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A Child, A Family, A School, A Community

A Tale of Inclusive Education

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Diane Linder Berman and David J. Connor

This book is a true story of one family’s journey into inclusive education. Having previously been told that her son Benny had "failed to function" in two exclusionary special education classrooms in New York City, Berman’s family set off in search of a school where Benny would be accepted for who he was, while having the opportunity to grow and flourish academically, socially, and emotionally alongside his brother, Adam. Connor’s interest was piqued when Berman shared her desire to document the ways in which the new school community had supported Benny throughout the years. Together, they thought, surely other teachers, school and district level administrators, parents of children with and without disabilities, teacher educators, and student teachers, could learn from such a success story?

The result of their collaboration is this book in which Berman skillfully narrates episodes across time, describing ways in which children, teachers, educational assistants, parents, and a principal came to know Benny—developing numerous and often creative ways to include him in their classrooms, school, and community. Connor’s commentaries after each chapter link practice to theory, revealing ways in which much of what the school community seems to "do naturally" is, in fact, highly compatible with a Disability Studies in Education (DSE) approach to inclusive education. By illuminating multiple approaches that have worked to include Benny, the authors invite educators and families to envision further possibilities within their own contexts.

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Introduction

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This book grows out of Diane’s desire to paint a portrait of a school in New York State that successfully included her son, Benny, who had previously “failed to function” in two exclusionary/highly restrictive special education classrooms in New York City. In contrast to the city schools, The Boulder School welcomed Benny and supported him and his family in finding ways to ensure his inclusion within all aspects of schooling (Note: pseudonyms are used throughout for children, school, and faculty). In turn, Benny’s presence and participation within the school grew over the years and significantly influenced its general culture in a myriad of positive ways. At the same time, the school also provided an oasis for Diane’s younger son, Adam, who excels academically and socially. In contemplating the same school and the same teachers who met the needs of her two children with such dramatically different learning profiles, Diane felt compelled to chronicle how, and explore why, this school was successful whereas so many others in her experience had not been.

David’s interest in creating this text lies in the fact that Diane had shared this school’s story with him. He became drawn to the challenge of “capturing” and analyzing a school that has attempted to develop an authentic inclusive educational experience for students—a process that is ongoing, admittedly imperfect, yet earnest. Despite major policy changes in regard to inclusive ← xvii | xviii → education over the past three decades, there have been very few clear examples...

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