Guest Author: Mary Schuh
When SWIFT Center was asked to contribute to a TASH Connections issue on inclusive education, we proudly viewed this as an opportunity to connect with and reinforce the efforts of the international community of families, professionals, educators, researchers, and policy makers who have been leading the way to achieve social justice and civil rights for individuals with disabilities and their families. It has been 40+ years since the U.S. enacted legislation giving students with disabilities the right to a public education. Since that time, research has been conclusive: when all students learn together they learn more, learn faster, have increased positive social behavior, and improved post school outcomes. Yet the struggle for such equity in education continues. The struggle is most evident among children with extensive support needs, who are frequently isolated and segregated in our public school systems; provided a diluted, inferior education; denied meaningful opportunities to learn and develop relationships; and experience poorer post school outcomes than other students.
TASH has a history of promoting research, policy, and practice that addresses the barriers that prevent individuals with disabilities from achieving their rightful place in society. Because of these and the efforts of many others, our educational system is on the frontier of positive change to include all students in their neighborhood schools and general education classrooms with support. Partnerships such as the one between TASH and SWIFT Center are resulting in families, community members, and educational leaders working together to bridge the divide that traditionally separated not only students with disabilities from accessing and learning from the general education curriculum, and also separated the supports and services necessary to promote student learning.
Research shows it takes administrative leadership, a multi-tiered system of support, family and community partnerships, an integrated educational framework, and inclusive policies and practices to effectively meet the needs of ALL students, including students with disabilities and those with the most extensive needs.
In this issue of TASH Connections, you can read and learn about the research driving the work of SWIFT Center and about schools who are effectively implementing practices that are improving outcomes for all students. And, be sure to sign up for our newsletter on swiftschools.org and check out all of our social media options to stay up to date with the latest information supporting All Means All!