Mainstreaming, inclusion, or something else… is it working for all students??

Before i start let me say i am an art teacher. I do not currently teach in a school but i love kids. ALL KIDS and i want the best FOR THEM. Not for their parents or society but for THEM. So don’t attack based on you are prejudice against kids with a handicap because i am not.I want them to get the best education THEY can get that works for THEM.  OK!!


My experience in school
When i was a kid in grade school there was no such thing. In the 60-70s Handicapped kids or”retarded” kids learned in their own classroom ours happen to be like the kindergarten kids they had a trailer out behind the school. We never saw them except for a fleeting glance when they went by to go in or out. This was obviously not the best method of teaching since we didn’t know how to deal with them as people and mostly just made fun of them it is not nice but it was the way it was until we got older. In middle school and high school i really don’t remember many kids there so i am assuming it was the same situation. I was too busy trying to fit in and be cool and not do anything to make me stick out in front of the other kids so i honestly don’t remember which is kinda sad in itself.

 Grade School

The first experience i have had with mainstreaming came at my son’s elementary school with a girl    in his class. She was a very sweet girl with severe handicaps. She was in a wheel chair and could not speak or move around other than one hand. She was able to communicate with a board she would use to touch words that would speak for her. She was in my son’s class and they would all play games with her and teach her things with her aid.  Everyday i would pick my son up at school and i would come in to the office to retrieve his card so i could take him at the end of the day when he was dismissed to the cafe. She would be there with the secretary and her aid and would hand the card to the parents that the secretary gave to her stretching out as far as she could and would smile and was excited you could see to be doing a job. This made me think that mainstreaming was working and was a great thing for this girl and for the kids in her class every one seemed happy and proud.

Boy Scouts
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We have several  badges dedicated to disability awareness. In our troop we are required to do the badge since one of our troop leaders has some. He was in an accident and had head trauma when he was younger that caused him some damage. He is a great counselor to the boys and works very hard especially with the kids in our troop that have a disability. He is unable to drive but has a job at a place that specializes in hiring people with disabilities. The boys go there and meet some of the people as part of their training and learn a lot from that badge.

Fast forward to Middle School

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Anyone who has a middle school child or was one knows tween kids can be assholes. My kid is no different. There are times he is amazing and so caring and helpful and other times you want to strangle them. Between the hormones and the learning and the social interaction their lives are volatile to say the least.  Think Diary of a wimpy kid.

In my son’s class there is a boy who has some severe disabilities however not like the girl in gradeschool.  Outwardly he looks normal to people. He lives down the street from us with his grandparent, mother and aunt who i understand is house bound due to a handicap also. I met them one time at the bus stop with my son. Having worked with kids before i noticed something was off with him right away but I am not a special education teacher so i could not tell you what he was just overly awkward. This boy was mainstreamed in my son’s class from in grade school also but not in a way that would single him out. My son thought, til last year he was just annoying and not special needs in any way. The kids are mean to him mostly because they think he is just being annoying on purpose. But he is not.  I have gotten a call from the principal about interactions with this boy on the bus making me have to give my son the riot act and tell him to not interact with this boy and to tell him you are not allowed to play or talk to him. Apparently my son went as far as to say he would call the police if this boy came to our yard again.

Last year i was at Walmart and was approached by this boy. Who i met one time.
I am a face painter and art teacher so kids come up to say hello all the time and i
am used to it. But this boy came running up to me with a cast in the store and hugged me.
He is 14 boys this age do not usually hug anyone. We met one time.
HI MRS SHARKEY!! You are Jack’s Mom. I asked about his arm and he told me a boy at school had broken it. by now Mom came over she also seems to have some symptoms of issue. but blurted out her son was  recently diagnosed with sever Aspergers (I looked this up at home for clarification it is mildly autistic with synonyms that include difficulty picking up on social cues and may lack inborn social skills, such as being able to read others’ body language, start or maintain a conversation, and take turns talking. Dislike any changes in routines. Appear to lack empathy.

These are not symptoms that are welcomed in Middle School.

My Son has had several occasions where this boy has interrupted conversations with girls touching them in odd ways or communicating with people he thinks are his friends that are not you can imagine tweens do not like this behavior. But they think he is on the same emotional level with them so they judge him harshly.  My son argues with me on that point.

Today we had a delayed opening 90 minutes due to weather. My son was in the shower when the door bell rang. This boy who knows my son doesn’t want to hang out with him, has been told my son is not ALLOWED to hang out with him asked me “I was wondering if i could hang out with jack for bit before school starts.” I told him no honey Jack is in the shower getting ready for school. “Oh ok.” At first when i told my son he was angry but i explained how sad it was that he had no place to go that he would come here. I can’t MAKE my son like this boy anymore than i can MAKE him remember to take out the trash.  And i keep thinking this is one of those situations where This boy is going to hurt someone or himself because of the way he is being treated.

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In this situation i have no doubt that Mainstreaming is not helping this child. If he were in a class with children his on mental age or with similar issues to deal with he would maybe find a friend to understand what he is going through. Throwing a child with these issues into a middle school and high school atmosphere is like dropping a mouse into a tank of piranha. I think is it made even worse that they do not disclose the issue to the kids probably so this boy doesn’t feel singled out and made
fun of.  But you can’t imagine that middle school children who are at the apex of meanness due to their own emotional hormonal issues should not react negatively to a person with symptoms like

While all children with AS are different, their unusual social skills and obsessive interests tend to set them apart from their peers. They may have in common some or all of the following symptoms:

  • may have an intense obsession with one or two specific, narrow subjects
  • may strongly prefer repetitive routines or rituals and becomes upset at any small changes
  • may memorize information and facts easily, especially information related to a topic of interest
  • may have clumsy, uncoordinated movements, an odd posture or a rigid gait
  • may perform repetitive movements, such as hand or finger flapping
  • may engage in violent outbursts, self-injurious behaviors, tantrums or meltdowns
  • may be hypersensitive to sensory stimulation such as light, sound, and texture
  • may “day dream” or “zone out” when overstimulated

SO my question is this. With this boy who are we doing a favor to by putting him in a mainstream situation? He can not be happy since he is not accepted by his peers and has a difficult time fitting in. He is from what my son says, disruptive to the class with outbursts to the teacher and class making learning difficult for everyone involved. They are not telling the kids his problem so they assume he is just being difficult however he is not punished for his behavior which makes them angry at him for not being called out for acting this way when they are punished for doing similar things. I know i am going to get called out on this but not every child should be in the main stream.

I say this not for my sons convenience but it makes me sad to see this boy struggle and makes me worry for his and other children’s safety with him getting older, larger and more frustrated with fitting in. What is the answer to this i am looking on line for suggestions but welcome any and all comments as usual from parents of average and special kids.

I just don’t want us all to end up on the news.

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