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Extraordinary children, ordinary lives.

by Reed Martin, J.D., Research Press, 2612 North Mattis Avenue, Champaign, IL 61821, (217) 3523273, [C]1991 by Reed Martin, $12.95 (paperback only).

The following excerpt, from the Epilogue, has been reprinted with permission from the publisher.

The first 15 years of implementation of the Education of the Handicapped Act (EHA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act focused largely on inputs. Attention was paid to getting notice, timely evaluations, proper persons at the IEP meetings, properly credentialed personnel, and so forth. In 1990, Congress reviewed the EHA (now called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA) and considered some disturbing facts. The dropout rate for students with disabilities is significantly higher than for other students. The percentage of special education students who go on to postsecondary education is one-fourth the rate of other students. And worst of all, the employment rate for persons with disabilities is much lower than for the general population. The result, then, of 15 years and 10 billion dollars worth of effort is that most students will leave special education and live boring lives at home or in institutions, although they are capable of much more.

Congress shifted the focus in the 1990 amendments to outcomes. They want special education to make a difference. When we focus on that annual IEP plan and lose sight of that year's relationship to the eventual outcome of the student, we lose our goal. Thus, Congress created the new requirement in the IEP process of the "transition plan." Now, at age 16 (or earlier if appropriate) the IEP plan will not only set annual goals, procedures, and so forth, it will also link that year to the student's future.

Congress defined transition services in those 1990 amendments as follows:

"A coordinated set of activities for a student, designed within an outcome-oriented process, which promotes movement from school to post-school activities, including post-secondary education, vocational training, integrated employment (including supported employment), continuing and adult education, adult services, independent living, or community participation. The coordinated set of activities shall be based upon the individual student's needs, taking into account the student's preferences and interests, and shall include the instruction, community experiences, the development of employment and other post-school adult living objectives, and, when appropriate, acquisition of daily living skills and functional vocational evaluation."(1)

This focus on outcomes will take the curriculum in new directions. Many schools have stuck with commercially available curricula based on a general developmental notion (i.e., until the student can point to the red triangle, he or she cannot go to the next step). The result of that approach has been many years of frustrating instruction, with students either dropping out or graduating with no real-life skills. Outcome-focused curricula will take many students out of the classroom, into community based experiences. More students will be working on-site and learning their reading and mathematics in relation to their work.

Further, social skills will be a bigger part of the curriculum. Many schools claim that socialization skills are not a legitimate part of the curriculum. However, research uniformly shows that the reason individuals with disabilities are not hired, or are fired, is not a lack of technical skills but a lack of acceptable social behaviors. The first student I caused to be placed in a job setting part-time was sent home the first afternoon. The vocational counselor told me the job site supervisor said he "would not put up with a punk like that." When the transition plan includes an expectation of employment, the job of education will not be complete until necessary social skills are added to the technical skills needed.

Congress recognized in these 1990 amendments that some students lack another ingredient in reaching the outcomes we all wish for. All of us want our school graduates to be fully included in the life of their community. But many students with disabilities lack recreation and leisure skills. One continuing assumption in the IDEA is that education is to prepare individuals with disabilities for life after school ends. Congress recognized that students with disabilities have unique leisure needs which require specialized assessment and education services to allow them to develop, to the maximum extent feasible, fulfilling, independent leisure lifestyles."(2)

Congress thus expects schools "to employ and utilize therapeutic recreation professionals to evaluate, plan, and administer the recreation component of an individual's education plan." Congress further stated it expects these "intensive recreation services" to be provided in educational settings with the aim of developing "the skills necessary to participate in other integrated social and community settings." Thus, school is once again the place to teach certain students the skills they need to be fully included in community life - an indispensable outcome for education.

The third focus of Congress in the 1990 amendments was the integration of students with disabilities into the life of the school. If it makes sense to have transition plans that will place students successfully in the larger community, and to teach recreation skills to get our graduates into the social life of the community, then it makes sense to concentrate on how those students are doing while they are still in school. Are they learning those vital socialization skills and moving toward more integrated environments? Or are they in segregated, harmful environments that teach them dependency and steer them away from any chance of eventually merging into their community?

Congress has ordered a study to find out why some schools segregate the very type of students that other schools are able to integrate. Another study will identify specific practices having the potential to integrate children with disabilities with children who are not disabled. Congress clearly wants an end to the segregation during school years that defeats the purpose of education and will lead to segregation for the rest of those individuals' lives.

Thus, the next few years will be challenging. Schools will be challenged to actually produce results. Employers will be challenged to end discriminatory practices and make reasonable accommodations to employ those successful special education graduates. And all of us, particularly those exposed to students with disabilities as our classmates, will be challenged to include citizens with disabilities in every a our community lives. If that is done, then special education will truly have accomplished Congress's goals.

Notes

1. 20 United States Code 1401 (19).

2. This and subsequent quotations are from House Report 101-544 (1990), P. 9.

EP NOW IN B. DALTON STORES

B. Dalton Booksellers and Barnes and Noble introduce the Children with Special Needs program into their stores. Designed as a central resource for information about children with disabilities, it brings together for the first time a widely available, convenient, authoritative collection of books on children with disabilities to serve their families, teachers and other professionals. Exceptional Parent is now available in select B. Dalton Bookstores.
COPYRIGHT 1991 EP Global Communications, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:excerpt
Author:Martin, Reed
Publication:The Exceptional Parent
Date:Nov 1, 1991
Words:1140
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