Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

A Varsity Letter for Inclusion

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

A Varsity Letter for Inclusion

Article excerpt

My son's graduation ceremony was a milestone for the whole family. As David marched across the stage, shook the principal's hand and then proceeded to envelope him in a giant hug, I felt an overwhelming rush of joy - and a huge sigh of relief David's educational journey required tremendous effort from him and everyone else involved, but that effort reaped great rewards.

David, who has fragile X syndrome, began his education in a totally segregated setting; recess and lunch provided his only exposure to "regular" kids. The professionals seemed convinced this was the best place to maximize his learning potential. It wasn't until David was in fifth grade that a new special education teacher suggested we try a more inclusive learning environment.

I'll admit I was frightened! What if it didn't work out? Didn't David face enough challenges already? Would other children tease him about his poor reading skills? And what about his hand flapping and hand biting? These behaviors often increased when he was in a stressful situation; how would the other kids react?

David was already the brunt of unkind comments and subtle abuses on the bus and playground. Very seldom did a day go by that another child did not greet him with, "Hey retard!" I wanted to protect him, to keep him safe. But I knew my husband and I would not always be there for David. If he was going to live independently after we were gone, he had to gain some of those important skills now. I swallowed my fears and agreed to try inclusion.

Initially, Dave was in the regular classroom only for a few periods each day, for subjects like art and gym. The following year, in sixth grade, he became a more active member of the class. He still ventured back to the resource room for reading and math, but the rest of his day was spent in the regular classroom.

It wasn't all smooth sailing. There were some initial problems, but slowly David began to change. His self-esteem increased. His behavior was not a problem. In fact, it was better in the regular classroom than in the self-contained setting.

And contrary to what many had predicted, David was learning. After years on the same level, his reading skills began increasing. …

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