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Special ed success stories start with the basics

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Published on Nov 9, 2007

Shakespeare comes in many different forms at the Patrick O'Hearn School. While one child reads it with his eyes, another does so with fingers. One student interprets it with a drawing, another performs a skit. There is no uniform way to learn, and there is no single benchmark for success. But most children do succeed at this Dorchester elementary school. The philosophy is simple: "Wherever you are, we take you higher," says Principal Bill Henderson. The nation still has ways to go in meeting the 1975 federal requirement of teaching all students, to the extent possible, in an "inclusive" environment. But there are pockets of excellence across the country and Massachusetts, that offer a roadmap.
At O'Hearn, close to one-third of students are on a special ed plan, and half are identified as low-income. Students with autism, down syndrome, cerebral palsy and significant development delays are in the same class as their non-disabled peers. Test scores are among the highest in the city, and the school is held up as a model by educators and advocates.
The school is close-to-home proof that while money talks, it doesn't dictate. There are many more ingredients to creating an enriching environment for special ed and regular ed students. To learn more, go to patriotledger.com

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