Mainstreaming a Child with Down Syndrome

I have a seven-year-old daughter with Down Syndrome. She just finished kindergarten. I am concerned that there will not be an aide in first grade and that she will spend much of her day in the resource room for special instruction. If she needs to be in a smaller group setting with a special education teacher in order to learn a subject better, that is fine with me, but I also want her to experience being in the classroom on a regular basis. We live in Kentucky. Do you know what the laws are regarding mainstreaming (with a teacher aide) in this situation?

Question:

Thank you for your letter. Rachel sounds like a wonderful little girl with very supportive, loving parents. I understand your concern for your daughter's educational experience and hope that I can offer some advice and information that may help you.

The Education of the Handicapped Act, Public Law (P.L.) 94-142 was passed by Congress in 1975 and amended by P.L. 99-457 in 1986. The intent of the law is to ensure that all children with disabilities receive a free and appropriate public education that would meet their individual, unique needs. In order to meet the requirements of this law, your child's school and district must offer your daughter the most appropriate education for her needs as a child with Down Syndrome.

As a parent of a child in the Special Education program, you should be aware of your rights. Rachel's school should be developing an Individualized Educational Program (IEP) for her annually. As the parent of a Special Education student, you have the right to agree or disagree to the IEP designed for your child.

While it's possible that there may be a precedent in your school and/or district regarding the amount of time that a Down Syndrome student is mainstreamed in a classroom versus special education instruction, I do not believe that there is an explicit rule governing that. The law requires that a special education student be in the least restrictive environment for academic success. Your state's Department of Education may have more detailed laws in place.

I think that you should set up an appointment with the special education teacher and/or IEP team at your school to discuss your concerns regarding the amount of time that your daughter will be mainstreamed in the classroom with a teacher's aide. This could even be discussed at Rachel's annual IEP meeting, particularly if you believe that the recommendations made by the team are not in Rachel's best interest.

For more information on Special Education regulations and procedures in Kentucky, contact:

• Division of Exceptional Children Services
Kentucky Department of Education
Capitol Plaza Tower, 8th Floor
Frankfort, KY 40601

• Down Syndrome Axis of Kentucky, Inc.
3713 Fallen Timber Drive
Louisville, KY 40241-1620

I think that working with the Special Education staff at your daughter's school will provide you with a satisfactory outcome, particularly if you share with them your concerns about her educational experience. I have worked with two Down Syndrome children in mainstreamed classrooms, both of whom have had full-time teacher's aides working with them. The same situation could work in Rachel's case.

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