School inclusion for children with Down syndrome

To read on Huffington Post US website:

Inclusion Matters For All Students

12/12/2016 By Brian Freeman & Todd Grindal

School inclusion

Like most 13-year-olds, Aiden Killoran just wants to go to school with his friends and siblings. Last fall, as he attempted to join his elementary school classmates in moving on to middle school, he was barred from entering the school building. Aiden had not broken any school rules or done anything to endanger his classmates or teachers. The sole reason his neighborhood school denied Aiden access was because he has Down syndrome.

Aiden’s story is not unique (see here, here, and here). Children with Down syndrome are frequently turned away from their neighborhood schools and forced to attend segregated programs for students with disabilities. More than 40 years after the federal government guaranteed the right of students with disabilities to a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment, more than half of students who are classified as having an intellectual disability (typically the official special education designation for students with Down syndrome), are educated in classrooms segregated from their non-disabled peers.

School officials often claim that attending a specialized school is in the student’s best interest.

Research suggests that this is not true.

In a systematic review of the research evidence released this week, we find clear and consistent evidence that inclusive educational settings can confer substantial short- and long-term benefits for students with and without disabilities. Among students with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities, inclusive education has been repeatedly shown to support academic development, particularly in the areas of language and literacy. These inclusion-related differences can be substantial, with one study reporting that included students were approximately two and a half years ahead of their segregated peers on measures of expressive language and more than three years ahead in reading, writing, and literacy skills. In addition, included students with intellectual disabilities were nearly twice as likely as their non-included peers to enroll in some form of post-secondary education. Further, the report provides evidence that participating in inclusive settings can yield social and emotional benefits for students with disabilities. Such social and emotional benefits can include forming and maintaining positive peer relationships, which have important implications for a child’s learning and psychological development.

Despite the clear evidence of the benefits of inclusive educational placements for students with Down syndrome, some parents of non-disabled students may fear that inclusion will impede the development of their children.

Again, our review of the research evidence suggests that this is generally not the case.

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