But I want to get back to Christian schools. If we are going to do something within the Christian school setting for students with disabilities, it should minimally reflect what have become known as best practices. Let me provide just a sampling of what those practices should be.
1. Is the program integrated as much as is possible? Do students with and without disabilities have the opportunity to be socially integrated together? Public schools will sometimes try to use the academic classroom as the point of integration which may or may not be the best idea, depending on the needs of the students with disabilities academically. But even if the curricula needs to be different there are many ways outside of the curricula that students could be integrated together. However, if I create a segregated school, those opportunities become difficult or impossible. Our goal is for students to develop relationships and friendships together. But if they are not physically together, there is little chance that social interactions can occur. The benefits of these relationships go both ways, by the way. We all need each other and the blessings/benefits that grow out of being with each other.
2. Is the program set up to monitor progress by students with disabilities. As in the comments above about private schools, the question is not "Did I spend an hour with Johnny doing some activity?" The question should be, "Did Johnny get better as a result of the hour I spent with him (or hours I spend with him over time and what is the documentation of that progress)?" Special education has as a significant characteristic that if what I am doing is not working, I need to keep changing it until it does work. So that implies I need to be closely monitoring student performance, and that I need to employ a variety of educational strategies to facilitate the improvement I am hoping for. In the public schools, particularly among classes for students with more severe disabilities, educational programs become babysitting. That is not what they should be. Students should have their abilities maximized just as any student should.
3. Do you have a Biblical understanding of what disability is? Very few pastors take on this issue. However, there has been much written over the last 10 years which really fleshes out many of the answers to this question. If you as a teacher, director, founder do not have a Biblical understanding of disability, then you have homework to do before you begin your program. Some things you should research in gaining this understanding relate to understanding God's sovereignty and rejecting a secular view of disability. This understanding will change your perspective on what disability is and impact the development of the values underlying your programs. Too many Christian school special education programs do not reflect a clear understanding of a Christian perspective on people with disabilities.
4. Are you outcome focused? What do the graduates of your program do once they leave school? You should begin by asking what graduates of the public school system do when they leave school. I suspect many local school districts will not know. A good place to start would be to survey adults with they types of disabilities that your students will have, about their lives. There are some skills that they would identify as making their lives better and others that are not as important. Every community has certain types of jobs available. Do special education graduates have access to those types of jobs? Have they been prepared specifically for they types of jobs that are available in a particular community? Too often we don't even ask those questions. So when a students graduates they have no where to go because the school did not have the foresight to ask that obvious question.
I will provide just one more area although others could be imagined.
5. The most important thing in life is people, is friendships and personal relationships. Does your program facilitate the development of relationships between people with and without disabilities in the community? Churches may not be good at this, but schools that should know better can be oblivious to facilitating friendships. The more you understand what disability is, the more you recognize that what is needed relative to people with impairments is a change in the social environment such that it will stop being discriminatory. There is the potential that both relationships can be facilitated and discrimination can be diminished. These should be major outcomes for any school, particularly a Christian school that endeavors to include and serve students with disabilities.