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'Full Inclusion' Debate Involves Abilities, Rights

August 07, 1994

* After reading your article "Teachers Balk at Full Inclusion of Disabled Students" (July 19), I'm left with a sense of sadness for my daughter, who happens to have Down's syndrome, as well as all the other youngsters whose educability is being measured on their "disabilities" rather than their abilities.

Full inclusion is a concept that should have been enveloped by our school officials, teachers, parents and community decades ago. Full inclusion supports not only the letter of the law but also the spirit. What full inclusion offers is the same opportunity we offer all other youngsters: a chance to learn and grow in the least restrictive environment possible.

Our educational system is suffering from a number of ailments, including large budget cuts, increased class size, violence and lack of parental involvement and support. Our teachers have been asked to take on the burden of providing a quality education while their resources and support are being cut at every corner. These are the real problems that need to be dealt with, but not at the expense of a very large group of people who deserve equal rights and opportunities.

What those educators who balk at full inclusion need to be made aware of are the many fiscal and educational benefits that all students will reap through thoughtfully administered full inclusion programs. There are many full inclusion programs throughout Orange County that are win-win situations for everyone involved. These programs need to be recognized and even used as models in establishing full inclusion programs across the board.

SANDI AMES

Costa Mesa

* Our hearts naturally go out to parents of children who are adjudged special needs students. At the same time, there are many of us Californians who remember well the days our state ranked, educationally, among the top in the nation. Today we have plummeted near the bottom.

The cause of this, of course, comes from many, many factors. An obvious contributor, however, is classroom overcrowding (to unmanageable proportions) forced on our teachers. Add to this an ever-growing demand by some parents that their handicapped child be totally integrated within their public school. The many disruptions such a youngster can create in his class can only diminish that teacher's instructional ability and time for the other class members. There can be no other result, more especially now because budgetary restraints make teachers' aides fewer.

Some parents of these children are coming both from hidden agendas of their own as well as a state of denial. But what is paramount, and what the issue really boils down to, is the interests of the majority and that it be best served. At the present time it is being sadly abused.

In California, a special education youngster is provided a teacher trained in special needs and with special materials. Such a youngster receives a far better education in this setting.

SALLY TWOMBLY

Corona del Mar

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