Thursday, October 29, 2015

DSAM: Inclusive Education

The current education climate for people with "disabilities" from my perspective is a disgrace, putting it nicely. The battle between school administrators, "experts" and parents of children who have perceived "disabilities"  is a horrible one that need not exist. Parent's quickly become the expert of the acronym; IEP, IDEA, FAPE, LRE, OT, PT, SLP ... BS!!!! It seems never ending. Under the guise of well intention our children are being "contained" and segregated from their "typical" peers and deprived of the educational experiences and certain rights of passage because they are considered academically sub par. Most of what I have seen is three fold; lack of education from the "educators", budget's and massive EGO's. After standing up for my son as the most qualified expert I was able to enroll him in the same pre-school my daughter attended. He is able to learn along side his typical peers and receive the education opportunity that he deserves.

The staff has been loving and receptive from day one and they think INCLUSIVE. Inclusion to me goes far beyond just having a child with a disability in a classroom but including him/her in every aspect of that room and that is exactly what the administrators and the staff have done. 

I wanted to share this experience from their perspective in honor of this 29th day of Down Syndrome Awareness Month.

The Morro Bay United Methodist Children’s Center believes that each child is unique and beloved of God. We are dedicated to the physical, social, intellectual, and spiritual development of young children. We celebrate the unique development of each child. The MBUMCC instills values of trust, concern, guidance, love, acceptance and community outreach through our faith, knowledge of child development, and passion for the education of young children. Inclusion has helped our center celebrate children’s unique similarities as well as their different abilities. 
Inclusion is not a single event but a process of education, acceptance, and tolerance. Inclusion opens the doors and provides the opportunity to learn together and create a platform in which we accept one another’s differences and learn that each child has something to offer to his or her community. Each child has an untold story, no ability or limitation should prevent a child from celebrating childhood. 
When approached with the opportunity to enroll Blake into our Preschool Program, there was no hesitation. Our staff and parent meeting included mutual collaboration of each of our abilities and limitations in providing quality care for Blake. We discussed behaviors, modifications, short and long term goals. As a team, with Blake’s amazing mother at the helm, we jumped into the unknown together. 
As an educator, you never really know how a child will adapt, connect, learn, or develop. We blindly accepted Blake, and let him tell us his untold story. Page by page, day by day, Blake’s story is constantly reinventing itself. The MBUMCC offers a safe, trusting, fun, and nurturing environment. Through inclusion we have provided each child the opportunity to engage and learn acceptance, tolerance, offer role modeling, expand their communication skills, and share in a collaboration of love. It has been through tremendous confidence and faith that Blake’s family has entrusted our center with Blake’s education and opportunity to learn. 
Blake is guided by his amazing Para-Educator who offers compassion, encouragement, consistency, direction, and guidance. Blake has given as much as he has received. We are grateful for the opportunity to share in Blake’s learning, growth, and development. We are excited to see his next chapter.

On behalf of the Preschool staff at The Morro Bay United Methodist Children’s Center
Christy Hilliard
Executive Director/Founder Morro Bay UMCC 
Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors 

We ALL need to think inclusive from day ONE. Studies suggest that children with Down Syndrome benefit from an inclusive classroom, (Buckley), and my personal experience thus far can fully support this clear data. Children with Down Syndrome are more alike their peers than they are different, it may just take them a little longer to show it. I can't wait to see all of the success Blake will have on his educational journey!

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