Where On The Continuum?

 

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Those of you that know me personally, or have been reading my blog for some time, are aware that I am a special education teacher and an independent special education consultant. I have a myriad number of friends with children that have some type of diagnosis. I grew up with an aunt with intellectual disabilities, and have a grandson on the autism spectrum. I have an online page for parents of children that have various special needs, and am co-founder of a parent networking and support group. I tell you all these things, not to give you a list of my credentials, but to let you know, when I speak about special education, it is from years of experience. My passion and drive has always been to educate an advocate for those individuals with disabilities, and their families.

I am “back in school” to get my Master’s degree in Autism Spectrum Disorders. My classes on transition, collaboration, and behavior have validated a lot of what I have thought for years. The other day, during class discussion, we were going back and forth about the “Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)” continuum. The continuum being from very restrictive, such as individuals living in an institution, to the very least restrictive, when children (with disability diagnoses) are in their general education classes with only a minimum of supports.

I read an article the other day, written by a mother of two children. One diagnosed with Down Syndrome and one not. The article discussed how she wanted her child with DS to have full inclusion. The author believes, in her opinion, that all children, regardless of (dis)ability, should have a fully inclusive experience at school.

Her article made me wonder. Do all parents feel this way? Is full inclusion really the best education, regardless of diagnosis, for all children? Is being with “typical” peers, using the same general curriculum, always the most appropriate learning for all involved? I took this topic to my online page for parents. Those that replied to the discussion, had some interesting perspectives. Parents told of their children, that are in full inclusion, getting in trouble frequently, and often requiring, but not receiving, more sensory breaks. Others talked about a mixture of “pull out” special ed classes and general ed, while others wanted their children out of the general ed classroom altogether, because their child was being bullied. This parent spoke, of feeling her child was safer in a special education classroom. I believe all these parents wished full inclusion would work, but unfortunately that often isn’t the reality. Maybe some of my readers  have children in full inclusion and it is working. I’d love to hear your stories.

Special education has come a long way since the enactment of Public Law 94-142, The Education of All Handicapped Children Act, forty-one years ago. Reauthorizations of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, over the last twenty-six years have created more opportunities for those students with disabilities, and their families. Before 1975, special education services were hit and miss. Some students, who desperately needed services, didn’t get anything at all. Even with all the good that has occurred since this time, there is still a long way to go……….

I am a firm believer in everyone having a voice. I believe in real collaboration, working together to form solutions that will be good for all involved. Do I expect perfection? Absolutely not. I doubt anything will ever be perfect……but, it can be better. Here are some questions I think about, not because I have all the answers, but because I think we need to think about these issues and consider the implications. In this way we (the families, student, schools) can make the best choices possible. Isn’t that what special education should be about?

  1. Is full inclusion always appropriate if a child is unable to work at their grade level? Should we alter the integrity of grade level curriculum in that classroom? Or are modifications always okay? How many accommodations/supports are too many to still be considered for full inclusion?
  2. Is having a special education teacher in the general education classroom for one or two academics, enough?  Does working with the special ed teacher, in the general ed classroom, make the child feel even more different? Is working one on one or in smaller groups in a special ed. classroom, wrong?
  3. What about all the non-academic activities? Some students have difficulty during unstructured times. Some students require more sensory breaks. Some students require a person to teach them and daily practice with them, social skills.
  4. Is is right to expect a general education teacher (who might have only had to take one or two special ed. classes to get their degree) to understand a myriad number of disabilities their students could have? Can we expect them to be proactive instead of reactive in their classroom behavior management? Is it fair and equitable to treat all the children the same? Does fair always mean equal?
  5. How do we keep students from being unkind to each other? Do we talk about a student’s disability to the class? In order to help the class understand “why” a student might act the way he/she does?
  6. Should the student who has a severe intellectual disability, be subjected to taking standardized tests at their grade level? (For example, should a fourteen year old with the cognitive ability of a toddler be expected to take an eighth grade test? And if so, why? How will the results even be close to any kind of accuracy?)
  7. Should a teenager with high functioning autism have less supports in his general ed classes, because he “doesn’t look like he has autism” and “we don’t want him labeled”?
  8. Is overlooking a student’s true needs, an inherent danger in inclusion, because sometimes a student doesn’t “look” like he/she needs special ed services/supports? (whatever that is supposed to mean)
  9. If/When do the rights of a child with special needs carry more weight, than a child who does not have special needs?
  10. Are we making decisions now that will ultimately benefit the student after he/she graduates? Shouldn’t all of school be preparation for life after graduation? Especially, with teenagers, how to we make sure our children will have a smooth transition?

Blog readers, what do you think? I would be interested to hear your opinions, your experiences……

 

 

Decisions…Decisions…Decisions…

IMG_1174Some days threaten to pull me under, not because of anything life changing, or terrible that has happened. No, it is more of the mundane. The little things that gnaw at me. The schedule, the decisions, the ups and downs of living on this spinning orb. On days like today, I mull over the hours in the day and can’t make up my mind. I know what I need to do, but I don’t feel like it. Isn’t that true for most of us? It is rarely the huge, life changing decisions that we worry about or second guess. It is more likely the little daily decisions that cause us to fret.

The seemingly small, daily decisions create a path that leads us through our days…….

Psalm 119:105 Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. (NIV)

 

 

Strength When I Am Weak

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Are you, like me? Is life causing you to feel the strain?

Sometimes life throws things at all of us that leave us gasping for air. Worry can suffocate. The best laid plans can be left laying at our feet, cracked and broken. How does one edit plans, accept change, be reminded that sometimes the things we thought we wanted are not what we really need?

I was desperate to read these verses from Paul, this morning.

I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:12-13 

Yes! Oh, yes. Thank you for the reminder. I can do this life, even through the rough times, the hard times, the uncertain and unsure times……because on days when I have no strength of my own, He gives me the strength. Amen.

“Choose Your Hard”

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Someone recently posted the words, “Choose your hard”.

She was referring to those of trying to make healthy choices for ourselves.

Exercising, eating clean, and avoiding sugar.

Sometimes doing the right thing is difficult and we want to cave, but we know in the long run it is worth it.

She meant choose your hard in reference to health, but those words could be applied to many circumstances in life.

Are the choices we are making today, going to be beneficial to us in the future?

Are we doing the hard things, the right things, even when the world is tempting us to “Just do it!”?

It isn’t always easy. Honestly, most days aren’t easy at all.

Decisions, decisions, decisions.

James 1:5

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.

Sometimes There Is No Going Back

She understood that some decisions changed everything.

Sometimes there is no going back.

Choices made today always make pathways for tomorrow…

Maybe those paths really are the ones less traveled.

 

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Left to live with the satisfaction or the regret of choices made.

Have you been there? Standing at the fork in the road?

Choosing.

Not sure what your next might be?

Scared. Nervous. Wondering.

So, run to the One who makes pathways straight, and holds the future…your future… in His hands.

And with Him, we are never alone.

 
Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. Proverbs 19:21 ESV 

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105  ESV

For whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. 1 John 3:20 ESV

Saved By His Amazing Grace

“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me.

I once was lost, but now am found

Was blind, but now I see……..”

Webster’s tells us that grace is an act of favor, kindness, or mercy. Grace is given to those that deserve it the least. It is given to those that could never pay the price for it…because it costs too much. More than I could ever afford or even begin to be able to pay back. Grace is a gift.

Years ago, when my story first began……I was spiritually dead. My heart was as dark as the sin that it held. My desire to please myself was great. It was all about me. If I had not met Jesus along the way, the road that I was on, most certainly would have  taken me to Hell. Yes, Hell. I thank God for His amazing grace. A grace that I did not deserve. A grace that I did not earn. A gift that He offered me. Thank God, I accepted the gift.

Some people don’t believe in Hell. They think it is just a metaphor for badness, or sadness. A philosophical place, so to speak. Not a real place. Other’s think that Hell is a place that is going to be one raucous party and that all their friends will be there, participating in all the other worldly vices. Sadly, that is what Lucifer would have them believe–that it isn’t all that bad, come join the party. Who needs the Lord? Who needs self sacrifice? Who needs the Bible? That isn’t any fun. It is too constricting. Do what you want, when you want, how you want.  After all this life is all about you!! Satan’s lies echo in the ears of those that live for their own self gratification.  Empty lies that claim to offer the world…but, instead lead to death.

Hell is real. It is a place.  I believe the saddest and most painful part of it, for those who find themselves there, is the isolation. What makes Hell, hell is that God is not there. There is no love, no compassion, no forgiveness, no hope, no joy, no friendship, no fairness, no understanding…..no more grace. These things are not there…because the God who possesses these qualities is not there. That is what Hell will be. I think there will be people in Hell that will have a deep and profound sadness because they will know that their eternity didn’t have to end up this way. It was their choice. They chose this for themselves. When people tried to tell them about God, they scoffed at them…calling them crazy, or weird, or other harsh names. When they were invited to attend church, they laughed that a church is the last place they’d ever go! When God quietly knocked at the door of their heart, they slammed it in His face. Denying their need for Him. Apathy sets in. Hearts harden. Minds are set. And days slip by.

I was a sinner in need of a Savior.  I’m grateful I realized this at a fairly young age. It saved me a lot of grief. Don’t misunderstand me. I am not claiming perfection. Lord knows, and so do a lot of other people, that I went through some bad times in my life. Sometimes I’d wonder to myself how I allowed this to happen? What was I thinking? This stuff hurts! What a mess I made. Stupid decisions. The pain at times, was great. In the midst of all this I knew that Christ was still there. He never left me. I was His child. I had accepted His gift of grace and salvation years earlier….and I was His. Much like a parent looks at his/her wayward child and their heart breaks, God looked at me. He didn’t leave me there in the slime and dirt of my own life….bogged down in the morass of my own decisions. He brought me out of that. He set me on a rock. Sturdy. Secure. Strong.

My story is not one of all rainbows and roses. Life is gritty…..and we are all human. We make mistakes. We makes reckless decisions. We have regret. In the midst of all this, Jesus is there. Regardless of what you’ve done, or not done in your own life, He loves you.  He wants to give you the gift of His amazing grace. Will you accept it?