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Parents: Students With Developmental Disabilities Need Inclusive Classroom

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February 4, 2010

JEFFERSON CITY, MO. - Missouri parents of children with developmental disabilities believe they are gaining ground in their fight against educational descrimination. Missouri is one of only two states that still maintain a state-run segregated education system for students with disabilities, and many parents are pushing for the public school systems to allow their children to be educated alongside their peers without disabilities.

Brenda Niemeyer is a parent of a high school junior with a developmental disability. She believes her son's experience in an inclusive classroom will better prepare him for life beyond graduation.

"If we can get away from that institutional mentality, those individuals can be absorbed into our community and not only be better served but have greater opportunity for recognizing and developing life goals that they've never had the opportunity before."

Some say children with severe disabilities are often a distraction in the classroom and take away from other children's ability to concentrate and learn. But, Niemeyer says studies show educating students with developmental disabilities alongside their peers has a positive impact on all children in the classroom.

"I think that peer factor is critical in learning appropriate developmental behaviors and skills throughout their educational environment."

Terri Woodward, a program specialist with the Missouri Planning Council for Developmental Disabilities, says moving away from segregated schools makes financial sense.

"Our economy is in very dire straits. It costs significantly more to send a child to a segregated school."

Sending a child with developmental disabilities to an institutional school costs about $30,000 per year, according to Woodward, which is much more expensive than a traditional school.

Heather Claybrook, Public News Service - MO