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From the President's Pen

The "Summit" and Beyond

Happy New Year! It's hard to believe that it is almost time again for our annual conference. The program looks wonderful, thanks to the excellent planning by Paul Crutchfield, and the local arrangements (including the promise of warm well, warmer weather) by Al White. I look forward to seeing you all in Texas!

So much seems to be happening in our field, and so quickly, that it appears to be more important than ever for us to be well informed and actively involved. Last fall many of us were on the edge of our seats as we awaited the results of the AGBD Board's decision regarding the acceptance of the NAD as a member organization of CED. Many felt that this vote was a watershed which would determine a strong future for CED or an organization in the throes of dissention. Happily, the AGBD Board agreed to welcome NAD to the CED table! CED has emerged with renewed strength and commitment by all of the member organizations to collaboration. This collaborative spirit was very evident at the December CED Board meeting and is both timely and critical as we face yet another challenge from outside of Deaf Education, from those who are promoting inclusion and a change in the concepts of LRE and the educational placement continuum with the re-authorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA).

In December, Oscar Cohen and an ad hoc committee organized a "Summit Conference" in Alexandria, Virginia on "Educational Choice: In the Support of the Continuum of Alternative Placements for Children with Disabilities". The specific outcomes and recommendations of the conference will be shared at our conference next month with some discussion regarding the role of ACE-DHH in the debate. One global outcome of this and previous meetings was the collaborative spirit and strong consensus among the diverse organizations involved with deaf individuals on the importance of maintaining appropriate placement options for deaf children based on individual needs of the child and family preference.

Our perspective on educational placement, however, is facing strong opposition from many other groups who are calling for full inclusion, the preference for the local educational program as the primary placement for all children with disabilities. This view is currently being expressed strongly by the Division of Early Childhood (DEC), of the Council for Exceptional Children. DEC exerted a very powerful influence in shaping the early childhood legislation, PL 99- 457, in 1986, and is sure to again influence the re- authorization plan, especially in regard to the support for inclusive, community-based programming for young children with any special developmental or educational need.

The debate on inclusion, while still going on, is being framed by those organizations who are taking a leadership position. CEASD, CAID, NAD, AGBD, and ASDC have discussed and are, or have already drafted statements on inclusion and educational placement. ACE-DHH has a unique ability to enrich this debate by our experiences with a multitude of educational programs and our affiliations with both organizations in deaf education, regular education and special education. We need to expand our involvement beyond our own programs at our universities, and beyond the field of deaf education. The debate is taking place without considering the views of individuals concerned about the unique needs of deaf and hard of hearing children. If we want to influence the debate, we need to determine how we can best participate, and then, in the words of Nike...Just Do It!