The following material is excerpted from Inclusion and Parent Advocacy: A Resource Guide (c) 1996 Disability Resources, inc. – All Rights Reserved.
Something wonderful is happening to children throughout the United States: they are learning that all people are entitled to equal opportunities. They are learning to understand, respect, and appreciate people with physical or intellectual differences. Children who happen to have such differences are learning that the world belongs to them, too, and that opportunities for learning, playing, making friends, and becoming full participants in society are within their reach. Their lessons are coming not from textbooks on democracy, but from real-life, everyday experiences. These children are involved in inclusion – a process through which children with disabilities are being included in the same educational and social settings as all other children.
As many of the books and videotapes in this resource guide vividly demonstrate, inclusion can benefit everyone: children with and without disabilities, their teachers, and society as a whole. However, many children with disabilities are still being denied the opportunity to live, learn, and play with their peers, and many children who do not have disabilities are still growing up the way their parents did, in homogeneous educational and social environments where people who are different are segregated and treated unequally.
In a 1994 report to the President and Congress, the National Council on Disability wrote: “The statistics on inclusion suggest that large numbers of children with disabilities are not presently included in regular education classrooms. In fact, passionate advocacy by someone is frequently needed to overcome the multiple barriers to inclusion.”
Some educators, service providers, and parents of children with and without disabilities have understandable concerns about the impact of inclusion on themselves and their students or children. They may be unaware of the benefits inclusion offers to all children – and to themselves and society. They may believe that inclusion is a means of saving money by “dumping” children with disabilities in regular classrooms or recreational programs. Parents of students without disabilities may be concerned that inclusion will negatively impact the time and attention available to their children. Educators and service providers may believe that inclusion will place unreasonable demands on them, that they lack specialized training to teach students with special needs, or that they will not have sufficient time to devote to their “regular” students. They may lack information about the restructuring, planning, collaboration, strategies, and support that are necessary to implement inclusion effectively.
Parents of children with disabilities may also have concerns about inclusion. The Council’s report describes a variety of factors which make it clear that lack of information about inclusion and parent advocacy inhibits many parents from pressing for placement of their children with disabilities in regular education classrooms:
* Parents have little information about the failure of segregated special education programs to educate their children.
* Parents have little information about the benefits of inclusion.
* Parents might believe that their children will be “safe” in segregated settings.
* Parents often lack information about their child’s potential.
* Parents might believe that children will receive fewer services if they are in a regular education setting.
* Parents may be reluctant to move their children from segregated programs to regular education programs perceived as having problems of their own.
* Parents lack information to challenge school district decisions.
* Parents are reluctant to challenge educators.
* Similar factors may also inhibit parents from advocating for inclusion in noneducational settings.
The need for information is especially important in multicultural communities, where “students with disabilities from minority groups face additional hurdles due to their race and/or ethnicity.”