Special Education No Longer 'A Place' in Dist. 46 Kids with Disabilities to Attend Neighborhood Schools
Williams, Kendra L., Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Kendra L. Williams Daily Herald Staff Writer
The quiet halls in Oakhill Elementary School are punctured with the voices of 45 chattering children whenever the door to the largest fourth-grade classroom opens.
Teachers Kelly O'Brien and Kerry Tonge like it that way. That means their students, 11 of whom have learning disabilities, are problem-solving together.
One cannot spell "dimes" or "apples," words often mastered in first or second grade.
Another cannot memorize multiplication tables, another second-grade task.
O'Brien believes that despite their struggles, those children belong in her Streamwood classroom.
"In the real world, they don't separate out the good readers from the low readers," O'Brien said.
Starting next August, all elementary school students with learning disabilities in Elgin Area Unit District 46 can go to their neighborhood schools.
O'Brien and Tonge couldn't be happier.
"I think more and more the classes are opening up and inviting the services in," Tonge said. "Special ed is not a place anymore. It's a service."
Right now, about 200 of the approximately 1,050 elementary school children with learning disabilities are bused to schools with special education classrooms.
Nationally, about five percent of the population has a learning disability, meaning people with average or above average intelligence test way below expected in a particular subject area.
Children with learning disabilities often have behavior problems because they are frustrated with their lack of progress in school.
The change in District 46's policy means each of the elementary schools will see, on average, an additional 11 to 12 students enroll for the 1999-2000 school year.
It also means each building will have to decide how they will teach the children.
Contrary to the rumors, District 46 is not requiring schools to place children with learning disabilities in regular education classrooms.
If separate rooms will best serve those special needs, so be it, said Maria Smith, director of special education in District 46.
But if children could succeed in regular rooms with the help of special aides, that is where they should be, Smith added. …