Lately, there have been many stories in the news about children who were in special education classrooms and who were being mistreated. Some believe that the solution is to integrate students who have special needs into mainstream classrooms. What is the best way to do that?
Recently, a father wanted to know what was happening in his son’s classroom that was causing him to have violent outbursts. He sent his son, who has autism, to school with a hidden audio recording device. The six hours of audio revealed that his son was being bullied by his teachers.
In January of this year, it was discovered that an elementary school in Connecticut was using what are now being called “scream rooms” as a form of discipline with students who had special needs. Basically, the child would be locked into a small, isolated, “seclusion room” whenever the child was considered to have gotten “out of control”. Often, a child who is placed in one of these rooms will scream, hence the name.
NPR recently had an episode of “Talk of the Nation” that was released on May 2, 2012. In this episode, the host speaks with two guests about special education. It appears that incidents like the ones described above are mostly happening to children who are in classrooms that only have special education students in them. It doesn’t happen to kids with special needs who have been placed into mainstream classrooms.
Host Jennifer Ludden speaks with guest Claudio Sanchez, who is NPR’s education correspondent. She also speaks with guest Thomas Hehir, the former director of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs. The two share their ideas about the best way to mainstream students who have special needs, about how budget cuts affect special education programs, and about the need for improvement in training mainstream teachers about how to work with students who have special needs.
When this program aired, it was allowing parents and teachers to call in and share their personal experiences with special education. Some parents shared horror stories about how a school mistreated their child. Some teachers talked about having special needs students placed into their classroom without being given any training about how to best work with them. Clearly, this is an area of education that needs a lot of work. Parents of kids with special needs might want to give this particular episode of “Talk of the Nation” a listen.
Image by David Schott on Flickr