Alexa pictured with 4th grade class

I’ve always thought of my Mom as a “forward thinking” person. Before I was even born, she was a special education teacher. Based on the stories she’s told me, she did not think the same way as most special education teachers at that time (in the 1980s). While the other special education teachers in her district were teaching their students in separate classrooms, my Mom’s classroom was empty. She was busy making accommodations for her students to be included in the regular classrooms. It didn’t make sense to her that her students should be taught in a separate classroom, when they could be with their peers, using accommodations.

So, when I was born, my Mom saw no reason why I couldn’t be included in mainstream classes. This thinking also had a major positive influence on my Dad as well. My parents worked together to make sure I had the right accommodations to be included. We were “paving the way,” because where I lived, in some, if not most cases, I was the only person with a significant disability to participate in typical classes in my elementary school. I feel the fact that I was included right from the start significantly helped lead to my success in competitive, integrated employment.

I was surrounded by peers who talked about what they wanted to be when they grew up. They were encouraged by the teachers to dream and set the bar high. This continued through middle school and high school, where I was around people talking about college and jobs, so naturally, I set the same competitive goals for myself. Statistically, this does not happen for people with disabilities who are taught in a segregated setting.

According to The National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS), “Inclusive education has also been shown to have a positive impact on employment outcomes. A 1988 study by Affleck et al., spanning fifteen years, found that students with disabilities educated in inclusive settings had an employment rate of 73 percent while those in segregated programs had an employment rate of 53 percent. Ferguson and Asch (1989) found that the more time students with disabilities spent in regular classes, the more they achieved as adults in employment and continuing education. In its 1997 annual report to Congress, the US Department of Education noted: “across a number of analyses of post-school results, the message was the same: those who spent more time in regular education experienced better results after high school.” As nearly all employment settings are them-selves inclusive, involving people with and without disabilities, it is easy to imagine why inclusive education has a positive impact on employment outcomes.”

By Alexa Brill

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