Professor Douglas Cheney is traveling to Bulgaria this month to help the nation increase the number of students with disabilities who are included in its public school classrooms, building upon the University of Washington College of Education's groundbreaking research in inclusive education.
Dr. Cheney's trip comes as part of two-year collaborative project he is directing in partnership with Iva Boneva, who heads the Center for Inclusive Education in Sofia, Bulgaria. He will visit Bulgaria Oct. 26 through Nov. 7 to assist with implementation of a pilot project integrating students with disabilities into mainstream classrooms at five schools.
“We have been working with staff at the Center for Inclusive Education to develop ideas, handouts and workshops to provide teachers with approaches to differentiate instruction to meet the learning needs of all students in the classroom,” Cheney said. “Hopefully in Bulgaria we can get teachers in the demonstration sites to broaden their repertoire of skills and practices to meet the diverse learning needs of their students."
In Bulgaria, Cheney said, many state-run schools have traditionally isolated students with disabilities, separating them from mainstream society for much of their lives. The project's goal is to decrease the reliance on separating children with disabilities from their community and incorporate effective educational practices for students with disabilities in regular classrooms.
“Families and children will stay intact, and communities will hopefully become more accepting of diversity in terms of physical, sensory and cognitive difference,” Cheney said. “In short, children with disabilities will be more accepted for who they are as people and not looked at as a disability, but someone with their own strengths, talents and abilities.”
The pilot program will have its progress analyzed to help determine efficient and effective approaches for the inclusion of students at more of Bulgaria's public schools, as well as shape national policies regarding educating children with disabilities in general classrooms.
Two doctoral students in special education, Jacob Hackett and Colin Gasamis, are assisting Cheney with the project.
Douglas Cheney, Professor of Education
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