Blogging A-Z: I is for inclusion. In the world of special education, inclusion is measured by how much time identified students (those with an IEP) spend with peers in a regular classroom. Inclusion, while not specifically mentioned by the most current revision of IDEA (2004), is related to the concept of “least restrictive environment” (LRE). (I could easily write a post on acronyms used in special ed and cover most of the alphabet.) The law promotes inclusion of identified (EC) students in a regular classroom with “supplementary aids and services.” If an IEP team is considering a more restrictive setting, it must consider a continuum of alternative placements, such as being pulled out for services or placed in a self-contained classroom.
Inclusion in the regular classroom came after years of isolating students in special classes, with a huge over-representation of black males in those programs. There was a shame associated with disabilities when I was growing up and those identified often had minimal contact with typically developing peers. Research has indicated that most students are better served in some form of inclusion with a regular classroom. Schools may not exclude disabled students on the basis of category or severity of disability, configuration of a delivery system, availability of educational services and/or space, and administrative convenience. See more on this at Wrightslaw.
It is in such an environment that the parents of Dynamic Community Charter School (DCCS) felt the need to improve services for their children by establishing a special education school. I believe they make a compelling argument that not all kids fare well in an inclusive setting. Certainly, their children didn’t; at DCCS, they are now thriving. That doesn’t mean there won’t be bumps along the way, but this is a group of kids for whom the regular classroom was a nightmare.
For the majority of kids, inclusion is the best way to go (albeit rough going for some)- and there’s a free app for that! iAdvocate was developed in conjunction with Syracuse University School of Education and Parent Advocacy Center with three primary features to support inclusion: Statements, Strategies, and Resources. The Statements section has a list of possible statements that a school might make to a parent, such as, “Don’t worry about all these acronyms. That’s just SOP.” Then a helpful parent response is provided, something like this: “While I understand that it is easy to get lost in translation, I have the right for all of your jargon to be explained to me. And it’s your responsibility to do it.” Under Strategies, iAdvocate covers a wide range of issues for parents to keep in mind, including the development of the IEP. The Resources include 10 publications (including journal articles), such as “‘Our School Doesn’t Offer Inclusion‘ and Other Legal Blunders.”
As you can see, inclusion is more complicated than the word would suggest!