Thursday, March 8, 2012

Not So Lucky As All That

Last November I wrote a post with the title Lucky, wherein Rose and I discussed how much things had changed from when I was in elementary school and kids with disabilities didn't get educated in the same schools as their typically-developing peers, if they got to go to school at all.

Her priceless summation of the situation:
It's so lucky for Joy's class that they get to know her and have her in school with them!

Those words are haunting me just now, as we're thinking ahead to next year with IEP-ing and with filling out questionnaires that will inform how next year's classes get assembled.

You see, although students with disabilities at Rose & Joy's elementary school are educated in classrooms with typically-developing classmates, it's not spread out evenly across the school. The school practices "clustering," whereby the kids with IEPs all get assigned into just one or two classrooms per grade, so that the special-ed staff can focus there and collaborate with just one or two regular-ed teachers. (A similar thing happens with students for whom English is a second language).

What ends up happening is that the ratio of disability to non-disability in the cluster-classes gets pretty far out of whack in comparison to the real world. Any behavior issues associated with the disabilites end up concentrated too -- and multiplying upon one another. And it can leave some folks thinking that students with and without disabilities really shouldn't mix, because look at all the problems that arise!!

It also means that Rose is not so lucky as all that.

Like her mother 40 years before... Rose has never been in a homeroom class with a student who has a significant developmental disability.

Just now, that feels incredibly unlucky to me.


Quiet One said...

Wow! Great point. Reminds me of an educational aide who worked in my classroom many years ago. She was so impressed by the impact our students had on the rest of the kids. Wondered aloud if parents of the "regular" kids had any idea at all of how much they were learning from the ones with special needs! We ALL stand to benefit when these kids are among us.

Lynda said...

That is a very good point! That's the main thing I appreciated about my daycare group. It was very integrated with kids not only of differing ages, but differing abilities, all over the board throughout the age groups. It was amazing and wonderful to see what each kiddo learned and gained from being with the rest.

Suze said...

I'm sure the reason kids with special needs are clumped is because of resources. The schools just can't afford to have aides and ESL specialists in every single classroom. It's too bad, I agree!

Barbara said...

As much as I know about the practical aspects of the school side, I see this as a darn shame for Joy. On the other hand, as it is, Rose is a daily beneficiary of learning from Joy, and her unlucky placement allows another child to have an inclusion experience.

JoyMama said...

Quiet One -- yes indeed -- it's sad that we have so far to go to get to the point of truly "among."

Lynda -- your daycare was phenomenal -- a mix that most providers don't dare to take on. If only more daycares would be open to the possibility of just one or two!

JoyMama said...

Suze - the resource question does drive a lot of the way things wind up - special ed has been underfunded from the get-go, and of course the current attack on public schools makes things worse. On the other hand, all the resources in the world won't necessarily make an over-clustered situation into a good one...

Barbara -- I've actually been wondering about whether Rose hasn't been assigned to a cluster-class because of the thought that she gets "enough" of it at home... Parents aren't privy, of course, to the full extent of how the decisions get made, and it wouldn't be healthy for parents to helicopter-dictate every minute point of it. It does leave us guessing though!