A sassy, crafty mama bird from Los Angeles
raising a very sweet little girl with Autism
and a new baby boy in the Midwest... and other stuff, too.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Inclusion: For her or for me?

"Decide what to be and go be it"
-Avett Brothers

I've said so many times how much I value inclusion for kids with special needs. It's so important to both expose kids with special needs to normies typical kids and vice versa. I pulled my bird out of her special ed preschool program when she was 4 because she cried when we pulled into the parking lot; the speech therapist said she didn't talk at school; and the goals on her IEP were way beneath her abilities but she wasn't showing them what she could really do. Obviously she didn't like it there but she couldn't tell me that. I found the inclusion program she was in last year and looked at it as a kind of social therapy: she got great examples of typical social behaviors from the other 17 kids in her class, and of course she had 2 amazing one on one shadows to help her along with every little thing (not two at the same time). She was getting good speech, OT, PT, play therapy outside of school, so I was willing to let go of the services she was getting in the public school, which I found to be subpar anyway. Last year was a success. She was able to blend in nicely (I mean, as nicely as she could) with the other kids and she really became just another kid in the class- you know, the one who kept her fingers in her ears and chewed on the plastic foods.

If you're new around these parts, I'll let you read this post, one of many that talk about how I felt abut inclusion. Go ahead. I'll wait here.

Ok, now after all that, I started wondering if this isn't the best fit for the bird. In fact, over the summer, I made a call to the special services department of our public school district to gather some information. I didn't like the lady who called me back and I didn't like her answers to my questions. They won't evaluate a kid who is not enrolled in their schools. But I wanted them to do an eval so they could tell me where they'd consider placing her so I could check out that program to decide if I agreed that was a good fit. Make sense? Well, not to them. In fact, they'd enroll her and use the last IEP they had on file for her, then have a 30 days trial/eval period before deciding where to put her. Huh??? The last IEP on file was when she was 3 years old. Two and a half years ago. That's a long time. So, I'd have to enroll her to decide if I wanted to enroll her. I dropped it and decided to put her back in the inclusion program again. The kindergarten program is a little different from the preschool one. There are about half as many kids in the class (this is a bonus!). There are actually only 2 other girls in the class and they were both in Little Bird's class last year. They definitely focus more on academics this year, which is to be expected. The bird can read, but not necessarily comprehend what she's reading (I'm guessing since she hasn't been able-or willing- to answer questions about whatever she's just read). She cannot do math. At all. She got a worksheet sent home from school yesterday and we tried to work on it today. It's basic: 1+1=___ 1+2=___ and I could hardly get her to sit down to look at it. Focus and attending are both major deficits for her. I used Annie's gluten free bunny cookies for counting since I know she needs visual aids. This whole exercise was a very painful one. I've planned on LB doing this year of kindergarten here and then entering her into the schools in kindergarten again next year. So, do I care so much about the academic piece right now? Or am I more concerned about the social piece? After all, isn't that why I put her in this program in the first place? I'm so confused.

This week it hit me like a ton of bricks- this might be a mistake.

I'm wondering more and more if I should reconsider a move to the special education programming in the schools. Would that be an ASD class or the new cross-category class? I really don't even know where she'd fit in. Oh, and I should mention that I know the teacher of the cross cat-class is the same one who we left in preschool special ed.

All this leads me to a much bigger question... why am I so attached to the idea of the inclusion? Why am I resisting the center based classroom? Is the inclusion program for her or is it for me?

Last month, I mentioned this to my friend Lynn and she said, "that's totally a blog post, man!" So, here it is.

My friend Becca recently asked me, "what do you want for her from school?" And the truth is, I want what every parent wants. But, do I need to step back and recognize that I'm not every parent? I do want to do what's best for the bird. I'm just not sure what that is.


Elise said...

Ok here goes:

Collegeman was in a self-contained class at the very beginning of kindergarten and first grade. It provide him the support and organization that he needed at the time, however, since his interaction with typical kids was limited there was a huge social piece missing. When he was put in an inclusion program in 2nd grade, mainstream with a para and special education support, he took off, both socially and academically. Now collegeman still needs support even in college but that is not a function of the inclusion program but the fact that he still has some deficits that we are trying to help him address.

My highschooler was never in a self-contained class and was always mainstreamed with support.While he has not done as well academically he is a lot more on the "ball"than his older brother.

Each in the same program with different issues, results and outcomes. Here are some questions you need to ask yourself:
1. if the teacher of the spec. ed is someone u don't like or your daughter doesn't like Y r u thinking of letting that woman have dominion over your child?
2. what will she get out of the spec ed class vs. the inclusion class?Can these things be duplicated in a mainstream environment?
3.what kind of social outlet will she have in the spec ed class/ Will she be mimicking behaviors that you like?
4. what are the academic supports in the inclusion environment? will she have speech, OT and a spec ed teacher for reading and comprehension?
5. will she learn like skills and social skills and have counseling too?
6. is someone going to help her in the lunchroom and playground and gym?

Just because something is hard for our children doesn't mean we allow them to give up. Sometimes children do need to struggle as much as we don't like to watch it,it still teaches perseverance. Also, she is going to be in the real world all her life the earlier she gets used to being a part of it and figuring out how to fit in the better she will be. But the truth is, only you truly know how functional she is in her mainstream environment and only you can decide which is best for her. No matter how much you tell another person, it is your instinct that has to drive the matter.

I guess this didn't really help all that much, but this is how I decided whether something was a positive or negative for my boys.

Arlene said...

very hard questions indeed!!! For me in came to be that he already spent an entire year of preschool in an inclusion like setting and didn't see the social changes I was expecting. To the contrary, he got very overwhelmed being around so many kids and frustrated that he wasn't keeping up with them. So I knew that an 100% regular classroom was not for him just yet. Alain is in one of those cross categories classrooms, but he was also assigned a general ed. classroom where he goes with a parapro. This is where he actually starts his day and he can spend as much time in there as he can handle. Some days are much better than others, but I like that he has the option of going to the other, special education classroom when it gets too hard for him and that we can use the special education teacher for all academic and behavior challenges. As you know, we do tons of private therapies and treatments, so I am focusing in that school helps him deal with all the difficulties he has behaving correctly around a group of people, getting used to the routines and becoming more independent and organized. I am really not worried in that he learns anything else over there except interacting and playing with children his age and decreasing all the sensory issues that bothers him and affect his behavior. He does a lot of academic stuff at his one-to-one ABA program where he goes in the afternoon and I can tell you he's doing GREAT in there, learning more stuff than I ever thought he could. They are also working on a lot of social-verbal goals, which he can learn there pretty quickly because it's just him with a teacher and then we try to apply what he learns there in the big, crowded environment of public school. I don't if he will be succesful at generalizing and crossing over those skills this year, but it's all trial and error. For now I am out of ideas, if this doesn't work I seriously need to start thinking about what we're gonna do next year.

Heather said...

Wow, I ask this question all the time to myself.

Having two new evaluations this year and having two separate professionals telling me that an "exclusive" program may be better than inclusion.....yet I'm still hanging on. I have to say I'm hanging on this year because he really, really is doing better this year in the inclusion program. But now I wonder do I let him ride this success and then have him crash mid-year (AGAIN?) or should I just be safe and look into specialty schools (that aren't even in our area of course) before the breakdown? Sigh.

Jen said...

I don't get at all how they can refuse to test/place her before she starts. Is that even legal? Even if she doesn't go to the school, the district is still responsible for testing. Ben doesn't go to the district preschool, but they still had to test him when I asked for it.

It is a hard decision. We just had an IEP and the team is worried that Katie is being pulled out too much. Um, do you think that maybe says something? Reg ed isn't working. She is fine academically, right now, although that will probably change due to some just dx learning issues, but they are all about "least restrictive environment", which means they want the kid in the regular class as much as possible...um, well, if my kid is putting the smack down on those kids, is it really the best place for her? Should she really be there MORE often and pulled out less?

The school and I never agree. It is hard to kinda let go of the "dream" though and just want to do something, anything, to get your kid to progress AT ALL and get by. You probably already know what's best...just listen to yourself and what your gut says. Even if it's hard.

Jen said...

And, also, if there are NO social skills there, then, really, is an inclusion class going to even help? This is our dilemma. Is K not even at the point of being ABLE to progress or do we need to work backwards to get her to that point. The school here tends to look at the big picture...where she should be at 18. Um, she is 6...I really want to focus on NOW!

Lynn said...

I told you it would make a great post! This is such a quandary. first of all, I'm with Jen on pushing the SD as far as evaluating her...that doesn't sound right. She is under their domain no matter where she is right now.

I'm generally a fan of self-contained in the early years where they can get a solid foundation to function optimally in an inclusion setting. BUT (and it's a big butt) it totally depends what self-contained options are available. Cuz they can be bad. They can be inappropriate and include kids that are way more impacted than your kid and just not be the right fit.

I have seen people (in my own family) that are way too hung up on just being able to say that their kid is in inclusion...like it makes them less autistic. But that's not you at all. I know you want what's best for LB, it's just finding the right fit.

Darla said...

Hey Dani,
I have recently pondered the same question for Gio. I have him in a really great school and we have been able to come up with a great compromise...I hope. We are doing half day in special ed and the other half in regular ed. Gio is having trouble managing his academics in gen ed so he will address all core subjects in special ed where he will be the 7th kid in class. He will join his gen ed class each afternoon for social studies and science (more preferred subjects). I wanted inclusion so badly but I had to accept that his attention deficits and behaviors were not going to allow him to reach his academic potential. I feel lucky that this was an option for us. I hope that it will be a good balance of what's good academically and socially. I am pleased with the plan in theory. We'll see how it plays out...good luck and squeeze the bird for me!

trydefyinggravity said...

Here from the Special Needs Blog Hop! This is a question we were talking about at our support group last night. The group was split with a few saying our kids should stick together in special "sub-separate classrooms" (that's what they call it in our district) and others saying that our kids should be included as much as possible. Here's my experience so far (and my kiddo is only in pre-K so take it for what it's worth)...
He started out in the sub-separate classroom with an aide, spending some time in the inclusion classroom, but mostly in the sub-separate classroom. His behavior/speech actually regressed. He needed to be around "typical" kids for modeling. Academically he could keep up with them and needed the appropriate social interactions.
This year for pre-K he's in a full day inclusion classroom full time (no sub-separate), with his own aide, pulled out for OT. He is blossoming. And the "typical" kids in his class are learning from him too.
I think there's something to be said for both sides.

jillsmo said...

OHMYGOD. You quoted the Avett Brothers and then everything got all blurry and I said "I think I love this woman" and then I passed out....

Did I share too much? I do that....

jillsmo said...

Oh, and, I "grabbed your button" which I happen to think is rather inappropriate, but since you asked....

Dani G said...

I'm so glad to read ALL your responses. It is such a tough decision and one that needs to be different for EVERY kid- at different times in their lives. In fact, I think this decision will keep coming up, over and over again as we navigate the road with Little Bird.

ibeeeg said...

Hi. I am new to your blog thanks to Lynn for pointing the way.

This was a great post because I think we all ponder these questions that you have asked.
No easy answer, for sure.

You have received some great comments, and not much more I can say.
However, when you said your SD would not test her, and would use the last IEP they had on file just does not
sound right at all. Not at all. First off, her last IEP was 2 1/2 years ago...every 3 years a new eval needs to be done anyway.
Also, it is not up to date...very fishy on their part...very fishy.

Inclusion vs self-contained. I want my boy make it to full-inclusion but currently, right now, that would not be a good fit for him, and I know this.
However, if I ever felt like the SD was trying to just maintain him in a self-contained environment rather than trying to push him forward with appreciable gains then full-inlcuision would be the best approach at that time.
That, fortunately, is not the case for us. My dream is inclusion and I hope one day he gets there.
If he did not struggle as much as he does currently with his attention, and behaviors then this would be a huge quandry for me as it is for you

It is so hard to keep up with the constant questioning of ourselves, and what is best..approriate for our children.
I noticed on your current post that you linked up to a few articles regarding autism. One link title is...
"Autism Moms stress like Soliders" and I thought...my god...that is too true...I do believe this would extend to those moms with special needs kids on a whole. A very stressful
job role we do have. I wish you well as you ponder upon your questions, and as you come to a decision. As one commenter stated...I am sure you have an idea of what is better for your child, it is just a matter of trusting that idea...not easy.

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