Wednesday, May 20, 2015

SUPPORT THE DRAFT INCLUSIVE EDUCATION POLICY STATEMENT FROM THE U.S. DEPARTMENTS OF EDUCATION AND HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

ATTENTION DOWN SYNDROME ADVOCATES
SUPPORT THE DRAFT INCLUSIVE EDUCATION POLICY STATEMENT FROM THE U.S. DEPARTMENTS OF EDUCATION AND HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

The U.S. Departments of Education and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently released a draft policy statement on the inclusion of young children with disabilities in high-quality inclusive early childhood programs, and they are seeking public comment.  This policy statement will send a message to states and districts that inclusive early education provides significant benefits to all young children, both with and without disabilities. This argument may also be extended toward inclusiveness in all phases of a person’s lifespan.

The National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) strongly supports this policy statement.  We need you to register your support by posting comments to the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) blog prior to 6PM on Friday May 22, 2015.  Your comments can be very basic and brief, such as personal observations about the benefits of preschool inclusion or your hopes and dreams that your child will be able to attend an inclusive preschool.  As you comment, please be sure to mention that you believe that children with disabilities should be included in early childhood settings in natural proportion to their presence in the general population. NDSS will also be submitting formal comments.  (A copy of NDSS' formal comments is included below.) 

Click here to go to the blog, and to read the full policy statement: http://www.ed.gov/edblogs/osers/.  To submit a comment, click on the "comments" in the blue box below the blog entry.  Scroll down to the bottom of the page and complete the "Leave a Comment" form. 
Thank you for your advocacy efforts!

Best,
Heather

Heather B. Sachs, J.D.
Director of State Government Affairs
National Down Syndrome Society
1602 L St. NW, Suite 925
Washington, D.C. 20036
hsachs@ndss.org
www.ndss.org
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Comments from the National Down Syndrome Society in Support of the Draft Policy Statement on the Inclusion of Young Children with Disabilities in High-Quality Inclusive Early Childhood Programs

The National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) is the largest nonprofit representing and advocating for people with Down syndrome and their families, with a network of 375 NDSS affiliate organizations spanning all 50 states representing over 400,000 people with Down syndrome.  NDSS strongly supports the draft policy statement proposed by the U.S. Department of Education (DOED) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) which encourages the inclusion of young children with disabilities in high-quality inclusive early childhood programs.  NDSS also shares in the vision that all Americans, especially individuals with Down syndrome, be meaningfully included in all facets of society throughout the life course.

NDSS has heard countless stories from our advocates about the benefits of inclusion in early childhood programs to both children with disabilities and typically developing children.  When children with disabilities are included, they tend to have higher levels of social play, cognitive skills, motor skills, self-help skills and speech gains as they learn through peer modeling and social interaction.  For typically developing children, studies and anecdotal evidence have shown that having peers with disabilities in their classroom makes them more empathetic and open-minded, and have better coping skills with setbacks and challenges.

NDSS supports two proposed changes to the draft policy:

(1)The definition of “a regular early childhood program” should be changed from one which contains 50% nondisabled children to one which contains a natural proportion of students with disabilities (10-12%) (this will better reflect society’s ratios); and
(2)Office of Special Education Programs data collection should distinguish between a child attending a program that is paid for by the school district from a private program that is paid for by the parents (this will ensure transparency in the district’s role).

NDSS would like to thank DOED and DHHS for this important policy statement, and hopes that it will be released in an official version as quickly as possible.

Sincerely,
Sara Hart Weir, MS
President, National Down Syndrome Society
666 Broadway, 8th Floor
New York, NY 10012
(202) 465-3222
sweir@ndss.org

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