Katie Stone March 5, 2007 K 370 Case Study #1 Watching the movie on Peter, a boy with Down syndrome

, and reading the article about Eli, another boy with Down syndrome, was very informative and showed many different aspects to the controversy of inclusion of special education students in the general education classroom. Individuals with Down syndrome have noticeably specific characteristics. Physically, these individuals stand out, with big eyes that seem to be slightly offset, a flat appearing facial structure, small feet for their body size, low-set ears, and a mouth that seems to be too small for their tongue, causing it to stick out. Peter, particularly in elementary school, repeated many actions that seemed to be related to his disability. For example, Peter would continuously get up in class, disrupting the people around him or disobey the class rules or instructions given to him. He would also kick, hit, strangle, or tackle other classmates for no apparent reason besides wanting attention. In high school, he didn’t appear to be as violent as he was in the primary grades, but still retained the disregard of direct or indirect instruction, and would, it seemed, intentionally not do what he was told. As an educator, having any student with a disability in the classroom is challenging, and Peter did provide particular challenges to his general education teachers. Off the bat in elementary school a mistake was made when Peter’s disability was not explained to the other children in the classroom, causing them to misunderstand his behaviors. If the children would have known and felt comfortable with the differences he had, they may have been more prepared to help him. Also, if the general education teacher is going to be the primary educator, they should be given background information and training on how to handle this type of student. Peter’s teacher admitted that she was unsure of how to help him properly, so she lost a lot of precious educating time just trying to build the foundation of acceptance and basis of education

within her classroom. If from the beginning of their time together she would have set up a system of how to deal with outbursts and class management, many of the problems they had wouldn’t have been as big of an issue. Peter was not incapable of following the rules, he just preferred to have outbursts because that outlet was easier then trying. By holding him responsible for his actions, he was much more able to control himself and thus get more education out of the day. In high school, the education Peter received was interesting. The video showed him in math class where the class was learning about calculus or something advanced, while Peter was working on simple addition and subtraction. Every general education class had to be severely altered to fit Peter’s level, which didn’t allow Peter to ever truly belong with his classmates. He was only out of the general education class for a portion of the day where they worked on life skills with him. More of an emphasis should have been placed on everyday performance and interaction skills, and less on sitting in general education classrooms, so that when he got out into the work force, he would know how to perform. Interactions with the general population is crucial, but sitting in a math class not even paying attention to the lecture doesn’t provide him with those specific interactions, it instead wastes time that could be spent on more specific skills. Inclusion, in this sense, is a highly debated topic. In the primary grades, inclusion helps the child with disabilities and the children in the classroom by teaching acceptance and interaction skills for everyone involved. The curriculum at this level could be applied to the child with disabilities and thus is beneficial. The outbursts could be hard to handle, but it teaches the student first hand how to behave and not behave in a public setting. The children at this age are also more accepting of differences, and are more apt to include a special education student in their everyday activities. As the students get older, however, the difference gap increases, making inclusion much more difficult. The difference in the intellectual level of the student compared to the student with disabilities grows each year, and the emphasis placed on ‘fitting in’ and being a

certain way increases. The students at this age may no longer accept someone with a disability like Down syndrome because they cannot relate to them as they do with their non-disabled peers. During these years of development, students are very judgmental and are constantly just looking to belong. Being friends with someone with a disability would not be seen as ‘cool’ and thus is rarely engaged upon. Typically developing students also would find it hard to relate to a student with special needs because it would be difficult to carry on conversations or just hang out with a student that constantly needs specific attention and has difficulties with memory or speech. This hesitance for acceptance leads to social isolation and depression for the student with a disability because they can no longer fit in with their peers. Classes at this stage are also way above the level of the student with a disability, so if they are in a general education classroom, every activity and assignment must be altered for that student. At this point, it appears the special education student is no longer benefiting from the majority of the classes they are sitting in, and while social interactions are beneficial, many peers rarely engage in traditional conversations with them. While they may say standard greeting or carry on small talk with the individual, it is very rare that they would invite a special needs student to participate in a normal adolescent conversation. Educationally, the focus for most general education students is on college, while the student with Down syndrome needs to focus more on skills that could enable them to be out in the work force. To do this properly, the student should be pulled out of the general education, to a more confined area that allows them to concentrate on these skills. However, by leaving the general education setting, the student is potentially missing out on the interactions needed to learn socially. Eli is a very interesting case of a child with Down syndrome in the sense that he is very clear of what he wants for his own education. He was not blind to the fact that he was different and seen as different by his peers. Every adolescent wants to fit in and be accepted, but Eli knew

that in the general education setting this was not possible. The short conversations with his peers weren’t enough to make him feel a part of the school, unlike when he was with other students who were like him. Being with other students with Down syndrome made Eli feel as though he belonged and was accepted, as well as allowed him to participate in classes and lessons with his peers. Eli wanted an education, however he didn’t want to be educated with peers that didn’t want to be with him or learn the same things. Eli was not happy in general education, and thus did not feel the motivation to try. Without feeling that effort is worthwhile, no furtherance of education can be obtained. Eli’s parents made the right decision to allow him to pick his education. If they would have forced him to stay in a general education theory, they would be taking away his self-determination, or ability to decide his own future. Eli had dreams and aspirations, and by deciding for himself where he wanted to learn allowed him the tools to be able to work towards those dreams and hopefully some day reach them. In a classroom, many strategies can be implemented to try to help bridge the gap between students with and without disabilities and to try to help facilitate friendships among them. One strategy would be to pair up typically developing students with students with disabilities in order to help all students become comfortable with each other. This strategy would also help the students find other students whom they clique with, and thus find someone specific who they can build a foundation of friendship with. Providing background information on special education students that pertain to aspects that students at those ages find important could also help peers to become more accepting. An example of this at the high school level would be to find out if that student has a girlfriend or boyfriend and some details with that in order to provide the typically developing student with something to talk about with the student with disabilities. Having a noneducation related topic to discuss would help both students to feel more comfortable and possibly

even accepted because they can find a topic that is very common to talk about at this age, making the peer with a disability feel as though they belong. Watching the videos and reading Eli’s choice brought up many changes to the standard way of thinking about inclusion. Usually, inclusion is always seen as beneficial because it provides ‘normal’ children with exposure to all types of students, but through the examples of these cases, inclusion may not always be beneficial. The general education classroom is a great place for students with disabilities to learn interactions, however without a lot of outside help with the interactions and approval among students to view their ‘differences’ as acceptable, true benefits cannot be made. General education students may learn tolerance for students with special needs, but rarely see each other as equal. The curriculum in later years is not appropriate for students with special needs, so constant modification is necessary. While it is rarely recognized, these adjustments can increase the differences between the students, and widen the gap of being able to fit in with each other. While I personally never thought full inclusion was right for most students with disabilities, I now think that at a certain stage of schooling no general education classes are appropriate for these students, because the focus should be placed on the future skills needed for independence and survival. Extra-curricular classes should still have inclusion, but I think that the students they are included with should be chosen and not randomized because not all students are accepting of differences, and thus would just increase the acceptance gap. All students want to feel comfortable in their surroundings. If a student with disabilities feels comfortable and is benefiting from inclusion along with their peers, then that placement is appropriate. It is when their benefits are compromised that actions must be taken to either change the placement or the interaction with students so that the best education, both intellectually and socially can be achieved.

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