US report on intellectual disabilities

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US report

[Cover photo © Phil Roeder]

“Strenthening an inclusive pathway for people with intellectual disabilities and their families” – Key education recommandations from US report

Catia Malaquias

Strenthening an inclusive pathway for people with intellectual disabilities and their families” – Some key education recommandations from report to President Obama 

Although this Report was prepared in relation to the American legal and policy context – which in numerous respects is different to the Australian context which is framed by the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act 1992 and influenced by Australia’s ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – the Report makes many points and recommendations that resonate with the Australian experience and context.

The covering letter dated 4 August 2016 from the Chair of the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disability (PCPID) to President Obama enclosing the Report (Click here to read it) states:

Despite the efforts of people with intellectual disabilities, their family members, and the greater disability community, people with intellectual disabilities are often directed to a path that leads to limited work, isolation from their community, and limited options to pursue a full life.

The members of the President’s Committee believe it is time to change that path.  It is time to integrate the trajectory for people with intellectual disabilities with the path of all citizens.  It is time to meld together the supports people with intellectual disabilities need with the education, services, supports, and opportunities to which all other American citizens have access.  It is time for people with intellectual disabilities to follow a truly inclusive trajectory that will create the opportunities to be included, to be full participants, to live independently, and to be economically self-sufficient.

In relation to the general topic of education the Executive Summary to the Report highlights the importance of families with a child with intellectual disability (ID) being given up-to-date information as to the possibilities for their child and the need to end segregated education settings and apply universal design for learning principles in teaching (each matters previously emphasised in SWJ IncludED for the Australian context – see links at the end of this article).  The Executive Summary states:

        “1. Family engagement early on in the process to support high expectations for students with disabilities

To begin, families of newborns and children with disabilities must be provided with the knowledge and supports to learn the possibilities for their children with ID. While strong messages regarding inclusion and high expectations come from many experienced families, self-advocates, and the greater disability community, families may still hear antiquated messages about their children’s options.  To combat these outdated messages and to provide families with the support and knowledge they need to help create the best opportunities for their children with ID, PCPID recommends a coordinated effort on the part of executive branch agencies to communicate as early as possible with families about the available supports and possibilities for their children with ID related to education, employment, health, and inclusive community living.

  1. Federal Education Policies and enforcement strategies to end segregation in schools

The President’s Committee also found that education is a key component to directing young people with ID to a path of full citizenship and inclusion in their communities.  Though great strides have been made to improving the academic outcomes for students with disabilities, challenges remain.  Students with ID are often excluded from the general education classrooms, have significantly lower graduation rates, and rarely participate in postsecondary education. PCPID recommends that all education settings be made more accessible, particularly using principles of universal design for learning, as well as improving the preparation for all teachers to be able to be able to address the educational achievement needs of children with disabilities.”

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