The federal Individual with Disabilities Education Act (I.D.E.A.) requires school districts to provide children with a “free and appropriate” public education in the “least restrictive” setting possible. This is an important challenge for public schools, especially when it comes to educating children who require very intensive treatment.
The longstanding collaboration between the Boston Public Schools and AIP to operate the Inclusion Day Program at the Irving Middle School has resulted in a program model that has positive benefits for children and the school system for well over a decade. The Inclusion Day Program educates children with serious emotional disturbances inside a regular public school, with a goal of gradual integration into mainstream classrooms. By means of our public/private partnership, the public school is able to provide equivalent services that otherwise would only be available through more expensive and more restrictive out-of-district placements.
AIP’s public/private collaboration with the Boston Public Schools for the design and development of this model is recognized nationally. The National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE) has showcased AIP several times, to help disseminate this model. In 2006 AIP’s Inclusion Day Program was highlighted at the organization’s national conference on “Publicly-Placed Private School Students With Disabilities” as an exemplary model for how school districts can retrieve students with serious emotional disturbances and retaining them in the least restrictive public school setting. In 2003 AIP co-presented with the Coalition for Community Schools as part of a national NASDSE satellite television conference about the role of special education in facilitating the creation of full-service community schools.
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As I.D.E.A. and the current standards of research and practice establish, most children with disabilities do better when they remain in their own families and communities. Because separate therapeutic school placements are more isolating and restrictive than many children with emotional or behavioral disorders need, the I.D.E.A. has led to growing interest nationally in program models that can effectively educate children with mental health diagnoses and other behavioral disorders inside regular public schools. This is the challenge that drives AIP’s innovative inclusion model at the Irving Middle School.
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National Association of State Directors of Special Education – NASDSE is a professional organization that promotes and supports education programs and related services for children and youth with disabilities in the United States and outlying areas. NASDSE establishes and maintains relations between those entities responsible for the development of statewide and federal special education programs and those responsible for general curriculum planning at the local, state and national levels. Its goal is to help state special education agencies to maximize educational outcomes for students with disabilities. AIP has presented its innovative inclusion day program/full service school model before NASDSE members several times. The organization has expressed continued interest in building on the successful experience of AIP and the Boston Public Schools to replicate this model elsewhere in the country.
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