The bias against special-needs kids in high school is breaking down. According to USA Today, kids with disabilities, like Down Syndrome and Autism, are being elected by overwhelming majorities to home coming courts across the country! Betsy Daniel has Down Syndrome. She was just crowned homecoming queen in Chester, South Dakota. Her classmates say her outgoing attitude makes her everything a homecoming queen should be. They gave her a standing ovation when she was crowned. In Lawrence, Kansas, Owen Phariss, who has Down Syndrome, was elected to the homecoming court. He was originally left off the ballot completely but students circulated a petition and got 800 signatures to put his name put on the list. Teachers say they’ve seen acceptance grow in the last few years as special-needs students have become more integrated into schools.
Under federal law, students with special needs have the right to be in the same classes as the rest of the students. It’s called “inclusive education.” That’s where special-needs students spend most of their time in regular classrooms instead of in special ed rooms. Experts say it’s having a positive effect on everyone in the school. For the special needs students, learning with everyone else and participating in school functions increases their social abilities and does wonders for their language and learning skills. They’re no longer seen as different and they’re able to build friendships with the other students, and it helps non-disabled kids gain understanding of people who are different and it increases their cooperative abilities.
Kirsten Seckler is a spokesperson for the Special Olympics. She says there was a time when special-needs kids didn’t even get to go to prom. Now, they’re up there on the dais accepting crowns and sashes on the homecoming court! If you want to know more about inclusive education, try this website: KidsTogether.org.