As Palo Alto ramps up efforts to teach special-needs children in mainstream classrooms, campuses across town marked the second annual "Inclusive Schools Week" to talk about how to behave around people with differences.
At Walter Hays Elementary School, students wrote and drew "what inclusion looks like" on paper trees, which they hung on an outside wall to create an "Inclusion Forest."
"Inclusion is when you let people play with you and make sure they are treated well," wrote one.
"Include all boys and girls," wrote another. "Make new friends. Be a good friend to people who don't know English," said another.
About 55 parents and teachers turned out Tuesday to hear a panel of experts discuss autism, learning disabilities and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder -- some of the conditions of children who are included in general classrooms.
"Your children interact with these kids everyday, and you do too when you volunteer in the classroom, drive on a field-trip or go to after-school activities," said the flier inviting the Walter Hays community to the event, which was organized by parents.
"Social inclusion" was the theme Monday in a panel discussion at school district headquarters sponsored by the Community Advisory Committee for Special Education.
School librarians across town held special readings of books about inclusion.
At El Carmelo Elementary School, students modeled play dough while blindfolded, strung beads with socks on their hands and watched "Brain Pop," a video on ADHD and "Arthur," a video on autism.
At Duveneck School, school-wide assemblies were held Thursday on inclusion themes.
Federal law mandates that special-needs children be taught in the "least restrictive environment" and local schools recently have intensified their efforts to do so.
The local nonprofit Abilities United opened an inclusive preschool, Milestones, about six years ago.
The school district's own preschool program, Preschool Family, followed suit last year, including eight special-needs children among the 22 in one of its four-year-old classes.
Ambitious inclusion efforts also are under way at Barron Park and Duveneck schools.
"If you look at it as an opportunity for learners to learn about difference, then you've framed it differently," the district's Director of Special Education Holly Wade has said.
"We've created an environment where we're going to have a compassionate group of young people who are going to understand in its more pure form what difference looks like."