LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - In public schools across East Texas there are children with physical, mental and emotional challenges. In Lufkin, there are about 1200 special education students. Those who are capable are taught in regular classrooms for part or all of the day. early intervention is helping more students reach that goal.
It's helping Aubrie McDonald, a four year old who loves stretching out on the floor playing with friends. You 'd probably have to ask why she's in a special needs class.
"Her disability is she has chromosome number 7, part of it has been deleted. She also has a disorder where her brain doesn't tell her mouth how to form to say the letters and make the sounds that most children do," Carmen McDonald, Aubrie's mother explains.
Since she was a toddler, Aubrie has received speech, physical and occupational therapy in Lufkin's special education program. Teachers are amazed most everyday. "Can you say nose?," asks McDonald. Very quietly, aubrie says, "nose."
Aubrie's progression is allowing her to attend a regular pre kindergarten class. For two hours a day, she's an inclusion student. "Go sit on your square," instructs her teacher.
It's a big step for Aubrie and her mom. "I was a little nervous. I had a little bit of problem with her communication. How's this teacher going to know what my daughter needs," McDonald admits. "Even though she's not as verbal as the other kids, she gets her point across very well," Summer Garcia, Aubrie's teacher assures.
The inclusion allows Aubrie to be with children her own age, face the routine of a regular classroom and most of all learn by watching. Aubrie mimics the other children as they count to ten.
Inclusion is also credited for making special needs children feel welcomed. Sadly, many special needs children feel secluded. Special education instructors say another benefit of inclusion is it provides friendship.
And friendship means a lot to older students like Mykeesha. She's been in partial inclusion since she was Aubrie's age. When asked why is it important to have friends, all kinds of friends?, she answers, "Because they are nice to me and they always come to me and talk to me."
Acceptance is important as older special needs children reach adult hood. Even minimal inclusion has helped some of the students in Lufkin's special ed work program gain confidence. "I want to get my own job," says one worker.
Aubrie is a long way from getting a job. Right now she's enjoying her new friends, who have clearly accepted for who she is.
Just as there are programs supporting inclusion. There are also arguments very much against it. Common complaints heard from teachers include limited resources, training or support to teach students with disabilities in their classrooms.
One teaching organization in Florida published, "The disabled children are not getting appropriate, specialized attention and care, and the regular students' education is disrupted constantly."