Welcome to our new and updated website and blog!

Family with Disabilities Outing at the Park


Welcome to our new and updated website and blog. Although best known for our book  “Married with Special Needs Children” and associated talks, we have updated our site to reflect the fact that children with disabilities live in families that have many configurations, that each family is impacted by having children with disabilities and that finding balance in the family is essential.  This of course may be easier than it sounds as families  grapple with adjusting to disability, coping and stress, finding supports and information, managing time, changing roles, etc.  There are so many additional factors that impact family balance that can include education, therepeutic needs, disability legislation, attitudes and stereotypes, participation in the community , etc.  We will be discussing all of these in this blog and hope that you will chime in with your thoughts and experiences to get authentic conversations going and connect to other parents.

In one of our recent talks, the discussion focused on inclusiveness of  the community and the importance of the community’s response to families and their children with disabilities.  The degree to which children are welcomed and included in social groups, after school activities, religious programs, recreational, arts and culture opportunities,  have a significant positive or negative social impact on the child and the entire family. Some communities are doing are doing a great job at this while others need to do more.


 What  is your community doing to include children with disabilities?


  1. Yes, my son, who has autism, is included in some community activities…but not automatically, it is always at my request. He was on the school safety patrol and he is an altar server at church. He does volunteer work with me and with his school. He does not participate in after-school programs at school due to his need for extra supervision (school won’t provide it), but he does participate in inclusion-based activities through a non-profit organization (Friendship Circle).

    • Karen-
      Friendship Circle sounds like a wonderful organization as I have heard about their inclusive efforts from several areas around the country. I don’t know if you, as a parent, belong to a support group. If so, some of the other folks in your area may have specific suggestions or groups to get involved with that would facilitate more inclusion in the community. And its not clear how old he is, but does his IEP or Transition plan also include goals that would focus on social and inclusion issues? If there are other parents or professionals out there who have suggestions, please chime in-

  2. Inclusion… More than just “visiting”

    Certainly one of the most advocated for settings for kids with disabilities is that of a regular education classroom. What better place to have exposure to highly verbal and social role models than that of a general education setting? If students are to learn appropriate behaviors, they need to observe them. If they are to learn sharing and turn taking skills, they need to engage with children who are proficient in these skills. If they are to develop conversational and pragmatic language skills, they need to be a part of this exchange on a regular basis. The potential benefit of inclusion is immeasurable.

    The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) supports inclusion through what’s referred to as the “Least Restrictive Environment.” For some children the least restrictive environment is that of a regular education classroom with no time in a specialized setting; for others it’s a mixture of both; and for yet other students with more complex needs, the majority of their educational day may be spent in ESE (Exceptional Student Education) classrooms. The goal of educational placement should always be one of inclusion. If you do not feel that your school is moving in that direction, it’s time to gain some background knowledge on inclusion and begin to formulate a plan on motivating the school towards this end.

    What is Inclusion?
     Inclusion is an attitude. It’s not “a program.”
     Inclusion is a sense of belonging; being part of a community – valued and respected as a contributing member.
     Inclusion is children with disabilities grouped with same aged typically developing peers, which facilitates appropriate positive social interactions.
     Inclusion is accepting differences and responding to individual needs and differences.
     Inclusion means allowing for choices and giving a sense of freedom.
     Inclusion is a right, not a favor or a trial period. It gives permission for kids to be themselves and not have to “earn” the right to be with typical peers.
     Inclusion incorporates the whole family, and gives family members the experience of also being included in the community.
     Inclusion encourages personalized adaptations, modifications and flexibility.

    Time and time again school staff share with parents that they are very much in favor of inclusion; when the child is “ready.” In fact, it is not the child that has to get ready, but rather the school itself. Successful inclusion is definitely not the easy road for an educator to take, but it is the most rewarding and beneficial. The benefits go way beyond the child with a disability. Inclusion greatly impacts children and adults without disabilities as well. Compassion, understanding and a sense of community are all products of successful inclusion.

    Benefits of Inclusion

     Students with disabilities….
     Spend more time on task.
     Show increased academic achievement, as well as social and communication skill growth.
     Participate in more school and community activities and develop relationships with peers.

     Students without disabilities
     Benefit from teaching strategies employed for students with disabilities.
     Learn to value differences.
     Special educators and general education teachers develop new skills that benefit all students.

    Knowing the benefits of inclusion isn’t enough. Children with autism generally need a good deal of strategies and supports to make this setting as positive an experience as it should be. Simply placing a student in a general education classroom will not be enough. To be sure, staff will need training on inclusionary practices to optimize outcomes for your child.

    Practices to support inclusion may include:

     Differentiated Instruction
     Peer Supports
     Use of Multiple Intelligences
     Multi-sensory Instruction and Play
     Interactive Learning
     Cooperative Learning
     Flexible Grouping
     Integrated Curriculum
     Scaffolding
     Accommodations and Modifications
     Tiered Lessons
     Partial Participation
     Positive Behavioral Supports
     Assistive/Instructional Technology
    And the list goes on.

    Many parents feel that having their child in a self contained classroom will “protect” them. Life is not a self contained classroom and if we are to adequately prepare our young people with disabilities for life after school has ended, we must expose them to typical peers, busy environments and a variety of instructional styles. Few parents have a goal for their child to grow up to be an adult who either spends their day in a sheltered workshop or has no employment at all. Supported employment in natural settings has been proven to enhance the overall quality of life for many adults with autism.

    So, what does it mean to be included?
    Inclusion means more than just physically being placed with typically developing children. It is not a place or a measured amount of time spent with others. It has different meaning to different people, but universally it means belonging.

    By Stacey Hoaglund; Family Support Specialist with Family Network on Disabilities of Broward, and CEO of Disability Training and Support Specialists

  3. What a great surprise to read these comments about Friendship Circle! I have had the pleasure of being the adviser for the Friendship of Pittsburgh since it began six years ago. In that role, I am always interested in any ideas from other Friendship Circle participants or parents regarding what they would like to see offered in their communities.

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