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Nowadays, one of the big topics in special education is inclusion. Even today, some individuals are still not open to it and question…
Should children be educated with their non-disabled peers?
If they are, to what extent?
Unfortunately, inclusion has become almost a cat and mouse game for parents, as parents are often confused as to why their child is not being educated with their non-disabled peers. Additionally, there is usually a lack of explanation for this during the placement discussion of an IEP meeting, due to a rush in the discussion and/or a lack of knowledge by the parents.
This leads you to question, what really is the issue?
Shouldn’t we all want children to have access to the same education no matter ability or disability?
In theory yes, but this is often not the case. Since the reasons for inclusion focus mainly on your child’s placement options, it is important that you understand your parental rights.
If you do not know your parental rights and understand your child’s placement options, then your child may get placed inappropriately leading to a less inclusive education.
What are my parental rights for inclusion?
Federal law does not mandate inclusion. However, the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) has passed regulations related to the education of children with disabilities in an inclusive placement. According to IDEA, children with disabilities must be educated in the “least restrictive environment appropriate” to meet their “unique needs.” Additionally, IDEA requires that a “least restrictive environment” placement begins in the regular education classroom. Since the regular education classroom is not appropriate for all children with disabilities, IDEA requires school districts to have a “continuum of services” available so children with disabilities can be placed appropriately. IDEA also requires that the “least restrictive environment” be determined by the IEP team, not the school district. But, even though these guidelines are under IDEA, there are still a few misconceptions pushed towards parents about inclusion.
Misconception Number 1: The school told me they do not offer inclusion.
Sadly, many parents have heard this. However, inclusion, when appropriate, is not a right that a school district can dismiss. Again, IDEA mandates that students with disabilities be educated in the “least restrictive environment” to the “maximum extent appropriate.” Under the federal law, students with disabilities can only be removed from the regular education classroom
when the nature or severity of the is ability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.
Some schools and parents miss the important part here: the use of supplementary aids and services. Most students with disabilities will not be able to function in a regular education classroom without any services. But, there is still the option for your child to be educated in the regular education classroom with the use of supplementary aids and services.
Supplementary aids and services means aids, services, and other supports that are provided in regular education classes, other education-related settings, and in extracurricular and nonacademic settings, to enable children with disabilities to be educated with non-disabled children to the maximum extent appropriate.
In other words, your child has a right to receive accommodations and modifications to help them in the classroom. Additionally, your child has a right to any direct services and supports and support and training for staff members who work with your child.
Supplementary aids and services leads into your child’s placement. This is why they are discussed BEFORE placement during an IEP meeting.
Once the IEP team determines what supplementary aids and services are needed (based on your child’s present levels of performance and IEP goals and objectives), the most appropriate placement is determined.
And all of these services can occur in the regular education classroom (if deemed appropriate).
Misconception number 2: They only discussed one placement option.
School districts and parents also miss out on the “continuum of special education services.” Remember, inclusion is not all or nothing. There are a variety of placement options that may benefit your child. Placement options generally include:
- regular education classroom with no support
- regular education classroom with direct or indirect special education support (i.e. consultation teacher services)
- regular education classroom with co-teaching model
- regular education classroom and resource room services (your child will be pulled out of their classroom and instructed by a special education teacher in a separate room)
- self-contained classroom
As you can see, most of the options are proponents for inclusion. Do not let the school district tell you your child has “too many challenges” or “they will be better off in a self-contained classroom.” Having a thorough discussion of the continuum of services will help the IEP team find the most appropriate placement for your child.
Misconception Number 3: We do not have the staff for this placement option for your child.
This is another statement that parents sometimes hear. Remember, the school districts’ lack of staff or staff issues has nothing to do with your child and their rights under IDEA. If you ever hear this and they continue to only offer your child one option, you have the right to file a due process complaint.
What is The Bottomline…
Placement discussions always begin with educating your child in the regular education classroom. If the IEP team determines that the regular education classroom is not appropriate for your child, the IEP team needs to provide an explanation of why this placement is not appropriate. Once this explanation is given, then you will move on to the next option in the continuum of services until you reach a placement option that is most appropriate for your child. When you are in an IEP meeting, be sure that the IEP team does not skip over placement options (or rush through it). Each placement option should be discussed throughly and a reason should be given as to why a placement option is not appropriate for your child.
Remember inclusion is not a bad word, so do not let anyone talk you out of advocating for your child to educated with their non-disabled peers at a level that is most appropriate.
What issues have you had with inclusion and placement?