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First Grader, Lauren Borenstein
First Grader, Lauren Borenstein

Our granddaughter, Lauren Marie Borenstein, will soon be eight years old. She is in an inclusive first grade classroom, where she proudly participated recently in a classroom play. As she read her part, you could hardly see her eyes, because she was smiling so broadly. In this classroom, she has a natural sense of belonging with her pals and teachers. She is learning at her own pace, based on materials adapted to her own ability levels. She happily anticipates school every morning. Her teachers are regularly informing her parents about what Lauren is learning, and what she can do. One of Lauren's current activities is as a member of the Daisies (a younger age group of the Brownies). She is so excited to be attending with some of her classmates and neighbors, as she proudly earns more and more badges of accomplishment on her Daisy vest. She was not always in an inclusive classroom. During her first year in her public school, the school did not have an inclusive environment; instead, she was in a small special ed. class, more or less isolated from the rest of the school. Her classroom was far from the general ed. classrooms, and the students in her class did not have music or gym with the general ed. classes. Her parents were persistently informed about what Lauren could not do. The contrast is dramatically clear: the outdated and isolationist special ed. approach, in which Lauren is not mixing with the real world of all her peers, versus the inclusion program, where Lauren is welcome for who she is among all her peers and has a sense of belonging in the whole school. Fortunately, in her school there is this choice. The choice is there because her parents fought for it and her school has incorporated it. Lauren's smile when she talks about her classroom says it all: include me, too!

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