I'm talking about special education. Tonight we attended open house at Lucas' school. We had the distinct pleasure of splitting our time between two classrooms. The Seattle public school system doesn't have the resources for "inclusion" or "mainstreaming" so instead kids with disabilities get a "seat" in a general education class and get sent off to the "self contained" classroom for the bulk of their day. I'm thinking "how can shuttling ANY 5 year old between two classrooms be a good thing?!" He doesn't get to fully participate or make friends in either one.
In Lucas' case, he typically spends about 30 minutes in an academic setting in the general education classroom and the rest of his 6+ hour day with a smaller group of kids with varying disabilities in the special ed class. It totally and completely SUCKS! There are a handful of parents I know of who have been successful in having their kids fully included in the public school system here, but it hasn't been pretty.
In Miami, Lucas was in an inclusion class which consisted of half kids who are typically developing, while the other half had an IEP (individualized education plan), with a teacher and an aide leading the class. It was definitely the right environment for Lucas, where he could learn alongside his typical peers and have positive role models for academics and behavior.
Back in Seattle, we've made our objections to this backward system known to the teachers, principals and anyone who will listen to us, and we expect Lucas will spend increasingly more time in general education. We expect it to be at least 50% by the time we reconvene for a follow-up IEP meeting in about 2 weeks. I predict more bargaining ahead. I'm trying not to get too bent about it because if the school doesn't comply with our desire and Lucas' need to spend more time in general education -- which by the way, he's ready for academically -- we are going to find a school who will work with us and who understands the need for integration. This isn't 1964 people.
As tough as it sometimes gets, I remind myself of all who came before us. If Lucas was a member of my generation, institutionalization was the norm. At some point, parents stood up and said "enough is enough" and we've been fighting tooth and nail for more ever since...until our kids have the same respect, the same opportunities, and the same treatment as their typical peers, we won't back down.