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Special Rights Program

Frequently Asked Questions

Families Ask About Inclusion of Children With Special Rights

The purpose of this document it to address questions that families raise about inclusion of children with special rights.The purpose of this document it to address questions that families raise about inclusion of children with special rights.

  1. What is inclusion? How is it defined at EPCS?
    At the Children's School, diversity and inclusion are at the heart of our efforts and beliefs. We define inclusion to mean the creation of a classroom and school community that respects and supports all dimensions of human differences, including culture, linguistic, ability, learning styles, ethnicity, family culture, religion, gender, age, and socio-economic. We do this by valuing our similarities as well as our differences. Inclusion of children with learning differences is one aspect of inclusion.

    This noble goal is not always easy to put into practice in a school. It is not enough to just bring people together in the same building from different walks of life; it involves creating a community culture that supports a range of differences including different opinions, values, and perspectives. It involves listening carefully to others, learning from each other, and being able to agree to disagree in non-judgmental ways.
  2. What is it like to have a child attend an inclusion school?
    An inclusion school can provide a safe environment where questions can be both asked and answered. Children are encouraged to take notice of their peers' strengths and expertise and at the same time to learn that everyone is working on doing something better. It is a place where differences are normalized and families can be proud of their uniqueness. Exposure to differences and open discussion can lead to greater acceptance of the unfamiliar and build a strong community. Families are exposed to a team approach where children are at the center of the team. In an inclusion school parents help to insure that all of the children's needs are met, not only the needs of their own child. Families make extra efforts to learn about the unique qualities within other families at the school. There are life-long benefits for children and their families.
  3. What types of special rights do children have at EPCS?
    There are children in each classroom at the Children's School who have both "visible and invisible" special rights. Each child with identified special rights has an Individual Educational Plan (IEP) written in conjunction with the child's school district. The IEP includes strengths, goals, and therapeutic interventions that will help the child to attain the goals. Some of the visible special rights may include cerebral palsy, blindness, hearing impairment, or Down syndrome. Other special rights such as communication delays, behavioral or emotional needs may not be as visible to the greater community. Some children's learning differences are identified after they enroll at the Children's School. We work closely with families and their local public school for evaluations and services.
  4. Why do you say "special rights" rather than special needs?
    All children have rights and are full of potential. They are competent, full of life, powerful, and not needy. Using the term "rights" over "needs" emphasizes the special qualities each child brings. While studying the municipal preschools in Reggio Emilia, Italy, we learned about their use of the phrase "special rights" to describe children with special needs or "disabilities," the term used by the MA and US Departments of Education. We are using this term at the Children's School, as it captures our beliefs about children with learning differences.
  5. How many children with special rights are in any given class?
    There is no designated number of children in each class with special rights. We feel there is value in all children learning together and we feel well equipped to serve children with special rights, having many years of experience, specialists on staff, teachers who have coursework and experience with children with special rights, and a coordinator for this program. There are two teachers in each classroom throughout the year and Tufts students during specific times. At times, a child may have an Individual Education Plan that calls for an Instructional Aide. The Instructional Aide interacts with all of the children in the class to support inclusion.
  6. Can I find out about which children have special rights and what their differences are?
    State and federal laws that protect their confidentiality protect children with special rights. Staff members discuss a child's learning issues only with the child's parents. Families often have strong ideas about how and when they want to share information about their child's special rights. At times, some parents have written a letter to the other parents in their child's classroom to give them information that will support friendships, classroom interactions and play dates outside of school. The letters may address dietary restrictions, facilitating peer interactions, safety issues and general medical information. The letters are appreciated and have been excellent resources for the school community. Other families prefer to keep information about their child private, until they are ready to share more openly with the classroom or school community. It is our policy to take the lead from families and to provide support in their decisions about disclosing individual needs. Classroom teachers and school administrators are good resources for helping to share information when families are ready to do so.
  7. What can I do as a parent when my child asks questions about children's differences?
    Children are taught through concrete experiences coupled with emotional events. To demystify differences, provide children with simple, straightforward answers to their questions in a direct, matter-of-fact, brief manner. Listen carefully to what children are asking and what they are feeling. While it is important to not over respond, don't ignore their questions, sidestep, change the subject or admonish the child for asking a question. Be aware that often children are asking how the difference will affect them. Feel free to discuss this with your child's teacher.
  8. Can I be sure that my child will receive attention from the teacher?
    The teacher-student ratio allows children to receive the attention (s) he needs when they need it. In addition, there are specialists such as occupational, physical and speech/language therapists who work in the classroom with children with Individual Education Plans, who have identified special rights and their peers. All children benefit from their expertise. All children need attention at different times of the day and for different areas of the curriculum.
  9. How can teachers meet the needs of diverse learners?
    How can teachers structure activities so that children with varying abilities can participate?

    Teachers have extensive training and ongoing professional development. The process of meeting the needs of a wide range of learners in the classroom is called "differentiated instruction." In this kind of classroom, learning environments are carefully and deliberately designed to address the diversity of learning styles, levels of readiness and interests within any group of children. The curriculum is varied with multiple entry points, and multiple learning materials to address a range of learners. Flexibility is a hallmark of a differentiated classroom, what is taught, how it is taught, and how learning is assessed are done in different ways depending on the strengths and needs of the learner.
  10. How does the school support subtle or invisible differences?
    The adults in the classroom demonstrate that they value diversity and support children in comfortably interacting with differences- whether the differences are obvious or more subtle. Obvious differences like a person in a wheel chair, or person who is blind or deaf, are often easier for children to understand. They can see a child is in a wheel chair, and a simple explanation such as, "their legs do not work like yours so they use a wheel chair to move around" makes sense. Other kinds of differences like a child with emotional or behavioral problems, or a child who has difficulty sitting still and listening to a story because they have a shorter attention span are often harder for children to understand. Teachers use the simple language to explain all kinds of differences. They talk with children about what is best to support each child's learning i.e. "Maia uses the bean bag chair so she can listen to the story better." Or "Tom is taking a break now to calm down and will come back when he is ready to join the group." When explanations are given in very matter of fact and natural way, children learn to accept we all have differences and this is what we need to do. In the beginning of the year children and teachers also generate basic rules of respect together for the classroom that encompasses all kinds of differences.
  11. Who can answer my questions about inclusion at EPCS?
    Parents can raise questions with the classroom teacher, director and associate director. If there does not seem to be a good time to talk when you bring your child to school, you may email, leave a note, or call and suggest some good times to talk. There are also resources available through the Parent Teacher Advisory Board (PTAB) and the Friends and Families of Children with Special Rights Group.
  12. Where can I get more information about inclusion?
    The parent resource library near the front desk is a good place to begin. There are books that about specific special needs such as ADHD, Asperger's Syndrome, cerebral palsy, language development and sensory integration. Parent-Teacher Advisory Board meetings often focus on inclusion. The Friends and Families of Children with Special Rights group, often called The Friends Group, meets monthly and invites participation from the EP community. Many families welcome inquiries about their child's special rights and are wonderful resources to the school community. Families who have been at the school in previous years may also be good resources.
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