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inclusion–or not?

Hey, sweet mamas, here’s a post I’m going to ask you to chime in on.

So, I get asked a ton of questions about raising our children with special needs and what we do.  Most of those questions I try to answer in blog posts or by responding personally to e-mails.  I have to tell you that I am by no means an expert!  Truth be told–most days I feel completely clueless and don’t know what the heck I’m doing. I have to go back to the drawing board many, many times.  I understand that it can sometimes feel overwhelming once you get into the “system.”

Anthony and I, like many of you, figure things out as we journey along. We trust the Lord to gently lead and guide us in every decision we have to make regarding services, care, schooling, doctors, and anything else that comes up for our children.  We take things one little baby step at a time.  That’s just how we roll.

Recently (perhaps it is with the new school year starting) I have been asked a similar question a lot.  It goes something like this…

“I am a mom to a little girl who has Down syndrome who will be starting school this fall.  I have no idea about IEP’s and special-needs education.  One thing that I am concerned about is whether my child should be mainstreamed or put into a special-needs class.  Can you advise me on what is best!”

Okay.  So since I homeschool my kids and don’t have much experience with the public school system, I cannot really give advice.  We have only had one experience with this and that was when we were advised to mainstream Haven when she came home from China.  “Immerse her in a kindergarten environment and she will learn the language very quickly and get many services,” we were told.  We took the advice and put her in school.  It was a disaster!  Haven could not handle being with 30 other children.  It was too overwhelming and scary for her.  Suffering from PTSD, Haven needed a small, self-contained classroom environment in order to do well. Full inclusion did not work for her at that time. The school district did not have an alternative, so we brought her home.  She has since been homeschooled which has worked well.

One thing I did learn very quickly during Haven’s two weeks in school was that I had to be her advocate!  I was the one who knew her needs best.

One size definitely doesn’t fit all when it comes to schooling our children who have “special needs”.  What works for one child may absolutely not be the best thing for another. Our children are all so unique and have such different needs.  Truthfully, I don’t know the benefits of full inclusion versus self-contained classroom environments for children who have Ds (or any other “special need”)–my lovies are still young and we have not crossed that bridge yet. 

So I thought I would come and ask you guys to help me answer the question many seem so unsure about. 

To mainstream–or not to mainstream?

~~  What has worked for your children who have special needs?

~~  What are the benefits of full inclusion?

~~  What are the benefits of having your children in small, self-contained classrooms?

~~  Do your children still get additional help (aide) if they are mainstreamed?

~~  Any advice on IEP’s?

~~  What advice can you share with other parents who are about to place their children who have special needs in the public school system?

~~  What about private schools?  Do any of you send your kids who have special needs to private schools?

I would so appreciate it if those of you who have journeyed this road would share your advice and opinions.  I love that as a community of people, we get to learn from one another, glean knowledge from one another, and share our journeys. 

Thank you so much for sharing!

**  If you are reading this on FB, would you please rather share your thoughts as a comment on my blog rather than on FB so that others can read it too.  Thanks!