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I Wish ... Dreams and Realities of Parenting a Special Needs Child.

I WISH ... DREAMs AND REALITIES OF PARENTING A SPECIAL NEEDS CHILD by Kate Divine McAnaney, (C)1992. Published by United Cerebral Palsy of California, 1507 21 st Street, Suite 204, Sacramento, CA 95814, (916) 442-3573, (916) 442-3646 (fax), $8,95, (soft cover).

The following excerpt has been reprinted with permission from the author.

I wish ... l could figure out if mainstreaming (integration) is the right placement for my child.

You may not be able to determine if mainstreaming is the right answer for your child until you try it. For some, it opens up a new world, for others it's a frustrating maze. I believe that children, regardless of their disability, can always benefit from being with their 'normal' peers. Even a child severely involved with cerebral palsy who has no communication output can receive information and in his or her own way, enjoy the stimulation of a regular classroom environment. However, if your child is receiving specialized learning and therapy in a special education program and you are pleased with his or her progress, then integrating into a regular classroom may not be necessary. The end goal should be that your child have an enriching experience.

Successful mainstreaming is the parent's responsibility as well as the school system's. Just because there are laws that say a child has the right to the 'least restrictive environment' is no guarantee that it will be done smoothly, effectively or that it will be done at all. You may have to visit classrooms with your child and observe his or her level of participation. Work with school officials to determine whether placement in a regular class is appropriate. Help them recognize that academic output may not be the only measure of "success." There are often adjustments that need to be made to the quantity or the format of academic work.

An often overlooked benefit of mainstreaming special needs students is what the experience offers to the normal needs of children in the classroom. Children generally don't have a problem with accepting children's disabilities as long as their questions about the disability are answered openly and honestly. I got into the habit of giving a little talk to Mahlon's class each new school year to answer those questions. And I've noticed that the other children in my son's classes have learned to be helpful, compassionate, and tolerant. And that they have often come up with modifications of tasks and games that make Mahlon's participation more meaningful. Having a special needs classmate gives children a wonderful opportunity to be resourceful.

Today, I will remember that mainstreaming is something l may have to experiment with to see it if it's "right" for my child. I will participate fully in the process of determining the appropriate placement for my child, and will remember that mainstreaming doesn't determine "success" or "failure."

"To hope is to risk despair, and to try is to risk failure. But risks must be taken, because the greatest risk in life is to take no risks."

Leo Buscaglia Living, Loving, Learning

Successful Mainstreaming

1. Talk with your child's teacher about her/his goals for your child. What are your goals for your child?

2. Observe in the classroom. Are the goals being met? Does your child seem content?

3. If you feel your child should be integrated into a regular classroom (full or part-time), talk with the teachers and administrators involved.

4. When placement is determined, observe the new classroom. Talk to the regular classroom teacher yourself. Tell her about your child, i.e. his or her personality not disability.

5. Volunteer to come talk to the entire class (with your child) to explain your child's special challenges. Let the children ask questions and answer them honestly.

6. Offer to be a classroom helper if your schedule permits.

7. Acknowledge to the teacher that you realize that having a special needs child in the class is a challenge and that you will help solve any problems as they occur. Offer to go along on field trips so that your child can participate safely and without added stress to the teacher.

8. Be positive! Give other adults and children the opportunity to help. They might come up with some solutions you have not thought of.

9. Work with the teacher to establish realistic workloads for your child. Quantities of classwork and homework may need to be adjusted.

10. Monitor your child's contentedness. Does he/she seem to be getting something out of the program?
COPYRIGHT 1992 EP Global Communications, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:excerpts about mainstreaming in education
Author:McAnaney, Kate Divine
Publication:The Exceptional Parent
Date:Sep 1, 1992
Previous Article:Low-tech and no tech ways to increase participation.
Next Article:You can make a difference: parents and politics.

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