Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Obstacles to Integrating Disabled Students in a "Two-Roof" Elementary School

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Obstacles to Integrating Disabled Students in a "Two-Roof" Elementary School

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT: This article describes a 5-year effort to integrate special and regular students on a campus where special and regular education students are housed in separate but adjacent facilities with separate administrators. Observational data and questionnaires revealed almost total segregation at the end of 3 years. An intensive intervention program, Project L.E.A.D., generated promising short-term movement toward integration, but there were few enduring effects. Physical, social, and psychological barriers created by the two-roof school erect almost insurmountable obstacles to integration. Future efforts should concentrate on building one-roof schools with a single facility and administration.

Public Law 94-142 (1975) and the federal guidelines (Federal Register, 1977) require public agencies to ensure that handicapped children are educated with children who are not handicapped, "to the maximum extent possible" (Section 121a.550 [b] [1]). The federal guidelines stipulate that public agencies locate programs as close as possible to the home of the child (Section 121a.552 [a] [3]) and ensure that handicapped children shall have equal opportunity for participation in nonacademic activities such as meals, recess period, athletics, transportation, health services, recreational activities, and so forth with nonhandicapped children (Section 121a.553). State guidelines require programs that "promote maximum interaction with the general school population in a manner that is appropriate" to the needs of both handicapped and regular students (California Education Code, Part 30, 1977).

Most educational agencies in California have responded to these mandates by building separate facilities for special education students on the campuses of regular schools. For example, a southern California county recently closed a special center for severely handicapped students and distributed them to trailers located on the campuses of regular schools throughout the county on the assumption that such relocation would facilitate contact with regular students. A 1984-1985 survey of 166 local education agencies LEAS) in California providing services to severely handicapped students found that 39% of the programs were on regular campuses but in separate facilities, 21 % were adjacent to regular sites, and 40% were in completely separate facilities. Yet, in over half of the LEAs in the same survey, less than a quarter of the severely handicapped were integrated for extra-curricular activities, for transportation, and for instruction. Only slightly greater levels of contact were reported for lunch and recess (California State Advisory Committee on Individuals with Severe Disabilities, 1986).

How much contact is there between regular and special education students on a typical two-roof campus? Can the amount of contact be significantly increased by planned intervention? To answer these questions, we conducted a case study of an intervention to promote contact in a two-roof school operating for 5 years in Southern California.

HISTORY OF LA CADENA SCHOOL

La Cadena regular school, built 40 years ago, enrolls 499 students in grades K through 5. La Cadena special school was built by the county on the campus of La Cadena regular school in 1983 to promote "maximum interaction" between severely handicapped students and regular students. At the time of our study, it served 70 students. There were two classes for physically handicapped students (one primary: 3-6 years; and one elementary: 7-13 years), one class for autistic students, one for trainable mentally retarded students, and one for profoundly developmentally disabled students. The facility also provided physical therapy in its medical unit for handicapped students in the surrounding area.

The two buildings are back to back, separated by about 30 yards of lawn equipped as a playground. Hence, entrances are from different streets. The special school is a U-shaped building with a concrete patio in the center of the U" on the back of the building. …

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