The President and the First Lady were adamant about their program “No Child Left Behind.” While the majority of Americans seem to believe that this means minority or inner city children who simply are not interested or frustrated in learning, we need to use the emphasis of “No Child” to include the thousands of children with special needs. We need to examine how best to help these children, regardless of their needs, and whether the education we provide will help integrate them into society after school. Frankly, the idea of “Separate but Equal” did not work for African Americans, years ago. It should not necessarily be the educational law of the land.
For example, “Special needs students who attend mainstream schools are more likely to live fulfilling lives and achieve more, according to speakers at the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s first global forum on education in Santiago, Chile. Peter Evans, head of the OECD’s special education needs program, noted that children who attend special schools follow different curriculums to other students and it can then be difficult to integrate them into society when they leave school.”
Even if educators believe that children with special needs should be included in the general education classrooms, there is no doubt that sometimes, we fail to be truly fair to those special needs students. “In the public schools, services for students with disabilities are mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). One component of IDEA is the requirement that students be educated to the extent possible in the least restrictive environment (LRE). In many cases, this least restrictive environment is the general education classroom. Providing educational services in the general education classroom is often described as inclusion. There is no clear definition of what inclusion is” I know what inclusion is NOT- and that is ignoring the special needs child, and believing that merely allowing him or her to attend a general classroom session is sufficient. “Including a child with special needs in a general education setting does not mean that the child is placed in the general education classroom with no support services. For successful inclusion to take place, the student needs to receive the additional academic supports necessary to learn in the general classroom setting. Besides looking at the curricular supports needed for success, inclusion can be used to describe a school philosophy or atmosphere.”
In some cases, inclusion requires some special insight and training in new technologies which makes it possible for some severely handicapped children to participate. I hate that word: “handicapped”- Physically or sometimes mentally challenged may be more politically correct. Regardless of the term, we need to find ways to include ALL children. And that means, as teachers and counselors we need to understand- and schools may need to offer- some new learning technologies. “Known as assistive technologies, tools such as touch-screen computers, voice recognition or “talking book” software and the like, are showing up in more and more general education classrooms…. Some of the impetus comes from changes in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act mandating that schools provide appropriate accommodations (such as assistive technologies) to allow students with disabilities to attend regular education classes. Using the new technologies, some students who would not even have been placed in regular classrooms are not only present–they’re also participating in the curriculum and the camaraderie.”
Technology is making some giant strides in adapting to special needs students. “Advocates of a concept known as Universal Design for Learning (UDL) think kids learning math, reading, or other subjects should have similar options… UDL proposes that curriculum materials be designed so that students with quite different learning needs–even students who have visual or hearing limitations, cognitive disabilities, or who speak English as a second language–can access and learn the content. Instead of the teacher adapting the curriculum to meet such a wide range of learning needs, the materials themselves would have built-in ways for kids to learn the same lessons.”
We also cannot forget to involve the parents in our special needs educational planning. After all, we expect parents to be supportive of the ways in which their children can get a fair and effective education, regardless of their needs. Special parent-teacher conferences would be helpful as well as providing some means of a continuing education at homer after school where parents can keep up their child’s efforts to learn and retain that learning. What is necessary, of course, is to keep the teacher in school from, becoming a parent figure, while the parent at home should have no problems being a teacher. It is important that teachers, educators and parents get on the same page, so that parents are satisfied with the attention their children receive., Otherwise, as has already occurred, litigation may ensue. “Even given the federal mandate, many parents of children with disabilities are still not satisfied with the education being provided by the public schools and thus have continued to turn to the legal system for help. In response, many school professionals argue that litigation is unnecessary and is making the special education system even worse.”
We need to pause for a moment in our efforts to do good. We need to reflect on whether we can really see, understand and deal with the gap between regular students- that is, those without special needs, and special needs children. “Among the laughable but dangerous assumptions of many who should know better is that there need be no gap between the achievement of students with disabilities and the achievement of those who do not have disabilities. This assumption may be implicit in policy or even explicit in policy documents. Either way, it shows that someone has apparently missed the meaning of “disability.” In education, students with disabilities are those who score low on tests because of their disability. Trying to close this gap is like waving to Ray Charles.”
We are bound by federal regulations to provide good and if possible equal education to all. “Standards are intended to give students with disabilities the same rights as other
students. The Standards are based on the position that all students, including students with disabilities, should be treated with dignity and enjoy the benefits of education
and training in an educationally supportive environment that values and encourages…” 
Special education children require us as educators and their guardians during school hours to make some serious choices. Should they be part of the general class?? Can they learn? Can they influence and be influenced by their peers? Are they a distraction? And, perhaps most important of all, are these children happy and content and satisfied to be in this general classroom atmosphere?
And, while we focus on the students, we also need to look into the mirror to check our own images and our reactions to a classroom of all types of children, some of whom may need our attention more than others. Do we spend more time with special needs students to the detriment of others in the class? Will we be resented for doing so? We are living in a time when testing seems to be the priority for some school boards. The Federal government believes that periodic testing will provide them with the statistics to prove education is improving in this country, and if not, why not. How can we not ignore the majority of our students without disabilities by giving greater attention to closing this seemingly unclosable gap between them and special needs classmates?
We who are interested in special needs students need to be careful not to let our emotions overwhelm our needs to teach and guide. As we develop our lesson plans, we may need to provide some alternatives for special needs children. But, our priority needs to be to make sure Every student achieves his or her goal or learning, retaining, and growing intellectually, not merely physically.
I can see only one viable strategy for those of us involved with helping special needs students in our classes: to give them the opportunity to be better off in every possible way after they leave our semester or school year together than when they first arrived in our classrooms. Like President Bush, we should strive never to leave any child behind. Some children simply need a little more effort on our part to move ahead. We need to be ready to provide that extra effort for special needs children.
Curtis, Stephen E.: “Parents and Litigation: Insights from a Special Education Law Clinic Phi Delta Kappan, March 2005 v86 i7
Kauffman, James M.: “POINT OF VIEW: Waving to Ray Charles: Missing the Meaning of Disabilities Phi Delta Kappan, March 2005 v86 i7
Mitchell, James: “Inclusion Boosts All Students” Times Educational Supplement, Nov 4, 2005 v0 i4659 p20
Nitkin, Karen: “Power tools: ‘Assistive technologies’ help students with special needs keep pace in the regular classroom NEA Today, April 2005 v23 i7 p32(2)
Taylor, Shanon: “Special education and private schools: principals’ points of view Remedial and Special Education, Sept-Oct 2005 v26 i5 p281(16)
No author listed:” “Guidelines for Diksability Standards for Educstion”
 Michell, James: “Inclusion Boosts All Students” Times Educational Supplement, Nov 4, 2005 v0 i4659 p20
 Taylor, Shanon: “Special education and private schools: principals’ points of view Remedial and Special Education, Sept-Oct 2005 v26 i5 p282
 ibid, p. 288
 Nitkin, Karen: “Power tools: ‘Assistive technologies’ help students with special needs keep pace in the regular classroom NEA Today, April 2005 v23 i7 p33
 ibid, p. 34
 Curtis, Stephen E.: “Parents and Litigation: Insights from a Special Education Law Clinic Phi Delta Kappan, March 2005 v86 i7, p. 510
 Kauffman, James M.: “POINT OF VIEW: Waving to Ray Charles: Missing the Meaning of Disabilities Phi Delta Kappan, March 2005 v86 i7, p. 520
 No author listed:” “Guidelines for Diksability Standards for Eduation”