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Parents of Students with Intellectual Disabilities Fight for Inclusion

As the mental health debate heats up in schools, students with intellectual disabilities from their peers face continued stigma as they remain isolated.

For the past three decades, public schools have supposedly been doing their best to keep students with intellectual disabilities with their peers in a regular education setting. However, research shows that between 55 and 73 percent of those with intellectually disabilities still spend most or all of their day in segregated placements. By not developing those social skills children are being set up for an unsettled future.


"Given the legal mandate, it is surprising that such a large proportion of students are consistently placed in restrictive settings," said Matthew Brock, an assistant professor of special education at The Ohio State University who worked on the study. Brock's study will be published in the American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.

During the '90s and the first decade of the 21st century the education world has pushed for school districts to integrate students with intellectual disabilities into mainstream or regular education settings. By 2010, 18 percent of students with intellectual disabilities were spending at least 80 percent of their day in general education classes, but that has leveled off. In his report, Brock admitted that it is not realistic to have all students with disabilities be exclusively in general education classes, but he thinks "we need to find opportunities for all kids to spend some time with peers who don't have disabilities if we are going to follow the spirit and letter of the law."

Liza Long, a mental health advocate and author of "The Price of Silence: A Mom's Perspective on Mental Illness," in an op-ed compared fighting for the rights of children to being in a war. As tragic mass shootings in schools gained more prevalence in the American media, parents of neuro-typical students have been wary of their children being in the same classroom as students with both intellectual disabilities and behavioral disorders. But this practice only attaches an even greater stigma to students with intellectual disabilities.

According to Long, "What is the logical consequence of taking 100 students with behavioral and emotional symptoms between the ages of 12 to 21, 95% of whom are male, and putting them together in a program that will not allow them to earn a high school diploma or to learn to interact with neurotypical peers?

"In our society, too often the consequence is prison."

So what is the answer? Schools must fight against the disorder by equipping themselves with proper treatment plans and early prevention strategies which could change the trajectory of a student's future from a life of uncertainty and despair to becoming a productive member of society.

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