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1990 school mainstreaming contest winners.

1990 School Mainstreaming Contest

School System

On the cover of The La Grange Area Department of Special Education's (LADSE) program booklet it says, "Integration of children with disabilities into regular education enriches the lives of all students." This is more than just a statement -- in La Grange, it's a fact of life. And if you're ever in doubt, just ask one of the 21,000 students in 20 suburban communities who are involved in their very successful mainstreaming program!

The goals of the member districts of LADSE are to enhance the educational experiences of all students with unique learning needs by: providing a broad range of high quality programs and services; creating heterogeneous learning environments that empower youth with disabilities to become adults leading purposeful lives which include meaningful work, satisfying friendships and leisure time, and maximizing self-sufficiency and independence within the community; creating conditions in their schools and communities that encourage meaningful and mutually enriching relationships among all students without regard to disabilities or labels; and expand the knowledge and skills of educators, parents, and the community so that they may work together to design, implement, and maintain effective programs flexible enough to meet the learning needs of each and every student.

School districts achieve these goals through a variety of means. For instance, students with special needs are part of age-appropriate homerooms in several district schools where they participate in a variety of classes and activities. By providing supplemental transportation, students are able to participate in after-school activities such as chorus and sports. In some schools, peer assistants, the "buddy system," and team teaching techniques contribute to increased opportunities for students with disabilities to participate in regular education classes and activities.

LADSE is also committed to the development of a neighborhood school model in which all students, regardless of disability, will have the opportunity to attend their neighborhood school. Here all students with special needs are grouped with peers of the same age within regular education classrooms, and all of the special education services formerly provided in self-contained special education programs outside their neighborhood are provided at their neighborhood school. Brook Forest School in Oak Brook has become one of the first schools in the United States to adopt the total integration neighborhood school concept.

LADSE works with big numbers, big goals and big programs. And the result has been very BIG accomplishments!


At the Palma Ceia Presbyterian Preschool, all students are treated equal. For the past nine years the preschool has enrolled both special needs and regularly developing children in the same classroom learning side by side. Throughout the day, there are no distinctions made among children. Although there is an I.E.P. for each child with special needs, learning occurs in a natural, play-based setting.

All students benefit from the high quality staff and program which takes into account individuality, respect for different learning styles and the development of a curriculum appropriate to each child. Choice of curricular materials and overall philosophy must be in accordance with developmentally-appropriate practice, which unifies all the children. Through the Playmate Program, students work, learn and play together.

Teachers structure and encourage positive interactions between children, while interdisciplinary teamwork takes place among administrators, teachers, therapists and parents, all of whom have mutual regard for each other. Topical parent meetings on student curriculum are held.

The outstanding efforts of Palma Ceia may be best summarized by Terry and Deborah Hunt, nominators of the preschool and parents of a three-year-old daughter, Kaitlin, who happily attends the school: "The mainstreaming at Palma Ceia is a blessing to everyone who has the privilege of coming into contact with it. There may be exceptional children at Palma Ceia, but they are all SPECIAL."

The Arlington Early Childhood Network is a strict believer in freedom of choice. The Network operates upon the assumption that children and families have a right to make use of regular schools just as they have a right to specialized programs. Whenever possible, parents of children with disabilities can choose from several preschools in the same way that parents of children without disabilities do. Since 1977, Arlington has integrated most young children with special needs in local preschools and child care programs.

The public school preschool team and other evaluators or early intervention staff decide with parents upon an appropriate school and plan for services for the child. While the opinions of professionals are highly-valued, Arlington feels that unless there are major obstacles, parental choice should prevail when differences of opinion exist.

Many grant-supported projects enhance the quality and effectiveness of integration in the community. There are extended day therapy and stimulation groups, lunch-language groups and a very successful "parent liaison" program, where "old" parents of children with disabilities help "new" parents in ways only parents can define.

The mainstreaming program boasts many success stories. In many cases, children have flourished in regular preschools and have been able to show their true abilities through participation in developmentally sound programs.

The Arlington Network believes in the rights of the parents, and we think that their philosophy is RIGHT!

Elementary School

At Ridgeview Elementary School the philosophy is "If the whole school can't participate, no one can." Sixteen percent of Ridgeview's 1,200 students in grades K-6 have disabilities ranging from mental, physical and emotional to learning, and speech and language, and the school has put great effort into making sure that "no one is left out."

The backbone of Ridgeview's success is good communication. Parents are able to express their concerns, questions or comments with a staff that highly respects their views and will work hard to find ways to resolve any potential problems. At the same time, special education and regular education students interact with one another in both educational and social environments.

All children are included in award assemblies, programs, cultural events, field trips and regular classroom activities. Regular education students tutor, encourage, interact and assist students with disabilities in moving from place to place. Ridgeview also utilizes the community in its efforts to "normalize" as many situations as possible. A Marine Corps unit of volunteers assists at many activities, such as field day, so that all children may participate.

In the 1990-1991 school year, Ridgeview will have a new kindergarten class composed of special education and regular education students and jointly taught by a special education teacher and regular education teacher. They will also begin a program where regular education students will take students with profound mental disabilities to attend special functions in their classroom and accompany them on trips. Ridgeview is constantly looking for new ways they can expand their mainstreaming efforts, creating a more enriching and understanding environment for all!

Secondary School

Students from the Bowie school can't wait to get away from their school. That's because they get to join their friends at other schools and take part together in numerous classes and extracurricular activities.

Bowie's 130 students, ages three-to-22 and all of whom have mental and/or physical disabilities, spend from 20 to 70 percent of their day on regular education campuses or in the community. (In fact, the mainstreaming has worked so well that over the next two years they will move all but four of their classes out into the neighborhood schools, and Bowie will then become a regular elementary campus.)

In the Adopt-A-Class Program, many of Bowie's classes are adopted by a compatible class from a regular education campus in the McAllen School District. Students do everything together, from having lunch and attending pep rallies to going to sports games or the Halloween Carnival. They especially love dancing with one another, as together they wiggle the night away at school socials! Students also participate together in music and computer classes, physical education, swimming instruction and library outings.

There is also the Adopt-A-Kid program in which regular education high school and junior high school students who are at risk of being expelled come to Bowie and adopt one of their students. These students greatly benefit from the responsibility of helping a peer with a disability. It has helped keep a lot of these students in school, while providing Bowie students with a peer association and extra T.L.C.

Referring to Bowie's mainstreaming program as "adoption" is appropriate, as students come to care for one another as though they are brothers and sisters. In the case of Bowie, it can be said that it's one big, happy family.
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Article Details
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Author:Kerman, Candace
Publication:The Exceptional Parent
Date:Sep 1, 1990
Previous Article:Funding to make the wheels turn round.
Next Article:Beyond mainstreaming; the American dream for all children.

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