On My Soap Box

Adults with Down Syndrome, Advocate, Down Syndrome, Education, Family Challenges, Inclusion, Parents, People with Disabilities, Special Education Add comments

Almost 50 years ago my son Billy was denied entrance into a special education school because he wasn’t 8 years old. We enrolled him in a regular kindergarten class where he blossomed as he interacted with non-disabled children. That started my firm belief in inclusion of children with disabilities into regular classes. After he entered the special school, I continued to seek opportunities for him to participate in non-segregated situations.

I belong to the generation of parents who fought for Public Law 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (later amended to be called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or IDEA). I gladly joined other parents in pushing for this legislation and rejoicing in its passage. Although it was implemented the year that Billy graduated from high school, I knew that many other children would benefit from its mandates.

The principle of PL 94-142 that is used for the rationale for inclusion of students with disabilities into regular classrooms is referred to as Least Restrictive Environment. The mandate states that “To the maximum extent appropriate children with disabilities… are educated with children who are nondisabled…”

Thus it pained me to read the blog of a mother whose child has been denied the benefit of inclusion. Her daughter, who has Down syndrome, had a successful year in kindergarten. It was determined by the mother and the teacher that repeating kindergarten would benefit the child and the Individualized Education Plan was developed on that premise. At the meeting to plan goals for the coming school year, the mother was informed that her child would be placed in a special class for children with severe disabilities (a living skills class) and would not be engaged in any academic activities.

There is an involved process where parents can dispute the decision of the school personnel regarding placement of a child who has disabilities. This parent went through the legal process and was so disappointed and enraged with the school’s point of view that she gave up the fight and decided to home school her daughter.

Research and experience clearly demonstrate that children with disabilities learn more when included in regular classrooms, where they have normal patterns of speech, behavior, and learning to emulate. I believe in this so strongly that I am disappointed in the outcome of this particular case. To add to my dismay, 95 people have commented on this blog, mostly to applaud this mother’s decision.

I must make a plea to these parents who choose not to pursue their rights. If we do not insist on the mandates of IDEA being followed, they WILL disappear. Please, families, stay the course – insist on the best situation for your child. If the school disagrees with you, the success of your child will change their views.

There are many teachers and administrators who are diligent in insuring that children with disabilities are placed in the least restrictive environment and are receiving the services to which they are entitled. These professionals are concerned with providing the best education possible to ALL children.

I’m sure that on Billy’s file there was a stamp that read “Pushy Parent.” Believe me, if I had it to do over, I would have pushed harder. We must be proactive if we wish to secure the rights for our children to have the best education possible.

3 Responses to “On My Soap Box”

  1. Pollye Pruitt Says:

    Jane, I read that young lady’s story recently. Due process is such an adversarial means of dispute resolution, I can understand her feelings. When attorneys get involved things go downhill quickly. I’d like to suggest a less adversarial means of dispute resolution & that is mediation. The request form is located at the bottom of the following web page http://tennessee.gov/education/speced/legal.shtml

    If, indeed, the child’s educational placement was predetermined she may want to consider filing a state complaint. That information is on the same web page,

    On a lighter note, you were a PP (pushy parent) and a pushy professor! LOL Your friend, pp

  2. Jane Schulz Says:

    Thank you so much Pollye I will send this information on to her and I’m sure she will appreciate it. It’s great to have you as a resource!


  3. Julie Treece Says:

    I agree with you: if I had been the mother I would have gone to any court necessary to insist that my child got the education she deserved. I am a special education teacher and have no problem with a PP!

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