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Embracing the Challenge

  • Posted on January 20, 2014 at 10:00 AM

A new school in my area is dedicated to providing children with special needs with a positive environment, as well as the educational and support services they need. It seems odd that I’m actually considering this, because, years ago, I was committed to ensuring all of my children had the benefits of an inclusive educational environment. Unfortunately, in this school district, that goal was unattainable.

Alex and Ben have both been placed in segregated school environments since they entered elementary school, where they have minimal interactions with regular education peers. They have primarily attended school in what is called a “CD” or cognitively disabled classroom—a classroom positioned “off to the side” of the regular classrooms that is designed specifically for children with more severe special needs. More recently, Ben has been pulled out of even this environment and placed in an even more isolated classroom due to his behaviors.

According to the principle of “least restrictive environment,” the ideal situation for both boys is an environment that provides them with the educational and support services they need in an environment that places the “least restrictions” on them. Now that a new environment is available, I’m beginning to suspect that the least restrictive environment will be a school committed to their needs, instead of a room segregated from their peers.

Today I will visit this new school and see the environment for myself. If I like what I see, I’m going to take a serious look at what is being provided for my children versus what could be provided for them. If the new environment is indeed a better environment for their education, then that will become a new goal. The idea isn’t, however, to have them “placed” somewhere specific, but to have their needs met in a way in a better, more successful way. Of course, I’m already meeting with resistance to the idea, but I’m up to the challenge!