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Educating all students in the mainstream of regular education.

Educating All Students in the Mainstream of Regular Education

The need to be involved in family and community life is another crucial aspect of promoting integration. This entails a child's participating in activities outside of school for fun as well as for education.

The community is not just a place to learn. It is also a place to "hand out," a place where people know your name, where people say "hi," where people invite you to join them in an activity, and so forth. Community involvement is important for our children to develop a strong network of friendships and support to help them in later life.

Some things parents can do to promote community involvement and acceptance of their children include:

1. Families must be involved not only in their child's school life, but must provide chances for their sons/daughters to meet people outside of school. This may mean inviting people over to the house, making telephone calls to arrange get-togethers, setting up situations that are of high interest in order to "grab" the attention of these potential friends. If this sounds either strange or "phony" there is an element of truth in that, at least in the beginning. Clearly gimmicks will not keep a person as a friend, but, on the other hand, some people do need some prodding, and if some "rigging" of the environment is necessary to provide opportunities for children to meet and to motivate friendships, it is worth it.

2. We need to guarantee that each of our children has the opportunity to do the ordinary things that many other children do in their neighborhoods. This includes such things as joining Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts, going to church, joining the Little League, and going to the YMCA after-school program.

3. Another thing parents can do to encourage and facilitate neighborhood peer relationships and support is to ensure to the maximum extent possible that their children have play equipment that can draw the interest of other children. By purchasing the swing sets, basketball hoops, plastic swimming pools, toys, games, records, and all the other "stuff" that help children get to know and interact with each other, parents can provide opportunities for their children to become one of the "gang".

4. To promote community involvement, parents must help ensure that their children are actively involved in all phases of community life, and that the family does things together such as going out to malls, fast food restaurants, movies, concerts, and the like.

There are far too many situations where a child, particularly one with characteristics unfamiliar to the general public (i.e., a child in a wheelchair, who cannot talk, see, hear, etc.) never participates in the family life outside of the home. If parents do not include their "children" on typical and nontypical outings, how can we expect community members to accept them with equanimity?

5. Family supports for all children should be provided by "natural" means, rather than by paid human service options, whenever possible. For example, if a sitter is needed, most parents of a 7-year-old would hire the 16-year-old down the street. However, if a child is labeled as handicapped, the parents may turn to the human service system, whose first response would be to develop a respite care program. The concept of natural support before "artificial" support means that we consider first the 16-year-old down the street and determine if he or she would be able to provide the support that is needed. Only when we do not have natural school and community support networks available to meet a need should we resort to paid human services, and then only until we have connected with the natural support systems in the community.

6. When moving into a new community, the first thing our family did was "tour" the neighborhood. We wanted to find out where the stores were located and also where the kids "hung out." We quickly found the answers by asking kids we saw while walking around, as well as by asking the "old timers," the people in the "welcome wagon," members of the local church, shopkeepers, and so forth. In short, we asked people where others "hung out."

This provided us and Shawntell with a familiar "map" of the community, a framework in which to operate. This familiarity helped Shawntell to understand and feel more secure about the new community and helped us to match her needs and interests to the people and organizations in the community. (Whether moving into a new community or simply having a child move into a new classroom of peers, learning the "lay of the land" can assist both you and your child to adjust and become integrated into the setting.)

7. One successful way to integrate a child into a club or other group is to find someone to "sponsor" that person in the new group. The old member of the group can thus "smooth" the way for the new member. For instance, our daughter Shawntell was brought into the Girl Scouts by Karen. Since Karen had been a long-time Girl Scout member, her "sponsorship" of Shawntell meant immediate acceptance for her. It is always better to have someone usher you in than for you to try to become a member from the outside.

8. When helping a child to become an integrated member of his or her peer group, it helps to think about the normal routines of a person of your child's age in a certain place during specific times of the year. One reason that age-appropriate peers are important is that they provide one's child with a sense of belonging, in addition to being a barometer to what aspects of life-style are "in" or not "in".

9. It does not good for your child to join things in which he or she has no interest. Parents need to ask their children directly what they like to do. The answer may be "listen to music," "rides horses," "play golf," or whatever. If the child cannot communicate very effectively, then the people closest to the child will need to think about what interests that person. This is another reason why friends who are same-age peers are so important. They can help adults problem-solve and develop creative solutions. For instance, Shawntell's friends, Lori and Judy, felt that Shawntell (who does not communicate verbally) would like to hear the performer Tiffany. (Whether Shawntell really wanted to go to a concert to hear Tiffany is unknown to us, but her friends felt that she would like it. And she appeared to enjoy the concert.)
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Title Annotation:excerpt
Author:Stainback, Susan; Stainback, William; Forest, Marsha
Publication:The Exceptional Parent
Article Type:Bibliography
Date:Sep 1, 1989
Words:1101
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