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When Schools Say “NO” to Inclusion


When Schools say “NO” to Inclusion

The Inclusive Class Podcast presented a panel with Tom Mihail, Paula Kluth, Torrie Dunlap, Lisa Jo Rudy, Frances Stetson, Kathleen McClaskey and myself.

The Title was: "When Schools say 'NO' to Inclusion"

Topics include Universal Design, Technology, Differentiation, Inclusive after-school and community recreation, and in the last few minutes I talked about Inclusion as a Civil Right and strategies for getting inclusion with your IEP.

Below is the supplemental material for my topic. If you have any questions please contact me.

Here is a recording of the broadcast:

Listen to internet radio with The Inclusive Class Podcast on Blog Talk Radio

So, you are sold, you have heard all the information about inclusion, you know in your soul this is what would be great for your child. You talk to the teacher, the principal, anyone who will listen and they tell you it won't work for your child, it's a passing fad, it is too expensive, it will hurt the other kids in the school...blagh, blagh, blagh.

What do you do?

Here are the 5 Points I outlined in my part of the panel:

1. Learn the History of People with Disabilities.

Legal Segregation

Society and Schools have been saying “No” to Inclusion for hundreds of years for many people, not just for people with disabilities.

1800-1900s. Institutions and Forced Segregation were common for those with the labels of mentally defective, feeble-minded, idiots, uneducable and untrainable. Individuals and Parents had no say. People who were different were removed for the health and safety of the community.

Today we still have prejudice against minorities, young women who are unmarried and pregnant, gang members, young people who are gay or lesbian, immigrants, poor, people who don't speak English, Native Americans, homeless, children of migrant workers...

Our society is more diverse every day, we need inclusion for everyone.

Parallels in Time: A history of people with disabilities

Parallels in Time 1 and

Parallels in Time 2

Check out the section in Parallels 2 A PLACE TO LEARN.

(Page 59-60 has the definition of Inclusion)

(p. 61 has reference to Paula Kluth and a picture of my son Aaron)

Inclusion is a Civil Right

14th Amendment:

“The 14th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified on July 9, 1868, and granted citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States,” which included former slaves recently freed. In addition, it forbids states from denying any person "life, liberty or property, without due process of law" or to "deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” By directly mentioning the role of the states, the 14th Amendment greatly expanded the protection of civil rights to all Americans and is cited in more litigation than any other amendment.”

Reference:

Questions the Courts had to decide:

Citizenship: Is someone who has an intellectual or other disability, a person? (consider the slaves, Native Americans, women, immigrants, prisoners…)

Due Process: If you have a disability, do you have the right to due process? (consider people with physical, intellectual disabilities, people who are deaf, blind… can’t read/write/talk, people who can’t pass IQ tests…)

Equal Protection: If you have a disability, are you entitled to the same rights and benefits other people have? (go to school, live in community, get jobs…)

Consider the implications:

Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) Separate is equal. 50 years of Jim Crow Laws.

Brown v. Board of Education (1954) “Separate is inherently unequal.”

Fascinating Reference:

PARC Class Action Case: A Game-changer

(Interviews with Tom Gilhool and Gunner Dybwad are also in Parallels in Time 2)

Video and transcript Tom Gilhool at Temple University:

Testimony of Tom Gilhool before the Joint Subcommittee Hearings on “the Events, Forces and Issues that Triggered Enactment of the Education of All Handicapped Children Act (EHA) of 1975” in TASH newsletter, 1996 p. 11-15.

Excerpt about PARC decree and 94-142: Teacher Training and Best Practice

The Requirement that Schools Know and “Adopt” “Effective” “Promising” Practices. Requires the delivery of an “effective” education. One, the Act (EHA) requires states and districts to see to it that all teachers, both “regular” and “special” are fully informed of and continuously trained in “promising practices” in the education of children. “Second, the Act requires every district as well as the states to “adopt promising practices’ Third, the Act’s requirement of “a free appropriate public education has been help by the Unites States Supreme Court to mean an education “reasonably calculated to enable the child to achieve education benefits”
Hudson v. Rowley, 458 U.S. 178, 203-04V (1982).

NOTE: Remember to NOT just look at the current regulations, go back into the Congressional Hearings before each law was enacted, the legislative history, court cases…

Other Court Cases:

“Inclusion is a right, not a special privilege for a select few” (Federal Court, Oberti v Board of Education).

You will want to quote the most relevent and recent cases.

2. Become an Expert on IDEA

The best resources I know are Partners in Policymaking’s series of lessons on IDEA.

Free, online, study at your own pace.

National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (ages 3-22).

3. Build Alliances

Focusing on the dignity and goodwill of the people you're working with. Build trust. Create a common vision.

Partners in Policymaking has programs in almost every state. The courses are designed for parents of young children and self-advocates. New groups start every year and are usually funded by your state DD Council. On the Partners website, find your state liaison.

NICHCY has a list of organizations and Parent Training Centers in each state. Find people both on the National, State and Local level who think like you do and can help.

National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (ages 3-22).

National Organizations for Professionals often help parents and teachers. TASH helped me. I know the ARC, United Cerebral Palsy and National Down Syndrome Association have done advocacy work. I’m sure there are others.

Check out your local university. Sometimes you can find a professor or student who can help.

In our particular situation, because no group existed-we started a parent group in our local school district.

Set group goals: start an extended school program in the summer; make the buildings more accessible with universal design; start an after school Job Club and Key Club at the high school. By focusing on specific goals we were able to get local grants, publicity and see tangible results for our children.

NOTE: In hindsight, I would have made this an ad hoc committee of the School PTO or General Education Parent Organization. I would ask parents and teachers of general education students to be on this committe so it is inclusive. 20 years later, duh, it is so obvious.

Univ. of New Hampshire has great programs and resource materials.

Clay Aiken's Inclusion Project. This looks good, but I haven’t tried it.

4. IEP: Educational Evaluations

The first part of the IEP process is getting evaluations of current level of functioning and setting specific individual goals.

Be creative. Don’t let the school psychologist run the show.

Have your IEP team decide what kind of evaluations they need in order to have your child make educational progress in all the school environments.

There are the formal evaluations that are the traditional testing tools of the experts. And, there are the individual informal tools also designed by experts, but cannot be standardized and put into multiple choice answers.

Informal Evaluations

1. Person Centered Planning, Circle of Friends can supplement the formal evaluations and look at social relationships, before-during-after school-weekend-summer activities, this can also be used for team building, communication, transition and long term planning.
http://inclusion.com/ Where inclusion began, great tools.

2. Educational Evaluations

Educational Evaluations are usually conducted by a teacher or other educator with the appropriate teaching license.

Educational Evaluations look at an individual person in their life spaces. Aaron’s evaluation started in his home, followed him on the school bus, in the classroom, in the lunch room, bathrooms, gym, after school activity and back home. The evaluation compared Aaron’s current level of functioning in each environment and then made suggestions for IEP goals.

For instance, the educational evaluation shows the "individual benefit" for Aaron. Not the whole class or school, just Aaron.

The Educational Evaluation determined Aaron, with accommodations and related services, could be in an inclusive class. What supports would he need? What supports would the teacher need? How would the curriculum be differentiated? What technology? Universal design strategies could be used?

See the difference between this sort of evaluation and a traditional IQ or standardized test?

Who Pays?

The tricky part is that if the parent pays for the evaluation, and chooses their own “expert,” then the school district only has to “consider” the recommendations.

If however, (at least this is how it used to be), if the parents or teacher ask for an evaluation, and the school district agrees to pay for the evaluation, then they have to use that evaluation to develop the IEP, or if they disagree, they have to get another evaluation saying the first evaluation was not appropriate, and why.

If you go to court, the educational evaluation can make all the difference. If you are writing IEP goals, the educational evaluation gives you a practical starting point for goals and objectives. (The conversation is NOT about "Should we do this?" but rather, "How do we do this?")

And, if the parent does pay for the evaluation and “prevails” in a due process hearing then the school district has to pay. Of course, it goes both ways and is risky because if the parent loses, then the parent has to pay.

How do you find an expert?

In our due process hearing we used our contacts from TASH (a national organization) and one of Lou Brown’s graduate students from the University of WI-Madison. This process was repeated several years later when Aaron was in Junior High, and again when Aaron graduated.

We also used local university graduate students and county respite providers when appropriate, ie. They did independent studies to help us design an after-school program and going to the prom.

If you are going due process, find out who the expert is in the area you are challenging.

Check out professional organizations, journals, university faculty. Who is going to know how to do the job? Who is willing to testify? Who will impress the hearing officer?

5. Be BadAss Confident

Know what you believe and how far you are willing to go.
Even if you are uncertain, typically shy and withdrawn--you have to act fearless.

This is your child, This is your class, the time is NOW!

When people see you walking in the grocery or in the school you want them to see you and immediately know what you stand for: “All means All”—“Inclusion means Belonging to the Community.” You have to model what you want others to do.

Build trust, convert the doubters. It can be done--and it's up to you. And, you will join the thousands of other parents and advocates who have made a difference for one child or many and have moved history and inclusion forward.

Segregation and Inclusion by Zip Code

In my opinion, this is why we need a national policy, federal laws and oversight.

Vulnerable people with disabilities and other minorities should not have to reinvent the wheel, every year, in every city and county.

Do we want individual states and school districts to make decisions about segregation and inclusion?

Would you want to live in Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana… and I include Ohio?

Different school districts have different definitions of inclusion. I recently visited what was called an “Inclusion School.” To my shock, the principal proudly told me, “Inclusion means EVERYONE in the school is on an IEP.”

After we won our due process hearing, we moved to a neighboring county where the school district shared our values.

The move was the best thing we ever did.

First, after we won our due process hearing, it was like Aaron had a tatoo on his forehead that said, "Don't mess with me."
Our reputations guaranteed they took us seriously.

Second, I got elected to the County Board of Developmental Disabilities. One of the proudest days of my life was when I got to make the resolution to close the segregated county school.

Third, because the school district was good for Aaron, it was also
an excellent school district for my other son who had the label of "normal."

Bottom-up; Top-Down: Baby Steps

You can achieve Inclusion from the IEP process: bottom-up.

But it is easier to work from the top-down.

Try to get on influential committees, or find allies in leadership positions that will work for inclusion. If your school board and/or school administrators embraces the Inclusion paradigm, and understands how this will be better for all students, then you are well on your way.

Try to get inservice for staff, parents—both general and special, about inclusion, differentiated instruction and universal design.

Baby Steps:

I like to think of a yard stick. On the one end is segregation, on the other is inclusion. If I think an action, a decision, anything... is a step in the direction of inclusion--I accept it. There is always tomorrow.

Celebrate each small victory. There were many times when I had to take a deep breath and tell myself, "This is the best we can do today. Be happy."

Moving Toward Inclusion by Michael Giangreco.

Last Thoughts

I wish I had a magic wand to make it easier for each of you.

Twenty years ago, we thought this would all be figured out and our children would just be children, parents could just be parents, teachers could just be teachers.

There is an old "Up With People" song that says, "Freedom isn't free. You've got to pay the price, you've got to sacrifice for your liberty."

Wishing each of you, freedom, libety and inclusion.

I hope you will share your thoughts in the comments.

Keep Climbing: Onward and Upward
All my best,
Mary

Related Blog Posts:

Note: Since this whole website is about inclusion, almost every article tells part of the story. Some are about school issues, many are about adult issues. Here is a sampling:

What is Inclusion?

Dream Plan 1 for Aaron, Normalization

Dream Plan 4: Aaron is an adult

The Race Toward Inclusion: Do you see it?

Better than Church

Building Community| One grocery trip at a time

Test Questions| segregation or inclusion?

The Animal School| Differentated Instruction

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76 Responses to “When Schools Say “NO” to Inclusion”

  • Molly Keane says:

    I think this is a really great article. All your stories are so inspiring and can really help parents who are in the same position as you and are looking for guidance.I think what everything you have done for aaron and other children is just amazing. You are such a hard worker and I hope one day I can be half as hard working as you in my own classroom.
    For a school to outright ban inclusion is wrong on so many levels and I feel that it may be unconstitutional because whatever parents decide is best for their child and getting their child their proper education should be what they have whether they want inclusion or specialization.
    Molly Keane recently posted..Autism Awareness Day| Direct Action is Better

    • Mary E. Ulrich says:

      Thanks Molly. The generations of parents before me did their part and as the saying goes, “I’m standing on their shoulders”

  • Andrew Jones says:

    I feel like inclusion can definitely benefit students with special needs to an extent, without taking away anything from the students that do not have special needs. My brother, Noah, is in inclusion classes for part of the day and he matches up very well with the students that are not disabled. Why limit Noah’s learning capacity if he can prove to be successful in a classroom that isn’t restricted to students with special needs?

    • Mary says:

      Glad it is working so well for Noah. The next generation of students with and without disabilities are building a new culture because of Noah and his peers.

  • Nuriya Gavin says:

    This is a great article and a very hot topic! I would like to think I am Pro-Inclusion to an extent. Not every child can be included dues to many factor such as safety which is a big one for me and that learning of others. My brother was in inclusion classroom until maybe 1st grade it was totally fine everything went smoothly as it should but, my parents decided that he would get a better quality education if he was placed in a specialized school for the remainder of his education and I agree. I have been inclusion classroom that just haven’t worked out. Teachers were not trained to handle students and other students educations suffered. So I think depending on the student, the teacher and their training and the classroom environment inclusion can either blossom or go down in flames.

    • Mary says:

      Hi Nuriya,

      I’m sorry it didn’t work out for your brother. I hope everything you are learning about differentiation and UDL is giving you some ideas of what an inclusive classroom can look like. Hopefully, you will be better trained than the teachers of the past. Did you get some more information from the other speakers on the audio? Let’s talk some more. Mary

  • Destany Atkinson says:

    I think that having specialized classrooms can sometimes be beneficial – like specialized attention with people who specialize in whatever the room is for – but forcing a family to be in a different classroom is wrong. Inclusion can have many benefits obviously, and I think it’s up to the parent/guardians to decide what they want for their child. For a school to outright ban inclusion is wrong on so many levels and I feel that it may be unconstitutional because whatever parents decide is best for their child and getting their child their proper education should be what they have whether they want inclusion or specialization.

    • Mary E. Ulrich says:

      It is unconstitutional “separate is inherently unequal” was decided in 1954. Yet school districts continue to discriminate–this is why we have to know our rights and be willing to stand together to fight for freedom for all. Thanks For your thoughts Destany.

  • Jane Tuckerman says:

    After reading this article, i personally find it unnerving that schools would ever even consider saying no to inclusion. The fact of the matter is, these students deserve to be in that classroom just as much as the next kid. Who are they to say who can and can’t be involved? This article just further pushes my passion for finding equality for these kids. The long road we’ve taken to obtain equality has been extensive and seemingly useless at times. However, i believe that one day there will be no recollection of a ‘special needs classroom’!

    • mary says:

      Hi Jane,
      Did you get a chance to listen to the audio conference. Listening to Henri’s mom tells us that our battle for inclusion is still raging. I hope you’re right and in our lifetime, we won’t even remember those segregated classes and schools.

  • Annie Helffrich says:

    I think that schools that say no to inclusion are not doing anybody any good. Kids without disabilities are not as comfortable around kids with disabilities because they don’t spend anytime around them. If they did they would realize that they aren’t that different from everybody else. I think inclusion is good because it teaches kids that everyone is different and everyone learns differently. In my school we didn’t really have inclusion but everyone was friends with everyone. The happiest day of my high school career was when the whole school sang happy birthday to Jake, a kid with down syndrome. He was so happy and it was nice seeing everyone come together to make his day.

    • mary says:

      I’ll bet Jake loved it. There are so many small ways we can show people we care about them. I hope we can learn to spend those extra minutes to reach out to others.

  • Jacob says:

    It is hard to understand why schools would say no to inclusion. Students with disabilities need to be in the social setting to learn how to interact in a classroom setting with other students there age. It is also important for the students without disability because they need to learn that students with disabilities are still kids just like them; it is no different. In my high school their was no inclusion and I found that very weird. Some of the students would be in gym but never in general education classrooms. Looking back on that it is weird. I never realized that how much those students with disability were just like me. I guarantee their were a lot of people in my high school that did not see it that way. With inclusion that could all be changed.

  • Lacy Morris says:

    I think that schools that say no to inclusion are doing more bad for their students than they are good. The reason students without disabilities are uncomfortable or don’t know how to react with students that do have a disability is because they are not trained or taught to be around them. They think they are so different than them but really they are not. They are still students that need an education. I believe the more inclusion the better because it teaches students that everybody is different and learns differently but a disability should not define you. In my school students with disabilities were always in a different classroom by themselves. I think they should have had more opportunities to be in regular classrooms. I mentored in a kindergarten class and it was all students in one classroom which I loved. They were all so young so they are going to grow up knowing that students shouldn’t be separated!

    • Mary says:

      There is so much hope for the young students you worked with. They will think it is ‘normal’ to have a wide range of differences in their classes. Thanks Lacy.

  • Beth Noble says:

    I really liked this article! i definitely think that inclusion is important for both students in the “regular” classroom and also the student being included. Both ca learn from each other and work on relationship building and diversity. It is so inspiring to see how much you have done for all students to be treated as equals. In my high school, we never had a problem with inclusion so I can’t even imagine it being a big deal for other people, but it is awesome to see how far we have come as a society in inclusion.

    • Mary says:

      That is the joy, you experienced inclusion and know it is possible and not a big deal. That gives me so much hope. Thanks Beth.

  • Morgan Ayers says:

    In my high school, we had some issues with including students with disabilities into “regular” classrooms. The special education teachers only allowed some students with disabilities be integrated with “regular students in the homerooms, and that was only on “special days.” I’m happy to see that people are working to make more of an effort to include students with disabilities. I also loved hearing your personal input, and your story with Aaron!

    • Mary says:

      HI Morgan,
      Actually what you described is not “inclusion” at best it is mainstreaming. I’m so glad you see there could have been so much more. I hope the teachers are moving forward–because it is their lack of vision that is causing the lost opportunities.

  • Katy Cornelius says:

    It’s really neat that Inclusion is becoming more prevalent! And the students with disabilities have the right to choose to be included in a “regular” classroom. That was great what you did for your son Aaron!

    • Katy Cornelius says:

      I also thought there were alot of good point made on how to further inclusion.

      • Mary says:

        It’s a long journey, and at any moment, the paradigm can shift back to segregation. But, at this moment in history, we have the protection of the law and hundreds of court cases which affirm that our children have the right to go to school with children who do not have labels. :)

  • Kendall Collins says:

    It amazes me that students with disabilities still have to go through what seem to be simple problems like inclusion. Growing up in my school, I never had this problem. There were always students with disabilities in my classes, ever since I could remember. The students without disabilities were used to having those with disabilities in class. It people like you Mary that are changing the lives of those with disabilities to make it a better, and more importantly, EQUAL place.

    • mary says:

      It is great to hear you say you’ve always had kids with disabilities in your classes–that gives me hope that the paradigm has shifted. Thanks Kendall, for sharing that, the next generation will have major battles, but hopefully, it won’t be inclusion.

  • Amanda McCarthy says:

    I really enjoyed this article! When I was in Elementary school and even most of Middle School I never really had students with disabilities in my classroom. There weren’t really any in my school at all. Although, when I got to High school a lot of my classes were included with students with disabilities. It really helped me appreciate them and understand that not everyone learns the same way, I wish I would have experienced it when I was younger.

    • Mary says:

      The good news is, you were part of the paradigm shift. And, as a teacher, you will be part of the next generation (the “settlers”) who help the idea of inclusion become a reality in all grades. Thanks Amanda.

  • I really enjoyed reading this article, because I strongly believe in inclusion. From my own personal experience, I have been in classrooms that practice inclusion since Kindergarten. I really think it benefited the student, but also everyone else in the classroom. From a young age, we understood that not everybody learns the same way we do, and that’s okay. That’s a lesson that can only be really taught firsthand, and it’s a valuable one to learn.
    Julie Farrell recently posted..Building Community: one grocery trip at a time

    • Mary says:

      Thanks Julie, it just makes me so proud that you can say you went to an inclusive school and it was good for everyone. It just shows there is progress and attitudes can change for a whole generation. :)

  • Hannah Lehn says:

    It is amazing everything you do for your children and what lengths you have gone for them. It is sad that you had to keep fighting your way through but it is people like you to make that initiative for a positive change in the future.

    • Mary says:

      Thanks Hannah, the good news is that you get better over time. Parents before me began the journey, it is currently my turn, and the parents after me will continue it.

  • Justin Lange says:

    I would like to say, that what you do with your sone is great. I can see how it can be hard to stay motivated at times, but you always push through and do what is best for your son and that is amazing. My brother has severe ADD, and at his grade school, they never really gave him any special treatment and this made it difficult for him at times, he was picked on and made fun of, But we now see that it was good for him to be included, because he has learned from his past and now he is doing VERY VERY well in High school and he now gets all A’s and enjoys going to school, and if he was never included, none of this would have happened. It can be rough at times, but it always gets better and he becomes a better person.

    • Mary says:

      What a wonderful testimonial Justin. Your brother sounds like a “pioneer”–I’m sure it is still difficult, but he is showing us all the possibilities.
      Did you watch “How Difficult can it be?” (module 3) I think you will love it.

  • Tyler Deye says:

    I liked this article a lot and being able to hear from so many different people definitely gave me a better perspective on the issue. It is amazing to me that you have had to work so hard and long earlier in your life just to make sure that your son got the same opportunity as everyone else. It amazes me that as far as our world has come, that there are still issues with inclusion. I have always had a hard time with this because where I attended school there had always been inclusion. I have always had students with disabilities in many of my classes since I was in grade school, so to know that people like you are fighting for kids to give them the same opportunity that everyone else gets is just amazing. You are an inspiration and I cannot wait to keep learning from you.
    Tyler Deye recently posted..Building Community: one grocery trip at a time

    • mary says:

      It is amazing that parents are still fighting for inclusion–we thought we had this battle won 20 years ago. It is so reaffirming that you would say you have always been in inclusive schools and can’t imagine it differently. Tyler, you made my day because that means the “paradigm” has shifted in your life, in your school and wow–the students with labels have a wonderful opportunity.

  • Jaclyn says:

    Hello,
    I think this article is interesting, it really displays for important inclusion is in school. I don’t understand the point of excluding a student because he or she is different than you. I don’t know how you dealt with this in your own life, but it would be really hard for me. I have to give you credit on dealing with these things all your life, it helps better your students to help them understand what not to do.

    • Mary says:

      Once people understand inclusion, it really becomes a way of looking at the world–one of those paradigm shifts–it’s impossible to go back.

  • Katie says:

    First off, I think what you do for Aaron and other people who have disabilities is amazing and inspiring. You put so much effort in to fighting for someone you love and even for people you don’t know. I think inclusion is very important, children deserve the opportunity to learn from their peers and be part of the classroom. Like in the audio a woman talks about how inclusion isn’t only in the classroom, but other aspects in the school or other events. If you aren’t an expert on inclusion, it is important to use your resources and reach out to people who are experts. I thought it was interesting that one of the speakers at the beginning said we all are disabled at some point through our lives, which is true, some are just more extreme than others. I also think some people don’t realize how frustrating it can be until you or someone close to you doesn’t get a fair chance at something because of their “disability.” It shouldn’t be like that, we should be proactive and act now to make changes for people who have a disability to include them in everything.

    • Mary says:

      Katie, you are going to be a great advocate for people with disabilities. You made some strong arguments and then you put them in your own words. You will help move inclusion forward. Glad you’re with us.

  • Anna Taylor says:

    “Know what you believe and how far you are willing to go.
    Even if you are uncertain, typically shy and withdrawn–you have to act fearless.”

    I really enjoyed the video and articles. Your comment listed above shows your strength and compassion for the rights of inclusion in the classroom. I know it would be hard to fight for what is right when you are out numbered and ran into so many road blocks but you did and made a difference for Aaron and children that came after Aaron. I think its a crime that a law has been passed for students with disabilities to receive a fair education and parents still have to fight with school districts for inclusion in the classrooms. Its a child’s right just as much as it is a child with out a disability to have rights. Thank you for teaching us such valuable information that will help make us better teachers.

    • Mary says:

      That sentence was pretty good wasn’t it? Thanks Anna. Sometimes I forget the little victories because there is always another fight.

      Anna, you and your generation are our hope. It is up to you to keep us moving in the “inclusion” direction. There are new little Aarons and Henrys and Sallys who are just beginning the journey. :)

  • Kyle English says:

    I think it is terrible that schools say no to inclusion. I see inclusion as a great thing that every school should participate in. As a matter of fact I think inclusion should be required. However you are an inspiration. With the fight you have been through just inspires others to open up your eyes for the fight for inclusion. You are the starting point for these changes to happen!

    • Mary says:

      I have to believe the schools say “no” because they really don’t understand what inclusion is about. Instead of learning, they go with their fears and power issues. In Henry’s case, the amount of money and drama was clearly more than any cost to just give Henry the chance to go across the street. attitudes are everything.

      And thanks Kyle, but I stand on the shoulders of thousands of parents and advocates who came before me. I just did my little bit to keep them momentum moving forward.

  • Grace Gordon says:

    I think it is so sad that many schools say no to inclusion. Every child should have a equal opportunity to perform well in a good school where the teachers care about their students and want them to succeed. Aaron is very lucky to have you as a mother fighting for him to have the chance to be apart of a school where he is around other students to make him feel included.
    Grace Gordon recently posted..Chocolate Covered Fun for All Ages and Abilities

  • Amna Fazlani says:

    I believe that inclusion is a right, not a privilege. I admire your passion in fighting for this right. Though I am sure being an advocate of change is challenging, you seem to have mastered acting fearless. Education opportunities for people with disabilities have improved significantly since the 1800s; however, the education system remains largely segregated, especially for children with severe disabilities. Separate is not equal. As long as parents have to fight for their children with disabilities to be educated in the same schools as children without disabilities; the education system is unequal. I agree that inclusion is a benefit for students without disabilities. Students learn from their peers, and students with disabilities would offer extremely valuable lessons to students without disabilities. I dream about the day when society considers excluding a child based solely on disability as atrocious and unjust as excluding a child based on race.

    • Mary E. Ulrich says:

      Bless you Amna. If you were here I’d give you a hug.
      sometimes I think ‘fearless” is dumb–but I can’t seem to help myself. :)

  • Olivia Eckstein says:

    First, this is pretty awesome how you are on this talk show! You did a wonderful job. You are such an inspiring mother and Aaron is lucky to have you. One thing that upset me in this audio is how parents and other people seem to think that inclusion is distracting and will buffer their children from learning (compromise the quality of their education). This is so not true. Inclusion in itself is a learning experience! And it is shown that children with disabilities do much better in normal classrooms- not segregated.

    • Mary says:

      Thanks Olivia, it was an honor to be with such distinguished leaders. Henry eventually was enrolled and last I heard he was doing well. Paula Kluth is the author I keep talking about. They just got a bunch of her books in the CECH library.

  • Britt says:

    This article sums up what an amazing mother you are and how lucky Aaron is to have someone fighting for him. Aaron has so much love and support and a backbone to make him succeed. That goes for Tommy as well. I learned a lot from this article about inclusion and how the schools are involved. I think moving was a huge risk and yet you had so many accomplishments and successes from doing it. This expands the thoughts of how important inclusion is needed in our schools and how long and hard the journey has been to fight for such equality for those with disabilities to have a voice now. I think everything you have done and are doing have been worth the while and that it shows you can accomplish just about anything you set your mind to.

    • mary says:

      Thanks Britt, Each of us has to do our part. And, we do stand on the shoulder of people who came before us. So now, you will be standing on my shoulders and have the opportunity to move us a bit closer to inclusion.

  • Leah Brubaker (student) says:

    I am so touched by all of your articles! It truly is amazing, everything you have done. This one in particular broadened my horizon a great deal about inclusion. I commented on one prior about inclusion that I wasn’t totally sure what is was all about before reading. Inclusion is critical for every individual and your articles sure do prove that! I had no idea how far we have come with inclusion, but it truly is amazing.

    • Mary says:

      Leah, you will see amazing growth in your career. It might not be as dramatic or as emotional as the “inclusion wars” but it will also be challenging and demand every bit of your energy. Did you like the audio?
      These are so great people. Paula Kluth is one of the leaders we will be talking about in class. Thanks for reminding me we have made much progress. It’s sometimes hard to remember because there is so much still to do.

  • This article is great! The story of your son is so inspiring! It is amazing your drive to help your children achieve and succeed.
    Courtney Magoto recently posted..Better than Church

    • Mary E. Ulrich says:

      Did you also listen to the audio Courtney? Let me know. Hope this helps give some ideas about getting children included.

  • Abbey Toepfer says:

    wow! I am truly inspired every time I read these articles on your website. You are a true blessing to this world. I love how passionate you are when trying to accomplish equality for your son and others. They are very lucky to have you :). The work that you do every day is constantly making a difference and I hope one day that I can make a difference as big as you have. Seeing how much has improved over the years is a great step, but there is always more to be done. If we all join together we can make that difference!

  • Lisa Gasparec says:

    This article is very inspiring. To see that you would do anything to help your son shows true strength, courage, and love. The article makes me want to do more to help include everyone no matter what. The article really shows how one little thing can make a huge difference.

    • Mary says:

      When you are with your tutee, you may be the inspiration they need to do better. We really can do one thing each day. We just have to take the first step. Thanks Lisa.

  • Paige Francis says:

    I really enjoyed reading this article. I learned so much from this article. Im so inspired by what you have done and all the help and support you have given to parents. Also reading this article made me really think about inclusions in the classroom and what it really means. I learned so much from this article.

    • Mary says:

      In everything I do and see I ask, “Is this leading toward inclusion or toward segregation?” Even if it is just a tiny step forward– it helps me make my day to day decisions and choices. Thanks Paige.

  • emily johnston says:

    I think this is a really great article. All your stories are so inspiring and can really help parents who are in the same position as you and are looking for guidance. Its so cool how hard you work to get your kids to have equal opportunities as anyone else does. It is probably a lot of work but when you look back and it in the end it is always so worth it! I’m so inspired by how hard you work for you children and others in the same position.

    • Mary says:

      Hi Emily,

      You do what you have to do. Each day, one step at a time. Sometimes you make progress. It’s just like the old quote that “you stand on the shoulders of the people who came before you.” Aaron has opportunities because the parents of children before us made it happen. I hope we have opened doors for others.

  • Katie Koerner says:

    I really enjoyed reading this article and listening to the audio! I learned someone very interesting things and believe everything that I heard and read! I would just like to say that I’m inspired by how hard you work to make sure your kids have everything they need and get treated equally. I know it must have been a lot of work to do what you have done and currently doing to make sure everyone gets treated equally, which not have been easy but I’m very impressed.

    • Mary says:

      Hi Katie,

      Right now it is Henry and his family who are pushing the school to do what they know is the law. It’s ridiculous that they have to fight when another child in another zip code gets this automatically. That’s why we had to have a federal law. We couldn’t just rely on the charity or pity of a single person. That’s why this is a civil rights movement.

      It’s great you’re joining in our cause. It gives me joy to know the tradition will continue. There is still so much to do.

  • Christina Vergara says:

    Every time I read your articles hearing what you have accomplished for your family, and especially your son I am amazed. I strive to be an advocate like you and help my students achieve. I liked this post because we get to see the difference from what it was like to what it is now. There has been great improvement but there is still much that can be done. I liked reading about your 5 points you outlined in your part of the panel. I think they are very good points.

    • Mary says:

      Thanks Christina. Every day is a journey. We had Aaron’s ISP meeting for 2014 funding yesterday. We’re arranging for a dentist visit that has taken 6 months and now they tell us they won’t take Medicaid. We had to find extra staff for a snow day. A dear staff person we trust just told us she found out the men in her office make more than 2 times what she makes. They have no experience with people with disabilities and sit on their butts. She has 20 years experience and visits real people in their homes.

      It is just moving forward one foot in front of the next.

      I am very lucky because I have a wonderful husband who walks beside me. He is my support system and keeps me focused.

      In the audio, Henry’s story wasn’t 20 years ago, it was last year. It’s hard to keep believing and then I meet people like yourself who are excited to jump in and help. And that inspires me. So thank you Christina. You give me hope.

      • Christina Vergara says:

        Oh my gosh I’m sorry to hear how the meeting went…that really sucks. I wish it could all be easier and you wouldn’t have to fight every step of the way. But you are right you just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other and everything will be okay.

        That’s great you have such an amazing husband its rare to find someone who will stick with you through everything and anything good or bad.

        And thank you, it really means a lot!

        • Mary E. Ulrich says:

          Did you get a chance to listen to the audio? There are some amazing people who really are experts in the field. And Henry’s mother has a ton of courage.

  • Danielle Moore says:

    I think this article is great! Your story is so inspiring! It shows the you would do anything to make sure your kids have the best of everything. That they are always treated equal to everybody else! I’m sure it was a lot of hard work but I’m sure it was worth every bit of it. I think its so true that we have to take the little steps. We all have to take little steps to create big steps so the students with disabilities are treated equal and the same as every other student.

    • Mary says:

      It is the little steps Danielle. I’m so thankful you are with us on this journey.

      There is another young child like Henry who is going to be in your class or in your school. Another child who will need you to be his advocate.

  • Davin Cunnigham says:

    This completely expands the thoughts of how important inclusion is needed in our schools and how long and hard the journey has been to fight for such equality for those with disabilities to have a voice now. I still find there are still hurdles that need to be climbed to make sure every school district is following up with what the law says and the students natural given right to be apart of society and those around them. I have gained a profoundly deeper respect and love for those who try to right the wrongs and find justice even though she hides her truth(s) at times. I will forever be changed from this class and the topics we discuss in class and on your blogs.

    • Mary E. Ulrich says:

      Davin, I am so humbled by your comment. It is a long journey and it takes each of us to move forward. It is up to us to take that step. I wish the fight was over–it shouldn’t be this hard. Mary

  • “Be badass confident.” Love it. So true. This is your child! Go, Mary!
    Alison Golden recently posted..5 Inspiring and Unconventional Personal Development Blogs You Should Read

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