Inclusive Education Award!

Congratulations to Susan McCullen from Edward and Yvette Ropiak and Daniel Kimberly and Nicole McCullen! Susan's family is proud to announce, that she was awarded the state Department of Mental Retardation's 1998 Excellence in Inclusive Education Award," for the preschool/kindergarten level in the DMR's Region II, which covers Central Massachusetts. She was presented with the award at a dinner banquet held on May 28,1998 at the Ramada Inn, Auburn. Susan was nominated for the award by Cynthia and Richard Bissell, parents of 4 year old twins, Aaron and Eric. Due to premature births (at 26 weeks gestation), the boys have a variety of medical and developmental special needs. Eric has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Aaron had a Tracheostomy, which has since been repaired. In addition to surgeries, medical treatment and therapies, the boys are serviced in Grafton's integrated preschool program for which Susan McCullen is the teacher. Being an integrated preschool, the groupings consist of some children with special needs, and more than half of the children are those with "typical development" or no special needs. The benefits of such inclusion are numerous. Most importantly, all children have a right to be educated with their peers. From an early age, children such as the preschoolers - learn to celebrate each other's differences and yet realize how much they're also a like. Those with special needs also benefit from inclusion with peers, as children learn so much from each other, especially language and social skills. Susan enjoys working with all children, as well as forming partnerships with their parents. Congratulations Susan on receiving this prestigious award!

Richard is the executive coordinator for Families Organizing for Change of Central MA, a statewide support group for individuals with disabilities and their families and Cynthia works with a Family Health Support Project at UMass/Memorial Health Care.

Photograph includes (from left to right) Richard Bissell, Dr. Johanna Van Houten - Superintendent of Grafton Public Schools, Susan McCullen, Margery Gagne-Director of Special Education, Cynthia Bissell, and Anthony Cipro - SGES Principal.