I guess I will jump in.
I guess I will enter the debate. I was taught in one of those classrooms
with other blind students when I was in the early grades. I didn't know any
different then, but I see where more mainstreaming would have made some
interactions better. They started mainstreaming me for a few classes a day
when I was in first or second grade. I had friends who weren't blind, but I
think part of my problem was in how I was taught. I wasn't taught the
proper positive attitudes about reading Braille, using a cane, or about
blindness in general. That is something Andrew will learn. I was taught
that Braille was inferior, the cane was goofy, and blindness was bad.
I stood out academically in most subjects. I was able to take advantage of
my good memory, but I could have used more techniques. My parents realized
that I needed to be in school closer to my home. See, when I was growing
up, some school districts in California didn't like offering services to
blind kids. I was shipped off to a bigger district which left me a hour on
the bus each way. When I was in the fifth grade, my mother decided it was
time I went to school down the street from my house. She called a special
meeting of officials from both districts. She insisted that I be allowed to
attend school in my home district. She knew that I would want to be in
extracurricular activities, have friends closer to home, and attend early
morning religious classes in high school. The move was accomplished after a
lot of work on my mother's part. I moved into a regular school classroom
full-time. I had my own personal Braillist who sat in the back of the room
where she could prepare my materials. I went to junior high and high school
with itinerant teachers who I didn't always agree with or who didn't do
their jobs properly
Things turned out all right. I read a poem at my graduation that I
composed, and I became the first blind student to graduate from the Folsom
Cordova Unified School District. I enjoyed school, but I determined that
some things would be different for my children. I believe that children
should be mainstreamed as much as possible, but they should get the help
they need. I don't always care for self-contained classrooms because they
tend to separate some students off from the rest of the school. Blind kids
need to be given high expectations, just like their sighted classmates.
These are just a few of my thoughts. I am sorry this went on so long.
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