Politicians, educators and parents in Englewood (near Denver) and Boulder Colorado are miles ahead of those who live and work in most cities in the U.S. and Canada.
Why? Because they seem to recognize that not all children and youth should be thrown into regular classrooms in the “belief” that kids with special needs cannot be prepared for a successful life outside a regular classroom setting.
In Canada, we refer to that “ideology” as inclusiveness or integration, while in the U.S. it’s called “mainstreaming.”
As the school’s About TJS page indicates, the school provides ABA therapy and a wide variety of programming options for kids aged 2 1/2 to 21. Plus, all decisions are based on the assessed learning and treatment needs of the children and youth in their care — what professionals are now referring to as evidence-based treatment (particularly in medicine).
Why is that type of decision-making relevant? Because it bases programming and therapy decisions, not on any particular philosophy, or saving money, but on exactly, or as close as possible, to what each child or youth in their care needs.
On the inclusive integration debate, check out what Paul Bennett wrote at EduChatter last spring, as well as what I wrote regarding Harold Doherty’s radio interview on the Province of New Brunswick’s near obsession for one-size fits all.
However, change could be in the air in Canada, New Brunswick in particular, given we are “finally” starting to hear alternative points of view. As Doherty posted a couple of days ago at Facing Autism in NB, Yude M. Henteleff made a presentation at the Atlantic Human Rights Conference on June 15th, 2012 about the necessity for a new special education placement “paradigm” that would widen the concept of inclusiveness.
What might such a new concept of inclusiveness look like? Well, it wouldn’t be based on the rigid ideology popular now that a regular classroom is the least restrictive environment. In actual fact, a single option like that is the very opposite of inclusion — rigid and inflexible. As this online definition of inclusive states, inclusive actually means comprehensive within a wide scope, such as the numbers from 1 to 10 are inclusive of all the numbers in between.
Anyway, my point for writing this post about The Joshua School is to provide a concrete example of what Henteleff’s new paradigm of inclusion might look like. It is inclusive because children with special needs are placed in a wide range of situations that are based on their age, their grade and their their special “diagnosed” needs.
My congratulations to Doherty, Henteleff and Joshua’s Board of Directors, for being ahead of the curve and getting it right!