Thursday, August 14, 2014

What is Self-Contained? How would you handle it?

     I often wonder how many parents actually give that a thought.  How many whose child(ren) have special educational or healthcare needs actually know what a "self-contained" classroom is all about.  Oftentimes, these classes are called "special classes", the "special ed[ucation] class".  At the same time they are looked upon negatively. 

     In my research and coursework, I recently read something that made me think about Kerstin's school.  "Many of the students who were in special education were often isolated in the least desirable locations within the schools" (Losen and Orfield, 2002).  Previous posts and letters submitted to the local paper can attest to this being a sad reality in my daughter's school. 

     Special education classrooms or the self-contained classrooms are defined as: 

 Self contained classrooms are classrooms specifically designated for children with disabilities. Self contained programs are usually indicated for children with more serious disabilities who may not be able to participate in general education programs at all. These disabilities include autism, emotional disturbances, severe intellectual disabilities, multiple handicaps and children with serious or fragile medical conditions.

These classrooms are NOT designated to be an afterthought, a catch all storage area, a place to put students because they have behavioral issues.  There are areas for all of those.  They are called an actual part of the school environment, a storage closet and the behavioral management classroom.  If that type of class is not available, maybe one should be invested in.  

     While wondering what other parents knew and thought of the self-contained classrooms, I also wondered what would happen if others, particularly the decision-makers had to spend a day in these classroom that are placed in the "less desirable parts of the schools?  Can you imagine that?  I cannot count the times I've pictured the special education coordinator especially and maybe even other school board and leaders, having to use a wheelchair and not being able to get out of the chair unless it was the for purpose of using the restroom.  How would you handle it?

     How would you handle an entire school day in a wheelchair with no other seating option in the "self-contained" classroom?  Bean bag flattened and no longer supportive for a child with little to no trunk control.  How would you handle being segregated from your peers and not interacting with others that do not have a disability or special educational need?  

     I don't think that would be a comfortable feeling!  I'll say it again, my daughter does NOT live a self-contained life and she will not attend school and on a daily basis be expected to do so there.  

     Please do not misunderstand me on this.  The classrooms are needed!  They need to be an environment that is conducive to learning and tailored to assist with the needs of the students that they are there for.  Not an afterthought!

More to come...

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