The article I chose focused on a first grade classroom in Stanwood, Washington. This class has eighteen children, eleven of whom are typically-developing children. The other seven have mild or severe disabilities, including down syndrome and autism. Inclusion is not an uncommon thing in classrooms, in fact, it is widely encouraged. This classroom is different, however, because of the severity of the disabilities. Typically children with down syndrome and autism are placed into solely special education setting, with little or no interaction with general education students.
Both groups of children are reaping the benefits from this classroom setting. The children without disabilities have shown a more compassionate side. They continuously help their classmates when in need, stick up for them in social settings, and consider the special needs children their friends. In most school settings, they may not have ever had a chance to interact with their new friends. As far as the children with disabilities, many are showing improvement in both social skills and academics. They are receiving great peer interaction as well as models for success. As they see other children striving forward it encourages them to do the same. One mother who said her son is autistic and largely non-verbal is thriving in this classroom setting, learning more than he ever had before.
The only problem the principal sees with this blended classroom is the huge workload it presents for the teacher, Judy Birk. On top of making sure that all students are meeting academic standards, she must also concentrate on the different goals set up in the Individual Education Plans for her students with special needs. This creates a lot of work and a lot of planning. Although she admits that it is tiring, Birk says with the help of her teaching assistants it can be done and is well worth the benefits the students are receiving.
As a future elementary...