Many families believe that an inclusive environment for their children with special needs may promote lack of safety due to the obvious differences among children that might trigger bullying or feelings of rejection. What we often fail to realize is that when talking about safety, many times segregated classrooms can be much more dangerous for many reasons. One of the most significant is the lack of input from other students in the classroom. Those who may be nonverbal or have communication challenges can’t report when abuse may have happened.

We tend to focus a lot on the probability of bullying and abuse from other children, but something that we may forget is that abuse can present itself in many different ways. It’s a possibility for our children that we can’t avoid at least considering taking place during their lives. Statistically speaking, kids with special needs are more likely to be abused in some way during their lifetime. As it turns out, inclusion might just be a way to reduce the probability of this occurring.

Natural opportunities for peer support and friendship come along with inclusion. There are great kids in the world that grow up along with our children and become their peers, their friends, and their supporters. I agree integration doesn’t assure real inclusion towards genuine friendships with neurotypical kids, but there are other forms of friendship that promote safety for all children. I have recognized that each time I witness the support and protection my children receive from their friends at school.

  • When your child with special needs is exposed to the least restrictive environment with inclusive opportunities, if something ever happens to him with another student, there are verbal students around that can help you find out what happened and how things happened.
  • If the situation is different and the student has been mistreated or abused by an adult, there are always eyes and ears around that can help clarify and resolve such a sensitive case like this one.
  • Even though I would recommend parents have zero tolerance for restraints and seclusion, if it happens with your child in an emergency, you need to hear the story from different perspectives to be sure your child is not being misjudged or abused. The truth is, that cannot happen if your child is in a segregated classroom with nonverbal students.

Because as parents of children with special needs, we navigate life experiences like this repeatedly, I want parents to reflect on this and use safety as a reason to fight for inclusion for their children. It has happened to me. There have been times in which I didn’t know what happened to my child because many times he was not able to explain himself effectively. In those times the only thing that held me together was knowing that I could rely on other people around him to put the pieces together and come to a conclusion, and to be sure he was safe.

Like my son, many people with special needs are even more sensitive to abuse due to their conditions. My son is pain tolerant, and for that reason, I take action. I know that he is at an even higher risk. Every parent has the right to ask, and most importantly, to get answers in an appropriate and respectful manner. No parent should be lead to believe that it is normal or fine for her child to come home from school with marks or even more subtle signs of abuse.

Schools are obligated to investigate, clarify, and report to parents of any possible incidents that happen under their watch. How should you start if you find yourself and your child in a position like this?

What do you think about it?