Sunday, May 15, 2005


Diamonds Not Dinosaurs

We have in Hamilton County three gems that have been consistently supported by the voters of this county. Those "diamonds" are the Hamilton County MRDD schools: Frederick Breyer, Bobbie Fairfax and Margaret Rost Schools. Our country decided to provide an education for ALL children with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 1974. Hamilton County was actually already providing for special needs children before that through MRDD schools. With this history of progressive thinking we hate to see our community take a step backward. Inclusion opportunities are wonderful for some children, but they do not represent the "least restrictive environment" for all.

Unfortunately, the educational pendulum of inclusion has labeled MRDD schools and those that support them, "dinosaurs". With that thinking, many well meaning people in education are not providing families with information on all of their educational options. MRDD schools should be allowed and expected to present their schools as a viable option. This is not being done because of a County Commissioner’s Tax Levy Review Committee stipulation that "no new programs be started that might attract new enrollees".

Now the plan is to discard one of the "diamonds".We are begging to keep the educational opportunity options available that we have now. With the closing of an MRDD school other placement options will be encouraged (inclusion or MRDD Satellites) and a detrimentally crowded situation will be in the two remaining schools making it difficult to achieve Individualized Education Plan (IEP) goals. These other placements are NOT equivalent to the MRDD schools.

These MRDD schools provide: specially trained teachers and staff in all areas; adapted physical education, art and music from certified people experienced with special needs; there are Physical, Occupational, Speech and Behavioral Therapists on site; a nurse is available at the school at all times to deal with medically fragile children, seizures, and feeding issues. Every part of each building is accessible and has specialized equipment (communication devices, sensory rooms, enclosed outside play areas, life skills equipment).

Do you know that certified regular education teachers do not need to have special education training? With a population of like peers, specialized events or activities are possible where the special needs child is the norm like Breyer Adapted Irish Dance Team, Fairfax Singing Fingers, Sitting Teams, Prom and Special Event Days.For years the three MRDD schools have prepared people to achieve to the best of their abilities because the staff has been trained to deal with special needs issues.

Very few "other options" (local public school or satellites) truly can duplicate what is available at Breyer, Rost or Fairfax. If the "secret" of what a wonderful job the MRDD staff does could be brought out the enrollment numbers may not even be an issue.

We are NOT against inclusion. It works well for many children. We are for options! Please contact the Hamilton County Commissioners and the MRDD Board and Administration to tell them you have voted with your heart to support the children with disabilities and do not want to see their services cut or their education options eliminated.In the era of "No Child Left Behind", without these MRDD schools our children will be LEFT BEHIND!-submitted by Robby's Mom
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melissa m said...

Our daughter has a genetic syndrome with a wide range of mental and behavioral disabilities. She has been included in a typical school and , though the principal,special education teachers and her aides, work very hard and she has gained greatly academically (she is in 5th grade),I do not think she ever really felt "included" in the school past the preschool years '
(which is set up for special needs of children-all children). With the exception of third grade where she had an amazing regular teacher who worked hard at including her( no guess that that was a great year for our daughter and, unfortunately, that awesome teacher left to be a special needs teacher. Unfortunately for us-she's at a different school). We hardly have any communication with the regular teachers and our daughter is often out off the classroom(she does have behavior issues that require her to leave at times). My point, and I do have one, is that this next year she is to transfer to middle school and I really am not encouraged by the inclusion program in our community. However, the only other option is a MRDD school which is so very restricted and we basically were told that our daughter would not get the academic teachings she would require. All the students were in need of a much more restricted environment than our daughter will need. In other words we have no place for her to really succeed. Has Inclusion made it so that children like my daughter who probably cannot handle the typical middle school but who also do not fit into the MRDD schools fall through the cracks? Why cannot the MRDD schools find a place for children who are on the higher end of the learning spectrum(moderate) but who have behavior problems (OCD!, ANXIETY! impulsive behavior-hitting, spitting...)severe. I feel that our daughter is in such a gray area in a world of black and white. We don't know where to go where she can feel safe, secure and get a good education.

Elisabeth's Mom said...

You've brought up a very good point. Mainstreaming is not working for a lot of our children and as a result, they are falling through the cracks. How did we ever arrive at this delusion that somehow all kids fit perfectly into these nice little compartments? That all children should measure up to "one size fits all?"

As a society, we need to get over "what they should be learning" and focus more on "how they learn."

Instead of using funds to prepare and test our children for their proficiency in school subjects, I would like to see this money be used to create "learning" environments that promote opportunities for children who are on the higher end of the learning spectrum but have behaviors that prevent them from reaching their potential.

Does that make sense?