Newsmakers: Maple Grove Parent Promotes Greater School Inclusion
Maple Grove parent Joel Liestman advocates for greater inclusion of students with disabilities in the classroom. He says his family has had a positive experience, but know not everyone has that positive experience.
“I always felt that other families had it tougher and thought maybe if there’s a way to use my son’s wonderful disability as a way to talk to my son’s teachers and administrators about greater inclusion, that was something I thought might be a good path,” said Liestman. “Inclusion in the classroom really does benefit everybody. It benefits from a cost perspective and from an educational standpoint.”
Liestman’s son has Williams syndrome, a rare genetic condition with some developmental disabilities and cognitive impairments. He’s sensitive to loud noises and has some socialization issues. Liestman describes his son as incredibly kind, curious, and empathetic.
Liestman has been accepted into the eight-month Minnesota Partners in Policymaking leadership training. He is passionate about advocating for school inclusion, and has concerns about waiver issues as well as school and social inclusion.
“When a person with developmental disabilities is in a classroom with their peers, they often will rise to the challenge with help or support,” said Liestman. “Kids with disabilities will rise to the challenge and emotionally and developmentally in the social aspect, they will benefit greatly. Neurotypical children will benefit greatly because they will see that differences aren’t scary.”
Liestman emphasizes that empathy grows everywhere.
See also: Unified Club Spreads Message of Inclusion at Champlin Park
Brooklyn Park | Maple Grove | Osseo