National Public Radio affiliate WGBH in Boston ran a 10-part series focusing on special education in Massachusetts. The series explored a range of issues, from services for autistic students to issues surrounding inclusion of special needs students in mainstream classrooms. Of the 10 pieces, five were mine. They follow:
Parents of the of 170,000 children in Massachusetts with special needs rely on their local school districts to provide appropriate services. Getting those services is especially difficult during the current economic recession. Even tougher, parents say, is dealing with feelings of ostracism as they hear others begrudging their families funding for services. Reporter Cathy Corman listened in on a workshop at a non-profit organization in Boston dedicated to teaching parents how to demand respect as they advocate for services for children with special needs.
In 1975, Congress passed a set of laws that came to be known as the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act, or IDEA. IDEA calls for all students to be educated in the least restrictive environments. Fifteen years ago, many but not all public school systems began adopting a so-called inclusion model of education. The goal was to keep as many students as possible in general education. Reporter Cathy Corman spoke with several families and educators about the pros and cons of inclusion.
Lost in Translation
Families seeking help for children with special educational needs often face significant obstacles. Those obstacles may become insurmountable when families don’t speak English and schools don’t have appropriate interpreting services. Reporter Cathy Corman spoke with parents originally from China and Puerto Rico who described their feelings of frustration and helplessness.
When children under the age of three have developmental delays, they may receive help from early intervention programs, or EIPs. The State Department of Public Health approximates that 32,000 infants and toddlers received EI services last year. The goal of EI is to reduce the need for special education services once children enter public schools. Reporter Cathy Corman tagged along recently one morning with a Dartmouth family whose five-year-old son began receiving earlty intervention services when he was 13 months old.
Among the Elite
Public schools stretch to meet the needs of exceptionally bright students. They also go to great lengths to educate the most severely disabled. Reporter Cathy Corman learned about the difficulties one family has experienced when schools have failed to accommodate a student who is both exceptionally bright and severely disabled