In Spring of 1998 PBS did a segment on a family that had a non-verbal autistic son. He was school age at the time and these parents wanted this child integrated into a normal classroom. It started out this way and then the school made a fuss about things saying that he needed to be moved full time to the “special education” department of the school. The parents would not stand for it. They even sued the school and tried to get the Supreme Court to hear their case. This did not happen. However, this family took their son to another school that willingly gave him a full time aid and helps him be integrated into the classroom with his peers.
His aid made comments about the fact that this boy communicates in his own way but he does communicate. He also can do more than what the other school was asking of him. At the old school this autistic boy was given tasks that just whittled the time away but never really could have been called “education”. He was simply stacking blocks and other tasks of similar nature. At his new school he goes along with his peers, follows along with reading assignments and more.
Prior to 1978 students with disabilities were completely segregated and put into special education programs without a thought. No one dreamed of integrating these children into a normal classroom. However, what has now been realized is that the students who are not disabled learn a lot in ways that are not so academic about acceptance, tolerance, and understanding. It doesn’t hurt that we also see progress in the disabled student when they are integrated with their peer group.