Much has changed in the 37 years since Congress first guaranteed access to a free and appropriate education for disabled students, as the methods and practices of educating special needs children are continually evolving as evidence and experience dictate. As researchers learn more it is important to remember that policymakers are responsible for not only creating standards and guidelines to help ensure students’ academic success, but also their social and emotional well-being. One avenue for this may lie in social inclusion.
Working with Special Olympics, the August 2013 issue of The State Education Standard explores the growing practice of social inclusion, including what it encompasses, how it is practiced in the field, and why its goals are critically important to so many people.their social and emotional well-being. One avenue for this may lie in social inclusion.
A highlight of the journal is an article by Special Olympics Chairman and CEO Timothy Shriver about progress made by Project UNIFY in bringing students of different abilities together to create supportive relationships. Project UNIFY operates in schools by integrating Special Olympics programs into a youth-led model of student engagement and focuses on developing school communities where all youth are agents of change—fostering respect, dignity and advocacy for people with intellectual disabilities.
The issue also features articles by Alexa Posny, the former head of the U.S. Education Department’s special education office, explains federal law, “least restrictive environment,” and the multifaceted academic and social benefits of inclusion; and Sharon Robinson, president and CEO of the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education, explains how policymakers can help ensure all teachers are prepared to work with all students. Other pieces in this must-read issue examine how inclusion can reduce bullying of schools’ most-vulnerable students, and the physical development benefits of inclusion in sports.
Publication of this edition of the Standard was made possible with support from Special Olympics.