National Inclusive Schools week celebrated in SF

National Inclusive Schools week celebrated in SF

December 10, 2010 7:08:28 PM PST
In the world of education, school districts are celebrating national Inclusive Schools Week. This means disabled kids and those with learning differences are all together in the classroom, alongside their peers. Researchers say these inclusive classrooms come with many benefits.

Daniel Diana is the only 5th grader at his school with a set of wheels. His chair has never been an impediment.

In wheelchair basketball, he says "I'm really good at speeds, stealing, rebounding."

Last year, Daniel's team won his age group in the National Junior Disabilities Championship in Denver.

In the classroom, he receives exactly the same instruction as all the other kids and, as his classmates point out, he seldom relies on others.

"And if he needs a marker, he never says, 'Hey so and so, can you go get me this?' He gets up and does it by himself," says fellow classmate Caitlin Kantor.

Claire Lilienthal in San Francisco has been an inclusive school for more than 10 years. The district is now trying to expand the program at other schools. Research also shows kids with disabilities benefit from being in a classroom with general education students.

"I think students with challenges by seeing what should be done, try to emulate to the best of the ability," says Arlene Lucchesi from Claire Lilienthal School.

And Daniel's mother, Silvia Monahan, wants him to be in this classroom -- a decision she made when Daniel was in preschool trying to play tag with the other kids.

"And he was crawling, crawling, running crawling, he was a fighter like that and I said he deserves to be with the other kids," says Monahan.

Today nothing stops him, not even a game of cat and mouse. The other students also learn a lot from Daniel and some say it causes them to be a bit kinder.

"It just builds a greater sense of community and acceptance. It moves way beyond tolerance," says principal William Hack.

Every day they are reminded of what makes Daniel special.

He says he's "not someone who gives up."