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Mainstream or Not to Mainstream?

Mainstream or not to mainstream? That is the question! I've had parents and educators ask me this question a lot.

At the end of the day, it is based on several factors: Is the school trained on special education laws and working with the neurodiverse population? Is the individual education team (IEP) team able to provide services that meet a student's individual needs (ex: ABA therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy)? Does the school teach not just academics but also teach skills in daily living, communication, play, social, etc.?

From my own personal experiences, I started out in a specialized school for autistic and multiple disabilities called Children's Center of Monmouth County. This was when my family and I first moved to New Jersey from New York in 2001. The school taught me more of the skills that were not as much academics. By 2nd grade, I had progressed tremendously that the school's IEP wanted me to attend a public school in the Marlboro Township Public School district since it's my zoned district. My parents were nervous at first but followed through. They knew the moment I visited Frank J. Dugan Elementary School and met my teacher, Miss DwYnGeart (now Mrs. Hemschoot), one day in 2nd grade was when they felt more comfortable and ready for me. I attended public schooling from 3rd grade on. In 3rd grade, it was more focused on academics, but I got services as I was placed in a self-contained classroom with students with all kinds of disabilities. By middle school, I was mainstream starting in 7th grade. The first subject I was placed in in general education was math. Math was my strong suit, and it carried on during my school years. The IEP team in my middle school, Marlboro Middle School, believed in me that I could be included with regular peers in the classroom and helped me gain more skills like social skills, such as making and maintaining a group of best friends. In my high school years, I mainstreamed in all subjects.

The point is that it depends on the individual needs of a neurodiverse child when it comes to mainstreaming or not. I have neurodiverse friends who were always in special education classrooms and have been successful in college and/or work full time. It's important to advocate for your neurodiverse child or student.

What questions do you have about mainstreaming in the education system? Share your questions and thoughts in the comments section!


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