Letters to the Editor

Readers write about special education.

Special-needs kids deserve the same quality education

Regarding Barbara Curtis's June 10 Opinion piece, "Including special-needs children in class: Is it worth it?": All children are entitled to a free and appropriate public education, and children with disabilities are not to be denied this either. No one's education is free for taxpayers. Neither are football fields and AstroTurf, or luxury administrative offices and equipment.

Whether students with disabilities pop up in general classrooms or not, it doesn't change what they are entitled to or the supports and services they need. It's not just a cost because you see them.

This is a civil rights issue and it is not just a feel-good, God-inspired compassion lesson. It's not "unconditional love"; that's like saying that they really are not lovable, but by having them in the class we can love them anyway. What about seeing their abilities? What about seeing real ideas and traits that they offer to others?

Students with disabilities force the educational environment to better meet everyone's needs. They are not always the students in need; they can be the ones who get certain things quicker or bring a new perspective. For example, my son had no fear of exploring software, and in his multimedia class he discovered things the programs could do that the others had no idea about.

Colleen Tomko
Coopersburg, Pa.

In response to the recent Opinion piece on including special-needs children in mainstream classes: There are too many variables to predict outcomes. Some exceptionalities adjust well to new situations while others cause confusion. Where is the line of acceptance?

The teacher of a regular class who is not trained in special education may find it difficult to meet all requirements of her course of study for optimum performance of her group. Parents need to be realistic in pursuit of the best setup for their student. A special-ed teacher is familiar with individualized education programs (IEPs) and general procedures that have been known to produce a measure of success. Let's start there and move on when there is a reason.

Mary Allison
Walnut Creek, Ohio

Regarding the recent Opinion piece on inclusion: I have had the privilege of raising a "special-needs" son. One particular privilege was the high school class of a wonderful special-ed teacher named Lew, who transferred his pupils into regular classes only when they could succeed, but mostly kept all of the young people in one set of rooms where mainstream student helpers came in to share their skills. Usually the student helpers were the brightest and best this high school had to offer and many have gone on to become educators in the special-education field. It was a win-win situation.

Rosemary Gwyther
Kenilworth, Ill.

In response to the recent Opinion piece on inclusion: My three adopted children had special needs and were in special education. I generally favored small, separate, special classes for them because they could concentrate and get the special attention they needed without bothering anyone else. My favorite class was the one with two children (mine) and four teachers.

Another memory that is poignant is when my son was mainstreamed in middle school. I happened to have an appointment and walked by his class. The teacher was late, and the only student in his seat was my son. Everyone else was doing cartwheels!

Mary Ann Haines
Napa, Calif.

In response to the recent Opinion piece on special-needs education: I was equally appalled by the Florida teacher who had her class vote to expel another student from their classroom. It represented to me, as someone who is studying to become a special-education teacher, my worst fears about the difficulties that parents who have children with special needs face when dealing with insensitive teachers.

Adrian DeVore
Charlotte, N.C.

In response to the recent Opinion piece on inclusion: I found myself tearing up, still, after 22 years of raising a daughter with Down syndrome. She was the first person with a disability to attend our local preschool, then kindergarten, and then elementary school. I struggled not only with school personnel, neighbors, friends, and relatives, but also with other parents of kids with disabilities who looked at me as if I had lost my mind.

It disturbs me that it is still an issue, but I am happy that the fight continues. My daughter was a cheerleader in school and took French. It was really interesting to see the change in the personnel after it was a success.

Martine Hobson
Memphis, Tenn.

The Monitor welcomes your letters and opinion articles. Because of the volume of mail we receive, we can neither acknowledge nor return unpublished submissions. All submissions are subject to editing. Letters must be signed and include your mailing address and telephone number. Any letter accepted may appear in print or on our website, www.csmonitor.com. Mail letters to Readers Write and Opinion pieces to Opinion Page, 210 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, MA 02115. E-mail letters to Letters and Opinion pieces to OpEd.

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