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The Case FOR Special Ed

The Case FOR Special Ed

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I was like a snarling mama cat, clamouring for full inclusion until just recently. That is, for NOT having Moxie in a “special ed” classroom, in a classroom set aside in which all of the other children therein also have a cognitive disability.

Moxie learns by imitation, I thought, what sense does it make to put her in a room full of kids that are where she is? 

Right? I mean, since she really is a learn-by-watching kind of person, how is she going to learn to talk when she is around other kids that are mostly nonverbal?

And that might definitely be so. It very well may be. Because, like I said, she really does learn by watching.

But I applied my own deafness to this picture. I thought about how I felt, being the ONLY DEAF KID in every.single.classroom I have ever been in, bar none. The ONLY KID who couldn’t hear, then the ONLY ADULT who struggled through a thousand class sessions, millions of minutes focusing on lips, lips, lips, zonking out over lips, lips, lips in this endless quest to get it right, get it down, hear through watching.

I’m not going to lie: it SUCKED.

I got a taste of how awesome it can be to have a friend who is the same as me when Katherine came to work for my program at UC Berkeley. She and I were, I’m sure, completely obnoxious at work parties when we would “converse” with one another completely by lip-reading, emitting no sounds whatsoever.

It gets lonely when you are the only kid – or adult for that matter – that sticks out in some way.

You feel your difference. Hence, I suppose, the appeal of all-girls schools. Or black colleges.

And now, I think, for special ed classrooms.

***

I think for me it’s more important that Moxie has friends and she feels included, confident and strong than it is that she be all academically stimulated. This is surely a luxury on my part, that feeling, since it stems from my training and background as a teacher. I know I can give her at home what a classroom may lack, academically speaking. Even if it’s the learn-by-watching – she has two brothers, remember?

I want Moxie to know deeply and surely that her extra chromosome is a wonderful thing, bringing with it a bunch of uniqueness that is marvelous!

I want her to embrace who she is, love the gift to the world that her presence brings. I feel that pushing her one way or another – into a room with a lot of other kids with an intellectual disability or into a room with a lot of other kids without an intellectual disability – is not what I want to do. Rather, I want to feel out makes the most sense in a given place. Take each school and classroom on a case-by-case basis.

I want to see what she wants to do.

***

Perhaps that is the sticker; the stone in my wheel. The feeling that a lot of schools would not let Moxie see what she wants to do, or would not value her own opinion. A lot of schools won’t let individuals with a cognitive disability – or their parents for that matter – decide what is best for themselves. Education is not so much about encouraging beautiful minds anymore as much as it is about dollars and scores.

I’m distrustful of any system that wants to segregate anyone. I think the best and most logical conclusion is to integrate everyone. Because really, with all skills present in a class, with all types of individuals, with a full spectrum of intellect and variations in learning styles at play, kids are really going to grow. They’ll be pushed further by helping one another; they’ll see the strengths in those with cognitive disabilities, not just  a societal-defined weakness. They’ll learn that Moxie might not talk as much as they do but she can teach them a thing or three about getting what she wants. Like all people – ALL PEOPLE – she has skills and contributions that she is bringing to the table.

The question is simply if she will be allowed to contribute or will she be a token inclusion in her class?

***

There we go. A flawed system and an imperfect world. What I want does not yet exist and if I choose to send my daughter to school, my choices right here, right now, are a segregated “special needs” classroom or a “mainstream” classroom in which Moxie would need help in the form of aides and such.

I have no answers that are solid but I do know that as much as I loathe segregation, I want my girl to feel accepted and valued. If she found that in a special ed classroom and not in a mainstream one, well, then, I’d think about it.

A special ed classroom is not out of the question anymore.

_______________________________________________________________

  • originally posted June 18, 2013

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The Case FOR Special Ed: when does a contained classroom make sense? If ever?

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Ellen S.

Thursday 1st of June 2017

THANK YOU for this perspective, it is heartening, reassuring and so true. It just took me a long time to get here. You are always the voice of wisdom, Meriah!

Meriah

Thursday 1st of June 2017

HA! That makes me feel like Yoda! (or, "feel like Yoda, I do" xoxo

Gabriela

Sunday 21st of July 2013

Have you ever heard of Camphill communities? It's a worldwide movement of cooperative communities whose focus is the care & education of those with special needs. There is one in Pennsylvania that is a K-12 school with a day student program (www.camphillspecialschool.org). I work in one in upstate NY & would be happy to talk with you about my experience of it if you're interested.

Meriah

Monday 22nd of July 2013

I would LOVE to learn more. That sounds really interesting. I'm headed to google now... thank you! Are you still working there?

Stephanie

Tuesday 2nd of July 2013

As a special education teacher who has taught in the inclusion setting, resource room setting, and self-contained setting, and the parent of a child with T21, I can say that there are rigorous resource and self-contained classrooms. And there are inclusion classrooms that are doing a great job of teaching all learners. I think we need to value education in all its forms, especially when the best needs of the student are truly at heart. There IS value in what students can learn and achieve in a specialized setting, which is exactly the reason we allow gifted students to be pulled out for enrichment or placed in AP classes. I do believe, however, that the intent is important--parents and caregivers need to know that if their child is being recommended for a more specialized setting, that recommendation truly comes from a place of caring about what's best for that student (not in the interest of segregation). Like medicine, there is no one-size-fits-all prescription in education. It's dangerous for the pendulum to swing too far in any one direction.

Lena

Sunday 23rd of June 2013

Im not all for inclusion personally. My son just finished his second year of kindergarten . His teacher never had one special education class, not one. She didnt know what to do with him. I brought in some work and asked them to do special things. She actually asked me if he would plateau and not learn anymore. Going to the special Ed class was not much better, it was totally silent, all of them non verbal. So, I'm homeschooling him again this year, creating a social group for him to play with children of all ages. Tis way I can focus on what he needs, and I don't have to fight with a school to teach him.

Tricia

Thursday 20th of June 2013

Such good things to think about. I think each child is different, and parents should consider that in choosing the best environment. There's no right or wrong answer.

valueall

Monday 24th of June 2013

I can definitely say segregated settings are WRONG! My boy with Down syndrome is still stressed about being segregated 2 years after having finished there.... when anxious he recounts being called a retard/loser/freak....awful and very traumatic.

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The Case FOR Special Ed

The Case FOR Special Ed

Please Share

I was like a snarling mama cat, clamouring for full inclusion until just recently. That is, for NOT having Moxie in a “special ed” classroom, in a classroom set aside in which all of the other children therein also have a cognitive disability.

Moxie learns by imitation, I thought, what sense does it make to put her in a room full of kids that are where she is? 

Right? I mean, since she really is a learn-by-watching kind of person, how is she going to learn to talk when she is around other kids that are mostly nonverbal?

And that might definitely be so. It very well may be. Because, like I said, she really does learn by watching.

But I applied my own deafness to this picture. I thought about how I felt, being the ONLY DEAF KID in every.single.classroom I have ever been in, bar none. The ONLY KID who couldn’t hear, then the ONLY ADULT who struggled through a thousand class sessions, millions of minutes focusing on lips, lips, lips, zonking out over lips, lips, lips in this endless quest to get it right, get it down, hear through watching.

I’m not going to lie: it SUCKED.

I got a taste of how awesome it can be to have a friend who is the same as me when Katherine came to work for my program at UC Berkeley. She and I were, I’m sure, completely obnoxious at work parties when we would “converse” with one another completely by lip-reading, emitting no sounds whatsoever. Oh my God, that was so much fun!

It gets lonely when you are the only kid – or adult for that matter – that sticks out in some way.

You feel your difference. Hence, I suppose, the appeal of all-girls schools. Or black colleges.

And now, I think, for special ed classrooms.

***

I think for me it’s more important that Moxie has friends and she feels included, confident and strong than it is that she be all academically stimulated. This is surely a luxury on my part, that feeling, since it stems from my training and background as a teacher. I know I can give her at home what a classroom may lack, academically speaking. Even if it’s the learn-by-watching – she has two brothers, remember?

I want Moxie to know deeply and surely that her extra chromosome is a wonderful thing, bringing with it a bunch of uniqueness that is marvelous!

I want her to embrace who she is, love the gift to the world that her presence brings. I feel that pushing her one way or another – into a room with a lot of other kids with an intellectual disability or into a room with a lot of other kids without an intellectual disability – is not what I want to do. Rather, I want to feel out makes the most sense in a given place. Take each school and classroom on a case-by-case basis.

I want to see what she wants to do.

***

Perhaps that is the sticker; the stone in my wheel. The feeling that a lot of schools would not let Moxie see what she wants to do, or would not value her own opinion. A lot of schools won’t let individuals with a cognitive disability – or their parents for that matter – decide what is best for themselves. Education is not so much about encouraging beautiful minds anymore as much as it is about dollars and scores.

I’m distrustful of any system that wants to segregate anyone (remember – it wasn’t that long ago that black Americans were forced to attend separate schools! I mean, can you image in that now?). I think the best and most logical conclusion is to integrate everyone. Because really, with all skills present in a class, with all types of individuals, with a full spectrum of intellect and variations in learning styles at play, kids are really going to grow. They’ll be pushed further by helping one another; they’ll see the strengths in those with cognitive disabilities, not just  a societal-defined weakness. They’ll learn that Moxie might not talk as much as they do but she can teach them a thing or three about getting what she wants. Like all people – ALL PEOPLE – she has skills and contributions that she is bringing to the table.

The question is simply if she will be allowed to contribute or will she be a token inclusion in her class?

***

There we go. A flawed system and an imperfect world. What I want does not yet exist and if I choose to send my daughter to school, my choices right here, right now, are a segregated “special needs” classroom or a “mainstream” classroom in which Moxie would need help in the form of aides and such.

I have no answers that are solid but I do know that as much as I loathe segregation, I want my girl to feel accepted and valued. If she found that in a special ed classroom and not in a mainstream one, well, then, I’d think about it.

A special ed classroom is not out of the question anymore.

PicMonkey Collagewm

 

Support This Site

Please Share

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Gabriela

Sunday 21st of July 2013

Have you ever heard of Camphill communities? It's a worldwide movement of cooperative communities whose focus is the care & education of those with special needs. There is one in Pennsylvania that is a K-12 school with a day student program (www.camphillspecialschool.org). I work in one in upstate NY & would be happy to talk with you about my experience of it if you're interested.

Meriah

Monday 22nd of July 2013

I would LOVE to learn more. That sounds really interesting. I'm headed to google now... thank you! Are you still working there?

Gabriela

Sunday 21st of July 2013

Have you ever heard of Camphill communities? It's a worldwide movement of cooperative communities whose focus is the care & education of those with special needs. There is one in Pennsylvania that is a K-12 school with a day student program (www.camphillspecialschool.org). I work in one in upstate NY & would be happy to talk with you about my experience of it if you're interested.

Meriah

Monday 22nd of July 2013

I would LOVE to learn more. That sounds really interesting. I'm headed to google now... thank you! Are you still working there?

Stephanie

Tuesday 2nd of July 2013

As a special education teacher who has taught in the inclusion setting, resource room setting, and self-contained setting, and the parent of a child with T21, I can say that there are rigorous resource and self-contained classrooms. And there are inclusion classrooms that are doing a great job of teaching all learners. I think we need to value education in all its forms, especially when the best needs of the student are truly at heart. There IS value in what students can learn and achieve in a specialized setting, which is exactly the reason we allow gifted students to be pulled out for enrichment or placed in AP classes. I do believe, however, that the intent is important--parents and caregivers need to know that if their child is being recommended for a more specialized setting, that recommendation truly comes from a place of caring about what's best for that student (not in the interest of segregation). Like medicine, there is no one-size-fits-all prescription in education. It's dangerous for the pendulum to swing too far in any one direction.

Stephanie

Tuesday 2nd of July 2013

As a special education teacher who has taught in the inclusion setting, resource room setting, and self-contained setting, and the parent of a child with T21, I can say that there are rigorous resource and self-contained classrooms. And there are inclusion classrooms that are doing a great job of teaching all learners. I think we need to value education in all its forms, especially when the best needs of the student are truly at heart. There IS value in what students can learn and achieve in a specialized setting, which is exactly the reason we allow gifted students to be pulled out for enrichment or placed in AP classes. I do believe, however, that the intent is important--parents and caregivers need to know that if their child is being recommended for a more specialized setting, that recommendation truly comes from a place of caring about what's best for that student (not in the interest of segregation). Like medicine, there is no one-size-fits-all prescription in education. It's dangerous for the pendulum to swing too far in any one direction.

Lena

Sunday 23rd of June 2013

Im not all for inclusion personally. My son just finished his second year of kindergarten . His teacher never had one special education class, not one. She didnt know what to do with him. I brought in some work and asked them to do special things. She actually asked me if he would plateau and not learn anymore. Going to the special Ed class was not much better, it was totally silent, all of them non verbal. So, I'm homeschooling him again this year, creating a social group for him to play with children of all ages. Tis way I can focus on what he needs, and I don't have to fight with a school to teach him.

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