Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

A Parent's Perspective

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

A Parent's Perspective

Article excerpt

Carlos Oberti has spend three years fighting for public school inclusion of Rafael, his eight-year-old son who has Down Syndrome. In 1990, Clementon (N.J.) School District officials refused to educate Rafael in regular classes because they felt that Rafael's disabilities would keep him from benefiting from placement in a regular classroom. The Oberti's lost a local court case against the school district, then won a Federal District Court. The school district appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in May, 1993. The appeal failed. Representing the unanimous opinion of the Court of Appeals, U.S. Circuit Court Judge Edward R. Becker wrote:

We construe IDEA's mainstreaming requirement to prohibit a school from placing a child with disabilities outside of a regular classroom if educating the child in the regular classroom, with supplementary aids and support services, can be achieved satisfactorily. In addition, if placement outside of a regular classroom is necessary for the child to receive educational benefit, the school may still be violating IDEA if it has not made sufficient efforts to include the child in school programs with nondisabled children whenever possible. We also hold hat the school bears the burden of proving compliance with the mainstreaming requirement of IDEA, regardless of which party (the child and parents or the second) brought the claim under IDEA before the district court.

In April 1993, Mr. Oberit spoke to educators at a colloquium on inclusion at Keane College of New Jersey/School of Education. The following article is an adaptation of his speech.

Inclusion or Mainstreaming

In our experience, mainstreaming was merely placing a child with special needs in a classroom with regular peers. In contrast, inclusion provides teachers and students with tools needed to help children--including children with disabilities--to learn.

As parents, we are very much aware of the differences of our children. We are the first one to know when a child is different and we are able to go through the stages of coping with that fact. When children with disabilities get to be of school age, it is very clear to use whether or not they are going to learn at the same speed as their peers. That is why mainstreaming alone did not work for our son. The expectation was to physically include him without addressing his special needs or the needs of his teachers. This is why I suggest we speak of "supported inclusive education."

Attitudes

To have a positive attitude we have to start by acceping the fact that we are not created equal. Each child has his own rate of development and deserves the opportunity to be exposed to a healthy learning environment. Educators--perhaps bureaucrats more than educators--have come to the realization that grouping children using a perceived notion of learning speed or intelligence test scores does not work. Evaluating with standard test scores is easy because tests are mathematical and fit well with classifications and labels--but they do not work.

Skills for Inclusion

Educators do not need to go through extensive training sessions and hundreds of hours of planning to make sure they cover every possible situation that ultimately will never arise. Due to the fact that there are as many ability levels as there are students, it is impossible to have an exact prescription for all of the students. This is an asset because we can adapt the available resources to meet changing requirements.

Need for Special Educators

Inclusion does not do away with special education teachers. Nothing can be further from the truth because special educators are a key part of educating differently-able children in inclusive environments. They are needed to work with the regular teachers to exchange ideas, create strategies and measure progress.

Benefits to All Students

Inclusive education can benefit all of the students and all of the teachers. …

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