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Good news for parents and children: Individuals with Disabilities Education Act thrives!

Parents, children, teachers and school administrators all anticipate the new school year with mixed feelings. Parents of children with disabilities must be certain that all aspects of the individualized educational plan created in the spring are in place. They must be aware that the attitudes of individual teachers, therapists and administrators can affect the success of each program. Unfortunately, in many communities, the attitudes of professionals have been colored by real threats to financial support for public education. Let us begin the school year by thanking these key allies for their continued commitment to education and to children and families, especially in these difficult times.

Parents have also heard the concerns about the "high costs" of educating children with special needs or of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. While negative attitudes toward programs have received considerable media attention, as we prepared this education issue we found encouraging evidence of strong support in:

* A record number of outstanding nominations for our Annual School Mainstreaming Awards -- from vastly different communities, serving children of different ages with various disabilities and illustrating the power of parents and dedicated professionals working in the interests of all children;

* A number of inspiring, practical responses (see pages 14-17) to a Parents Search letter published in our June 1992 issue from a grandmother inquiring about inclusion of her grandchild in a regular classroom -- again illustrating the creativity and power of parents and caring professionals; and

* A recent opinion by U.S. District Judge David E. Levi in California (see page 18) affirming a child's right to a mainstreamed school program.

Although the ruling is being appealed, Judge Levi's opinion spoke with sensitivity and understanding about the unique expertise of parents and classroom teachers as well as the dilemma of conflicting assessments by different well-intentioned professionals. Judge Levi wrote:

"The contrary assessments of Rachel's academic progress are rounded in conflicting educational philosophies .... The Court suggests no criticism of these witnesses. But because of the radically different points of view from which they start, the observations ... are by no means objective. Because of the conflict among the experts as to Rachel's academic progress, the testimony of her current teacher is all the more important .... [her teacher] testified that Rachel is a full member of the second-grade class. She participates in all activities .... Rachel is in many ways a typical second-grader ... eager to participate in class activities and is very motivated. She has become more self-confident and independent .... The Court finds the testimony by Rachel's current teacher and Rachel's mother the most credible as to the nonacademic benefits Rachel derives from her placement in a regular classroom .... The two witnesses who testified to Rachel's positive attitude, her mother and her teacher, are in a far better position to know and understand Rachel' s emotional well-being and social development than the District's witnesses, who evaluated Rachel primarily by using standardized testing techniques."

At the end of this important judicial statement, Judge Levi makes clear that the law mandates that it is each child's individual, changing needs that are of primary importance. "Children change, the educational demands on them change, and Rachel may change. If Rache.l does not flourish under this placement in the future, then adjustments should be made. The IDEA [Individuals with Disabilities Education Act] foresees such adjustments at the annual IEP review. But the weigh.t of the evidence suggests that this is the appropriate placement now for Rachel Holland."

Each of these -- the contest entries, the responses by readers, Judge Levi's decision -- has been timely encouragement for these troubling times when the negatives tend to be accentuated. Once again, we can be energized by the power of caring parents and professionals collaborating in positive ways to bring about significant changes in the lives of all children in various school settings. These examples make clear that "ordinary" people in communities throughout our country understand the spirit and the importance of including children with disabilities in everyday community life -- and that people are ready and willing to work together to continue to make the necessary changes.
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Author:Klein, Stanley D.; Schleifer, Maxwell J.
Publication:The Exceptional Parent
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Sep 1, 1992
Previous Article:Infancy and Early Childhood: The Practice of Clinical Assessment and Intervention with Emotional and Developmental Challenges.
Next Article:A victory for mainstreaming: Board of Education, Sacramento City Unified School District vs. Rachel Holland.

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