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Inclusion and the "Least Restrictive Environment"

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From: melissa (melissa_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Wed Oct 24 2001 - 09:51:57 PDT


I have been reading all of your comments and concerns about inclusion with
great interest. For those of you who know me, I taught in a school that had
a 40% disability population. Most of the students identified as "disabled"
(of course, there were many more students who were not identified
officially) had more than one disability.
    The school originally was set up for students who had polio or other
physical disabilities. When the new building was designed, it became a
school that taught all students. At first, they tried "full inclusion" for
all students. As they discovered, full inclusion is NOT the least
restrictive environment for all students. There is a continuum of placements
available to students. Some can do just fine in the regular classroom. Often
times these well-adjusted students with physical or other disabilities were
able to adapt on their own or request the needed adaptations. Some students
(especially those with learning disabilities and some cognitive
disabilities) came to art with their peers, enjoying themselves in an area
where they excelled. In other subjects they received more intensive help
with a resource person. For students with the most severe disabilities, a
self-contained classroom was their least restrictive environment. As some of
you said, it was here in these small groups where they could work at art on
their ability level, receiving the adaptations or accommodations as
necessary.
    Schools and parents should not consider it a failure if there are
students for whom the regular classroom is not the least restrictive
environment.
Also, as some of you indicated, it is of utmost importance that the
aides/paras that are hired to work with the students also come with the
student to art. If it is stated in the IEP that the student needs an aide,
then you have a right to insist upon that. Especially when you are dealing
with the huge amounts of students in an inclusive classroom. That aide/para
probably knows more about that student than most people. Tap into their
knowledge/experience.
I would also suggest that you try to be in close contact with the therapists
which work with the student. They have provided me with great insight on how
to adapt for the student, what he/she is capable of, and how I can illicit
that ability. In return, I sometimes provided them with some things about
the student that they were unaware of.
If a student uses a communication device in their classroom, they should
bring it to art - Why should art be a case where a child shouldn't have an
efficient way to communicate? If the student uses a particular adaptive
device (or even eye glasses), they should bring that along to. For some
reason, the classroom teacher sometimes neglects to think about this aspect!

    As many of you stated, it can be a wonderful joy and addition to work
with students with special needs. They can sometimes be our best and most
eager students. Proper accommodation and thought must occur though in order
to assure that the students are receiving the education they deserve.
> a continuum of alternative placements to meet the need of students
> with disabilities for special education and related services
> a system for the continuing education of regular and special
> education and related services personnel to enable these personnel to meet
> the needs of persons with disabilities.

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