroom as a whole –different children have very different needs.
- Remember that your child is still only a child. There are many fun things they would still enjoy to participate in, CP or not.
- Assure parents that policies and procedures do not discriminate.
- Take lesson plans and classroom procedures into account in order to accommodate disabled children.
How Inclusion Could Benefit Your Child
Inclusion will benefit your special needs child in many ways. One of the most obvious ways is that your child will be able to make friends. These friendships are incredibly important for social development and also help children realize that special needs kids are more alike them than they are different.
These friends and peers will act as role models, helping your child to learn how to behave properly in a social setting. They will learn how to get along with one another, how to share and develop their own personal interests.
All children benefit from having the diversity in the classroom. It helps them learn that we not only look different, but that every human being comes equipped with different abilities –special needs childrens’ being different. Children that are in an inclusion type of classroom, grow up to be much more well-adjusted adults.
If you believe your child could benefit from this type of setting, you should fight for their rights. Contact your local school to see if they already have an inclusion program in place. If they don’t, consider working with a lawyer or advocate to give your child this opportunity.
For more information on the firm our lawyer is from, see the California Special Needs Law Group.