The multiple handicapped units in my area are provided by our county’s Educational Service Center. There are thirteen units scattered across the county in different school districts. They purport to serve those students with multiple disabilities by providing instruction and experience-based opportunities in the community and to teach job and daily living skills for successfully participating in the community.
Speech therapy and occupational therapy is also available in the multiple-handicapped setting. Are you thinking, “Gee, that sounds great.” Since my son spent two years in an MH unit, I’ll be happy to give you a closer look.
These MH units are designed to serve those students who are judged to be only trainable, not educable. These children wear the “multiple-handicapped” label. In many cases, these children were labeled by the time they reached kindergarten age. This label can include many types of disabilities, ranging from Down syndrome, Autism, Cerebral Palsy, etc. Although federal law (IDEA) states that schools may not use categories of disability (labels) to determine educational placement, this is exactly what is done in mine as well as many other districts.
The instruction provided in our county’s MH units does not include an academic education. Remember, regardless of their capabilities, these students have already been labeled non-educable. No, these students will learn “life skills” such as how to make a sandwich, stack boxes, fold towels and various self-care skills.
And they’re going to learn this in a segregated classroom away from the general school population. I can’t help but wonder how these students are ever going to learn how to be successful participants in the communities where they live when they are so effectively isolated in the school community.
Because these units are scattered across the county, your child may not necessarily attend school in the district where you reside. In fact, your child will probably move from one district to another, depending on his or her age. For example, my district only houses MH Units from kindergarten through elementary school. After that, it’s another unit in another school in another town. It doesn’t sound so great after all, does it?
In 2011, a school district administrator told me the MH units were new and improved. I wanted to see what changes they made and visited a few.
Want to learn more about the financial incentive to categorize and label students with disabilities?
There’s Gold In Them There Labels