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Inclusion Recovery Story

My son is low-functioning and non-verbal. He spent K & 1st in SDC which I felt was the best fit since he "fit in". Thanks to some of you on this list, I decided to push for inclusion. He was supposedly mainstreamed during 1st but what I noticed is that just meant he "visited" another class during a time when it was most convenient which was unstructured time. During my son's IEP, I told the team I wanted my son fully included - period. Nobody felt it was possible. My son could not sit still, stimmed, tantrumed during transitions, couldn't talk, understood very little of what was said, was still in diapers and pretty much ignored his peers. Since the only options in the school was SDC (low-functioning kids) and typical class with pull- out to a learning center for certain subjects, they had to come up with a plan specifically for my son. We agreed that my son would spend part of the day in SDC and part in a typical class with a timeline for increasing his typical class time. It is different than visiting in that my son from day one was treated as a full member of the typical class having his own seat, having his projects up on the wall with his classmates, eating lunch with the typical kids, having the same homework go home which I would adjust to his abilities, going to the library, computer lab & field trips etc. Since he is still part-time in SDC, the special ed teacher oversees his academics and works with the typical teacher to adjust his assignments. He also has a place to go to when he is having an off day or if the typical class is doing something that would be inappropriate for him (art activity with gluten or activity that would be excessively noisy).

Now as we are 3/4 through the year, my son is in the typical class about 85% of the day and I feel his program has been very successful. He is able to sit still in class, stims very little, not only does he not tantrum during transitions but seems to have a newly found love for change, his receptive language has skyrocketed, will use the potty when taken but still not indicating need consistently and loves spending time with his classmates. The only thing that has not improved is he is still completely non-verbal but he is signing more and using a communication device.

This morning I had a monthly meeting with his special ed and typical class teacher. They both are so excited about how things are going. The special ed teacher said the district likes the way his program is structured and are wanting to try it on some other students. They titled the program a Blended Program. She told me because of my insistence in including my son, other kids that may not have had an opportunity to try inclusion now will. I can't tell you how good that feels. She thanked me for seeing something in my son that she didn't see and now that her eyes are opened, she is eager to help other kids.

After the meeting I talked further with the special ed teacher. She shared that when she was attending school for her degree while teaching special ed, they would often talk about inclusion but she just couldn't see it for her students. She felt the kids have to learn how to act typical BEFORE going into a typical class but now she sees being in the typical class is where they learn it. She even went so far as to say now she even questions her validity as a special ed teacher now that she sees most of the kids are better off included. Wow! What a change from last year.

The general ed teacher has also learned from this experience. In the beginning of the year, I sensed an attitude problem about my son being in her class. I urged her to treat my son like he understands everything she says but not be surprised when his actions don't show it. I gave her poems written by adults with autism about how they understand more than they are capable of expressing. When she would send homework home, I would detail what alternative I would do to alter the assignment but keep to the general objective (I homeschool my other kids so I have lots of resources). Now she is totally on board and actually requested she have him another year. This morning, she was referencing different books and articles she has read on autism applying what she learned to my son. I am sure she will encounter more autistic kids in her classes so the education she got this year will pave the way for more successful transitions.

I want to encourage those of you that do not find the school has an appropriate program to not just accept what is offered but push for the right plan. My pushing has not only helped my son greatly but hopefully will help other students in the district too.

[my thanks to MT for allowing me to use her son's story on my site]

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