Lately we've been chewing on the right placement for my kiddos. Every time this comes up it is tricky to figure out. How do you decide what is the least restrictive environment?
Will putting kids in a gen ed environment not allow them to work on the basic skills they need to succeed?
Will keeping them out of the gen ed environment hold them back from achieving their full abilities?
My position this year is a funny one. Last year in my non-cat classroom I went into the year making my goal to get everyone into the gen ed environment for the following year. Whether or not that was reasonable, I made everything I did with the kids fit into that goal. What were we doing at every moment of the day that was getting them ready to move on?
This year is different. I'm in a "center" now and so many of the children have been placed in my room after their base schools decided that a center would be the least restrictive. We don't know what it looked like at their base schools, we don't know what led to those decisions, we don't know what conversations the school teams had with parents. Now that we're writing the new IEPs we have the opportunity to re-look at placement decisions.
What was behind a decision to place a child in a center? Was it the right decision? What led a team to decide a student had an intellectual disability? Was the testing valid? Is it certain that this student will never achieve at a typically developing cognitive level?
There is so much to think about. Not just how our IEP decisions will impact the child's next year, but also how these decisions are setting the child up for success later in life. Are we making decisions now that will impact whether or not the child is able to earn a regular diploma? Are we giving the child every chance to meet high expectations? Or are our high expectations forcing the child to leap over needed prerequisite skills?
Every child is a different puzzle and no conversation on a child is ever the same. It's a lot to think about, especially at this time of year. I have no real answers, other than to consider each kid individually.
This issue haunted my neighbors. Their child (with autism and cognitive disability) was in a regular classroom as the RLE. But, she had to have an aide at her side at all times. So the question becomes, is it "restricting" to have an adult monitoring your every move, and in a position to re-direct you almost instantly if your attention wanders or your behavior strays?
It's so true. Being in a full inclusion setting with a one on one adult is pretty restrictive. It keeps them from learning how to be independent, but also keeps them from really being a part of the class and having friends.
One of the things I love about teaching in this program, and what I loved about having a non-cat room, was that my students got to have peers. Not peers who looked at them like the special kid, but real peers who got their jokes and played with them on their level. It's amazing to see kids rise when they can connect with those around them.
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