Letters to the editor

Letters to the editor

February 09, 2003

Inclusion not for all with special needs

Tricia Bishop's Feb. 2 article entitled, "Learning Through Inclusion" highlights the issues in Howard County regarding special education and the inclusion of students with disabilities into classrooms with their non-disabled peers. As Ms. Bishop thoughtfully points out, some research has shown that inclusion is indeed beneficial to both groups of students.

The majority of parents with special needs children currently being educated in their community schools are satisfied with their child's educational experience. The same can also be said for parents whose children are being educated in separate facilities. Satisfaction among parents is directly related to the quality of the educational experience.

Many children with special needs are well served in their community schools, but not all. Ms. Bishop's article does not address the wide spectrum of challenges that exists among these children. There is good reason that changing attitudes and long-held philosophies are difficult hurdles to overcome. Overworked teachers, staff members and burned-out parents will be the first to acknowledge that not all children are being well served by inclusion.

Those children who are doing well in their community school classrooms are fortunate indeed, as are their non-disabled peers. Their teachers and support staff are often gifted individuals who should be recognized for their fine work. However, notwithstanding the state budget crisis and the trend toward inclusion, we must acknowledge that there is also a need for separate facilities. Public law mandates that we must educate our children in the least restrictive environment. Emphasize the word "educate." A child should be placed in a community school classroom because he or she can receive an education there and not because it is the politically correct thing to do. With supports in place, inclusion works well for many students with special needs, but not for all students with special needs.

Administrators in both the local school system and the nonpublic schools must facilitate continued cooperation between the two so that if and when the child can be included in or return to a community school classroom, that child will have been prepared and can therefore receive the education he or she deserves.

Special Education facilities such as Cedar Lane and the many nonpublic schools that exist throughout the state of Maryland are here for a reason. These schools provide an education to children who have demonstrated that they cannot be educated in a regular classroom. Inclusion is a grand idea that works for many disabled children. However, we must allow for modifications and individualization. We must consider what is best for each student. There have always been and will always be children who are better served in separate facilities.

Bill Moss

Ellicott City

The writer is executive director of the Linwood Center Inc.

County poorly serves boy with autism

I read with great interest the article "Learning through inclusion" (Feb. 2). While I know that many parents are happy their children attend Cedar Lane School, I am not. My husband and I fought for our son, who is autistic, to stay in a self-contained special classroom in a neighborhood school. We weren't successful, despite the fact that children who are similarly disabled are attending similar programs in other neighborhood schools.

It was also despite recommendations from educational psychologists that he remain in the neighborhood school. It seemed to us that for whatever reason, the school system did not want to make the accommodations necessary to include our son in that class.

Rather than continue to hit our heads against a brick wall, we are retreating from the battle. In two weeks we are moving to a county where we feel our son will be better served. In that county there are programs designed for autistic children within neighborhood schools.

Kelley Davis

Ellicott City

Alternatives offered to a tax increase

I have read and followed with interest the debate over the proposed tax increase that Mr. Robey advocates. For the record, I am a member (25 years) of the Howard County Association of Realtors and, for the most part, support the association's efforts in this matter.

The sacred cow of "education" is ostensibly the reason for the increase, along with a peppering of fear-mongering from Mr. Robey by suggesting that fire, police, and senior citizen programs will all suffer if this increase does not occur.

As I see it, the problem with this proposal is that the request is a 50 percent increase in a tax. That's right, 50 percent. It is terribly out of line to request a 50 percent increase in anything. Mr. Robey said he is open to suggestions, and I have a few that should be considered before we raise any tax:

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