Believe it or not, there are still people in the world, who think that disabled children should not be mainstreamed. They think that having disabled children in class, with their able-bodied peers, is a distraction. That teaching a disabled child takes too much of a teacher's time. Time that should be spent teaching an able-bodied child.
What about what a disabled child can add to the classroom? Children can learn compassion, acceptance and the importance of helping one another when a child with a disability attends class with them. If children have a disabled child in class with them, they will grow up with the awareness that a person with a disability is just like they are.
l loved being a Brownie/Girl Scout. The experience was one of the happiest times of my childhood. The Brownie troop leader was a member of my church. The week before I attended my first meeting, the troop leader talked to the girls about me. I don't know what she told them, all I know is they accepted me and always found a way for me to be a part of whatever they were doing. The girls didn't see my disability. They just accepted me as their friend.
I'm sure you have heard about the high school student, with Down's Syndrome, who was voted homecoming queen by her classmates this year. The fact that able-bodied students elected a young woman with a disability to be homecoming queen is awesome! The students voted for her not because she was disabled, but because of the kind of person she is. The students saw a person first, not her disability. I hope we see more acts like this in the future.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I attended a public school for the physically disabled for thirteen years. I would have given anything had mainstreaming been an option back then. Had I been mainstreamed, I would have developed better social skills. My grade school education was adequate, My high school education left me unprepared for college. After my freshman year, the high school teacher left. The teacher who taught Spanish, Shakespeare and for whom writing a term paper was a requirement to graduate, was replaced by teachers who only taught the basics. They did nothing to prepare anyone for college. I understand why. When you have students at all different levels of intellectual ability together, it would be difficult to meet all of their needs effectively. I missed out on a lot, not only socially, but academically as well. The only positive thing about my high school years was that, in my senior year, I was able to take two courses at a community college in preparation for college that fall.
I often wonder what my educational experience would have been like if I had been given the opportunity to be mainstreamed. Would being mainstreamed have made me a different person? I'll never know how it might have changed me.
For anyone who thinks a child with a disability is a distraction in the classroom and should not be mainstreamed, remember the qualities I spoke about earlier. Aren't those qualities we want all children to have? If you think about what an able-bodied child can learn from a disabled child, they are not a distraction in the classroom at all. They will only enhance another child's educational experience.
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