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Successful Inclusion Begins In The Home
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- New interpretations of education laws will result in less separating of children with special needs from their classmates this fall. Advocates believe the success of inclusive education will depend strongly on positive attitudes and a lack of prejudices.
Connie Clay, a project coordinator with the Institute for Disability Studies, is a believer in inclusion in the classroom.
"The law states that children should be in natural environments, not in segregated settings," Clay said. "School districts will have to give a strong justification for any separating out of special education students."
She said all children benefit from inclusive education.
"Children with and without disabilities learn to get along socially. Children are more accepting of differences of all people if they interact at an early age," Clay said. "It also improves self esteem for children with disabilities as well as helps them learn from their peers."
Clay said successful inclusion will require all parents and teachers working together for the children.
"You can't just put a child with a disability in the classroom and expect him or her to be included in all the activities," Clay said.
Dr. Louise Davis, child and family development specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said children form their attitudes and prejudices from their environment, mostly at home.
"Everyone is different. We have to learn to recognize differences, but appreciate similarities," Davis said. "Parents should model respectful attitudes of people who are different from their family."
Davis said the home is the first place children should learn about acceptance and recognize the value of each individual on society. Parents should encourage children to accept all their classmates and discourage any negative opinions based on color, size, disabilities or other traits.
"The home and the classroom environments together will teach children how to accept each other," Davis said. "A lot of influences can be nonverbal. If a parent or teacher has any reservations about a handicapped child in the classroom, the children will pick up on it."
Davis suggested parents select library books that will educate children about disabilities and choose multicultural books, toys and activities to broaden their child's perspectives.