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Jane Bagus: Children develop respect in inclusive classrooms

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013 10:06 a.m. CDT

Once upon a time, there was a girl named Sami. Sami is a child with disabilities who spent her early days in a typical preschool setting at The Children’s Center of Cicero-Berwyn where she thrived.

Sami is now a 7-year-old first-grader who attends Hiawatha School and continues to make strides in her education. She has many friends and works hard academically. Sami’s fellow classmates look out for her.

At one point in her early years, her teacher recalls a story of a table full of children helping Sami write her name. One child was standing over Sami doing a hand-over-hand instruction with her.

With every letter Sami wrote, the entire group of students would cheer! This level of support that Sami receives at school from her classmates and her teachers will ensure that Sami will continue to flourish. At the end of the year, teachers have been heard saying, “I get Sami next!”

Sami’s siblings support her as well. Her older brother and sister spend quality time, loading apps on her iPad and showing her how to use them. They are also a great source of support for the students in their own classroom who, like Sami, need additional support.

School District 100 is a leader in inclusion for students with special needs. Our use of districtwide co-teaching in the classroom allows all of our students the ability to enjoy an across-the-board, full comprehensive education. Both the special education and regular education students benefit from this form of instruction.

When children attend classes that reflect the similarities and differences of people in the real world, they learn to appreciate diversity. Respect and understanding grow when children of differing abilities and cultures play and learn together.

Schools are important places for children to develop friendships and learn social skills. Children with and without disabilities learn with and from each other in inclusive classes.

All parents want their children to be accepted by their peers, have friends and lead happy lives. Inclusive settings like this can make this vision a reality for many children with disabilities.

Please visit www.paulakluth.com/readings/inclusive-schooling/special-education-is-not-a-place for more information on inclusion.

Jane Bagus is director of student services for South Berwyn School District 100

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