Parents, Teachers Sing Praises of Inclusion

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), November 4, 1997 | Go to article overview

Parents, Teachers Sing Praises of Inclusion


Byline: Joan Broz

The basic idea has been around since 1975 when the federal government said students with disabilities have basic constitutional rights to a "free appropriate public education" in the "least restrictive environment."

Today, the educational buzzword for that mandate is "inclusion."

Inclusion is a program that places special education students in regular classrooms. Although based in common sense, inclusion is complex. It is about acknowledging society's diversity and becoming a more compassionate community.

"It is a whole new mind-set," said Jayne Simpson, director of pupil personnel services in Lisle Unit District 202. "It is to accommodate the whole child, not just academics."

In the past, children with disabilities were bused to cooperative district schools, which had developmental learning programs.

"Sometimes the bus trip could take an hour, and it was a very isolating experience," said Sheila Hebein, from the National Association for Down Syndrome. "Parents wanted their children in their own neighborhood school, and in a successful situation."

In the 1970s, "mainstreaming" established special-need classrooms in local schools, and students were brought together for lunch time, music and art classes. But in the 1990s, the push across the state is inclusion.

While some school districts struggle with inclusion, Janet and Larry Slade are pleased with the program their son Greg is getting at Schiesher School in Lisle.

"Greg has had all the support he has needed," Janet said.

Each child's needs and goals are decided by their parents, teachers and specialists, and written into an Individual Education Plan.

"By having Greg in the classroom he is seeing good role modeling from other students, and the other students are becoming more caring and accepting of people with differences," Greg's fifth-grade teacher, Mark Harrington, said. "They know we are all different."

"It is the acceptance in the community that makes it worthwhile," Slade said. …

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