LETTER: Consequences of special needs students in regular classes

Clamour for inclusion when it is obvious to most that it does not work for many of the special needs student

In response to the Nov. 6 News article, “Parents say survey drew hurtful comments”:

My heart goes out to the parents of learning disabled children, but perhaps not for the reason they voiced in this article. Instead of criticizing the school district for the open approach to discussing how they might improve special needs programs, they should actually be grateful. The parents are right to be concerned about how their special needs (SN) children are suffering in the classroom situation, but they need to know how others see the consequences of having them there.

If 53 respondents highlighted the comment, “students with behavioural and learning disabilities consume too much teacher time, and there should be only one or two such students in each class…”, then one ought to realize there may be a problem here. Hiding the responses, or preventing them from being expressed does not ensure that a problem will not exist.

As a teacher and school administrator with about five decades of experience in education, it troubles me to see so many children in regular classes who really need to be in a segregated class with a teacher trained to provide the kind of program they need. The classroom is a place of learning, not a social setting. Not only can ‘regular’ students lose out when too many special needs students are placed in the classroom, but so too do the SN students.

I really feel sorry for the teacher who is expected to manage a class that is composed of so many students needing special programming. I cannot understand why there is such a clamour for inclusion, when it is obvious to most that it does not work for many of the special needs students.

Parents have been convinced that this is the only or best way to handle their needs, seemingly oblivious of the problems their own children experience, let alone the others.

Segregated classes in the regular school setting provide the best opportunity for learning and social needs for most special needs students. I say most, since there is no one-size-fits-all in education; some, but not most, SN children can thrive in the regular classroom.

Before one dismisses my comments, it should be noted that the high response numbers in the board’s open gathering of information are entirely similar to that I have received from many parents, teachers and special education professionals in private conversation with me.

Many of them are afraid to publicly criticize what is promoted as an ideal situation, but I have never backed away from drawing attention to what I think is misguided thinking.

Allan Garneau

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