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Inclusive Classrooms Versus Special Needs Classrooms: Which is Best for Your Child?

By Jenny Wise Like all parents, the parents of children with special needs are faced with their share of joys and challenges. One of the biggest questions to consider when raising a child with special needs is which education path to take. There are very polarized views in our society about how children with special needs should be educated. Of course, this is a deeply personal decision that deserves to be made by parents. It is a decision that should only be made after carefully considering what is best for their child’s unique needs and situation. While nobody can make the decision for you, there are some things you should consider to help ensure you make the best possible decision for your child. Perhaps the biggest questions parents struggle with: Would my child learn better from a specially trained instructor who specializes in special needs education or is it better to keep my child integrated with other students, including those who do not have special needs? One strong argument for placing your child in a special needs class is that the teachers of those classes have a strong professional background working with special needs students. This equips special needs teachers to better identify disabilities and to design custom-tailored learning curriculum for your child’s needs. Special needs classrooms also often have safe spaces specifically created to help children calm down during higher energy moments. However, some parents believe it is harmful to the special needs child to place them in their own separate learning environment. For many, it feels like segregation rather than equal education. As an alternative, inclusive learning environments are growing in popularity. In an inclusive learning environment, your child will be placed in a classroom with a variety of students (with or without special needs). Depending on your child’s needs, they may be able to excel in an inclusive environment, especially if they have the assistance of a trained service dog. And, of course, inclusive learning environments also always have trained special education teachers available in addition to a traditional regular education teacher. Unfortunately, not all cities have these inclusive classroom environments yet. Because inclusive education is still growing in popularity, even if you have inclusive classrooms locally, each classroom will vary greatly in methods, approaches, and the experiences of your child. Additionally, some schools only educate certain types of special needs students, such as those with mild disabilities. If your child has a moderate or more severe disability, there is a chance that he or she will still be placed in a separate special needs classroom - even in a so-called “inclusive” school. It also might be helpful to tour the school and meet potential instructors prior to making your final decision. Take note of classroom setup, the teacher’s background and experience level, and whether the classroom environment would be a good fit for your child. When it comes to children with special needs, a classroom with desks organized into small groups or “pods” can be a signal of an inclusive environment that allows abled and disabled students to work together in teams. It can feel overwhelming when you begin to take those first steps towards getting the proper education for your child with special needs. You don’t have to do it alone; there are support groups for families with special needs children, and the internet is full of helpful resources. With some research, some effort, and some soul-searching, you can find the best possible situation for your child.
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Vancouver, BC – In 2006, Aditi Patel and her parents began the process of immigrating to Canada from her native India – only to encounter an unexpected obstacle. Aditi was born with Down syndrome, and like others with the condition, in 2011, Aditi was denied entry by Immigration Canada on the grounds that her Down syndrome would place an excessive burden on the Canadian healthcare system. Four years later, after a lengthy appeal process, and with the support of Hon’ble Don Davies (MP Vancouver Kingsway), Canadian Down Syndrome Society (CDSS) and Burnaby’s Down Syndrome Research Foundation (DSRF), Aditi finally realized her dream of starting a new life in Canada. Now, with a sense of appreciation, Aditi has decided to give back to Canada. Aditi has meticulously handcrafted a beautiful Canada 150 flag, which she hopes to present to the Canadian Parliament. Canada’s Minister of Defence Hon’ble Harjit Sajjan (MP Vancouver South) and his team are helping with the necessary arrangements for a presentation event at the Parliament Hill in Ottawa, in coming weeks. Upon acceptance by the Government of Canada, this unique artifact by Aditi Patel will become a part of the Canadian Heritage. During her visit to Ottawa, Aditi will bring with her a message: health, safety, human dignity, fundamental rights and wellbeing are essential to everyone, no matter who you are. The world is made stronger through inclusivity and by recognizing unique strengths of each individual. It is time we move past labels. As Canada closes the book on its first century-and-a-half and looks ahead to the future, it’s a message worth remembering. Starting with #Canada150, Aditi has plans to do more such noble projects with altruistic goals. Follow Aditi Patel on Twitter @aditicreates and join the conversation on hashtag #storyofaflag. ### About the Down Syndrome Research Foundation: The Down Syndrome Research Foundation, based in Burnaby and active throughout the Lower Mainland, empowers individuals with Down syndrome to reach their full potential throughout life by pioneering and providing educational programs and services, grounded in foundational research. Working with researchers, professionals and families, DSRF is a bridge between research and practice. Visit for more information.
The Down Syndrome Research Foundation is proud and excited to introduce Wayne Leslie as our new Executive Director, effective October 23. Wayne will be DSRF’s third E.D., following in the footsteps of Dawn McKenna and DSRF founder Josephine Mills. Wayne comes to DSRF from BC Adaptive Snowsports where, as CEO, he led the development of a transformative new strategic plan focused on re-branding, fund development diversification, advocacy and increasing services for participants and volunteers. He also oversaw implementation of extensive fund development strategies to more than double the organization’s fundraising revenues. "It is a privilege to join DSRF and especially at a time of such meaningful change and renewed promise,” says Wayne. “It is clear that among the organization’s many strengths are a very dedicated and talented team. I am confident we'll do amazing things together and with the knowledge that what we do now will benefit individuals and families for a lifetime." If you’re in the Lower Mainland, watch for details on a “Meet the New E.D.” event in the next few months and plan to join us. Please join us in welcoming Wayne to the DSRF family. The Down Syndrome Research Foundation, based in Burnaby and active throughout the Lower Mainland, empowers individuals with Down syndrome to reach their full potential throughout life by pioneering and providing educational programs and services, grounded in foundational research. Working with researchers, professionals and families, DSRF is a bridge between research and practice. DSRF offers programs for individuals with Down syndrome from birth through early adulthood.
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Down Syndrome Research Foundation
1409 Sperling Avenue, Burnaby
British Columbia, Canada
V5B 4J8

Fax: +1 604 431 9248
Phone: +1 604 444 3773