Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Polly Update, is full inclusion of kids with special needs always the best choice?

Polly's most recent big news is that she no longer requires glasses. We saw her Ophthalmologist at Children's Memorial Hospital a few weeks ago, and he said her lazy eye has strengthened and her far sightedness is minimal for now. She does still have Nystagmus, a condition where the eye ball shakes, but that has died way down too. We will visit him again in three months. Polly looked adorable in glasses, but she was always losing them and breaking them. One less thing to worry about makes a Mama happy!

Polly is healthy. She had her annual Moyamoya brain scan and the blood was flowing well! We have not detected any other incidences of strokes or seizures. Thank you, God!

We are working on finalizing her potty training so that she will be accident free and ready for class in the fall, she still is head over heels for Evie and includes her in her activities at home all day long. She jokes, she follows conversations, she contributes. And when one of us are hurt or sad, she is right there with us, hugging, talking, making us laugh.

She continues to amaze me every day.

Full Inclusion? Is it always best?

In June, Polly graduated from preschool. She had a great year and we were sad to say goodbye to her beloved teacher Ms. Barbara. After much worry and prayer, and touring other schools, and weighing the pros and cons, it has been decided that Polly will attend our neighborhood school and be fully included for kindergarten next year. She will have a one on one aid.

This decision scares the crap out of me, even though the growing trend is for kids with special needs to be fully included in school. I am nervous because she is coming out of a blended pre-k where she got the best of both worlds; both typically developing and kids with IEPS in one classroom, and two teachers, one of whom was focused primarily on kids with IEPS.

Polly did well in that classroom setting but it was still a challenge. She struggled with transitions. Her fine motor skills (pre-writing, etc...) were slow coming. She was behind her peers both socially and academically and gave the teacher she loved so much a run for her money several times a week.

When making this decision, Sergei and I tried to find a blended classroom for kindergarten, but Chicago has done away with it for that grade level. We toured a school that kept kids in the typical program as much as possible, but also had a self contained classroom that would include other students for math, and writing and reading. We tried to get Polly placed there, the rest of her IEP team agreed that was the best option for her, but the school denied our access. Our awesome neighborhood school (where Elaina and Zoya both go) stepped up and agreed to meet Polly's needs at home.

My question is this: Is full inclusion always best?

My concern for Polly fully included is that she will actually experience even more exclusion. When she'll need help with academics in kindergarten (and she will) she will be pulled out of class with her aid. I'm worried she will be working alone, a lot, in another room away from her classmates. Also, Polly is a smart cookie. Will she notice the difference and feel the pressure as she struggles to hold a pencil and write the letter "P." Will she notice her peers fly through their names and move on to another assignment?

She'll probably do fine. Polly is smart and confident and has taken on every challenge in life with grace and determination. (And if it is too much for her, I can always call another IEP meeting and we can work on another placement.)

I see her placement as an experiment. If she is not doing well fully included, we will re-evaluate and if need be, we will find a better fit for her. I believe in full inclusion, but I do not believe that it is always the best choice for every child. I love to see kids with special needs in typical classrooms. I want full inclusion for both Polly and Evie. But I don't want it at their expense, to either stroke my pride or to impress other people. I think that there are many instances where a self contained or blended classroom could be more appropriate for a child. Evie is a great example. She would not flourish in a typical classroom, at least for this next year.

As much as I believe in inclusion in school for kids with special needs, I even more so believe in seeing each child as an individual. Therefore, a decision regarding school that fits the child and family and situation best is individual. Sometimes it will be full inclusion, sometimes blended, sometimes self-contained.


Do you have a child with special needs? What's your take on inclusion? I know this is a hot topic, but courteous, respectful dialogue is always welcome here at Pocket Lint.


  1. Yep, for us right now? The best decision is actually home school ... with our very own curriculum. It's hard to stay with ... everyone thinks children should be in school ... should be learning the same things at the same time ... should be making same-age friends. Sigh. But it's the best for my son.

  2. Brenda, thanks for bringing in the home school option. Congrats on finding what works best for you and your son!

  3. LRE- Least Restrictive Environment. Full inclusion works for some students, but not all. Inclusion always means support is available for the student and the teachers, as in your blended class.

  4. Great point Daisy! LRE all the way!

  5. Samantha also graduated preschool in June, and will be a young 5 (her birthday was May 30th) going into Kindergarten next month (omg, did I really just say "next month?" Too soon, too soon!!). We really wanted her at our home school (it's directly out of our back door, no streets to cross, and she'll go to school with neighborhood kids), and everyone at the IEP meeting agreed that full-inclusion was the way to go (that school doesn't have that inclusion/self-contained mixed option), with a one on one aide. Samantha also does not transition very well, and shuts down in groups, so the aide is for as long as is needed until she is comfortable. Kindy here is only 3 hours, so we will also have an extra hour afterwards for 1 on 1 lesson recapping with a resource teacher, to reinforce what was learned that day in class. Two days a week an extra 1/2 hour will be tacked on to that for her services.

    I felt that this was the right way to go. I know a lot of Sammi's peers are being kept back into another year of preschool, but we felt that if she were to need to be kept back, it would be better for her to be kept back in an academic year.

    Good luck, Gillian! I'll look forward to your posts as school begins and progresses throughout the year. I, too, will be blogging plenty about it. :-)

  6. Hannah was mainstreamed and fully included in her Kindergarten class with her same age typical peers. In that class she was loved, yet wasn't making any progress academically. She just wasn't showing us or her teacher that she was getting anything out of it. Halfway through the school year we made a decision to change the setting for her and being that her adopted sister (Lera) who is the same age had recently joined our family through adoption, we decided it would be best to put both girls in a smaller classroom setting where they could go to school together in a special Ed class that is offered in the same Elementary school. It turns out both girls are thriving well in a smaller setting with being fully included for specials, Re: P.E., music, library, etc. They have the best of both worlds...Hannah writes her name, raises her hand to participate in class, recognizes and says 25 sight words (could be more now) and loves homework. Lera recognizes her name, 15 sight words and says them with help, excels in Music and P.E. (HAHA, she is our social butterfly, loves being with her typical peers, and is consistently demonstrating in both subjects!) Currently they participate in ESY for this month of July and LOVE it! Both girls have been promoted to the second grade and will attend the same school again next year in the same smaller classroom setting with other students that have special needs, K-3, but they do attend the same school that their older siblings attend, and go to specials with their typical peers.

  7. sorry, I meant to say K-2!

  8. Gillian - I's about the individual. Do what works for that kiddo. I often get asked from readers on my blog if I am advocating for self-contained Sunday School classes or full inclusion. My answer: BOTH! Do what works for the kids. And both may work for the same kid depending on the year, let alone the week! :) - Amy Fenton Lee

  9. Since Aleena has been in school and included in the regular ed classroom, something that surprised me was that a LOT of kids have IEPs. And although Aleena is the only student with Ds, quite a number of kids are pulled out of class for therapies and learning support. It was nice to see other kids coming and going. Maybe it will be the same in Polly's class. :)


I'd love to hear from you!

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.