Although no consensus exists about the definition of inclusion, it can usually be agreed upon that inclusion is a movement to merge regular and special education so that all students can be educated together in a general education classroom. Because of the lack of consensus, inclusion is a hotly debated topic in education today. Mainstreaming and Inclusion are used interchangably for many people.
This is where the confusion may lie. For the purpose of this paper I will be using the term inclusion. I interpret this to mean: “meeting the needs of the student with disabilities through regular education classes, with the assistance of special education.” (Dover, section 1) Included in the definition of inclusion, it is important to note that there are a continuum of placement options for the child. I found the main difference between mainstreaming and inclusion to be the approach taken towards each one. Mainstreaming asks the question: “WHERE can this child be successful?” Whereas, inclusion asks: Where does this child or regular classroom teacher need support?” The Individuals With Disabilities Act (IDEA), was signed into law in 1975. IDEA requires that schools educate students with disabilities in the least restrictive environment possible, and it also ensures to the maximum extent possible, children with disabilities be educated with those who are nondisabled.
This implies that the least restrictive environment is the general education classroom. Historically, we have separated exceptional children from the rest of society. This act has served to reinforce society’s view that to be exceptinal is to be bad. The truth is, separate is not equal. In this paper I intend to address what complications surround the practice of inclusion, and also to give examples of how inclusion has been beneficial to students. WHY NOT INCLUSION? Even for those that support inclusion philosophically, there are questions and concerns about issues when inclusion is put into practice.
Some schools interpret inclusion to mean that all students shall receive special education services in the regular classroom, without individual consideration that such placement would meet the needs of that particular student with disabilities. The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) president, Albert Shanker, warned members against placement of all disabled students in regular classrooms, for this very reason. (Aefsky, p.7) Other schools interpret inclusion to mean that when an individual student’s needs can be met in the regular classroom, that is the most appropriate placement. As a result, many school districts or individual schools are reducing the placement options available to students with disabilities because as they put more kids into the regular classrooms, they do not have the personnel and resources available to provide the full continuum of options! The existing staff is spread out to work in many schools with limited time and resources to serve the students. Also along these lines is where opponents have brought up the issue of the setting. They believe that instructional techniques such as direct instruction, may be more easily implemented in specific rather than general settings.
(Pearman, p.177) According to the National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities, all children should NOT be served in the general education classroom. They believe that full inclusion violates the rights of students. They see each student as having unique needs, and should have a program tailored to them as an individual. NJCLD supports a continuum of services, but rejects arbitrary placement of students in any one setting.(NJCLD, 63) Another issue that is brought up is that of time. With inclusion, the education of students with disabilities is not solely the responsibility of special education professionals. Shared responsibility means shared decision making; this takes time that is not available during the work day.
This point was affirmed when I conducted an interview with a third grade teacher, Julie Eygabroad. (interview, February 11, 1999) Julie has several students with disabilities in her classroom, and one specifically named John, is mentally retarded. From day to day he has no sense of what happened the day before. He is not able to write, except for his name. He is a lovable child, but what he needs is to be a place where someone can be with him one on one for at least half of the day. Julie has trouble finding the time outside of class to prepare separate lessons for the disabled children each day.
Time is a big consideration for teachers when it comes to inclusion. Another issue that I became aware of, by taking Connie Lamberts SPED 302 class, was that children in special education really enjoy being in a resource room because there are similar people there who are going through similar experiences. The resource room teacher, or specialist is trained to help these kids get the most out of their education, therefore there is an understanding that exists between student and teacher. In the book, Inclusion Confusion, by Fern Aefsky, it is noted that special education teachers are fearful that positions will be cut with the integration of inclusion, While general education teachers fear they will not be able to teach effectively to students with disabilities. These issues that I have presented are just a few of the concerns that opponents of inclusion have brought up in their debate.
INCLUSION…YES!!! While some oppose inclusion, there are many who support it. there are cases that have been documented to show the success that comes with inclusion of students with special needs. First, we need to remember that it is the RIGHT of an individual to have an appropriate education, this does not mean separate but equal. Many people wonder how inclusion will affect the children who do not have a disability.
They often believe that inclusion will hinder these children’s progress. This has not been the case according to research. In a study that was done to find out the attitudes of nondisabled children regarding disabled classmates, typical children found that there were benefits that came with inclusion.(Peck, p.50) The results that came back were very positive. Students felt they gained an understanding into human behavior and human differences, therefore creating a tolerance for differences. There was a reduced fear of human differences among the typical students.
They reported feeling relaxed with students with disabilities, saying they could just be themselves. Students in this study that were placed with atypical students showed growth in cognitive, social and personal areas. They felt good about helping students with disabilities, and also learned that differences are o.k. Everyone has them.
In the book, Creating an Inclusive School, there are two reports that give examples of how we all benefit from inclusion. The first instance is of a girl named Ro. Ro was not able to talk. Her parents worried about how other children would accept her, but time and time again, Ro’s classmates celebrated her giftedness. Kids do not seem to have the hang-ups that adults do. One of the classmates suffered from a stroke and was in a coma.
When she came out of it she was not able to talk. Instead she used sign language,…sign language that she had learned from Ro earlier in the year. Children like to learn new and different things. To celebrate these differences is where we can all learn new things. The second instance is of a boy named Bob.
Bob was to be included into a general education classroom, and before he came the teachers and administration introduced the subject of Bob to other typical students. Students became very involved in getting ready for Bob. Many wanted to be tutors, while others wanted to give advice for where Bob should hang out. By getting students involved it was a positive experience for Bob and others. Education for students with disabilities is required by the law but it can have very positive effects for those involved. It gives the disabled student a sense of belonging, social interaction, and a challenge.
It creates tolerance and provides empathy for typical students. The research that I have presented shows why there is such a debate about the topic of inclusion. Both sides have points that are worth listening to and talking about. There are several groups that have something at stake in this debate…the students (typical, and atypical), parents, teachers and schools. MY THOUGHTS… As I researched the topic of inclusion, I found myself agreeing with both sides.
I understand that all kids have a right to an equal education. At the same time I think that the setting for the education needs to depend upon the severity of the disability, or the type of disability. For a student that functions at a typical level academically, but has a behavior disorder, the regular classroom may be perfectly suited for this child. My feelings are different regarding a child that is severely mentally retarded. I think more time with a specialist, outside of the classroom, may be more productive for the student and the general ed. teacher.
I think that there is a lot of responsibility placed on the general education teacher, and they do not have the training like specialists. Special ed. teachers are trained especially for these children, they should be able to work with them. At the same time general education teachers make modifications for typical kids by trying different techniques and strategies, so as to help the child understand. So why not be willing to make modifications for children with special needs? In school we are taught-ALL CHILDREN LEARN DIFFERENTLY! This is why I think I fit into the category that supports inclusion philosophically, but has trouble putting it into practice. I read in a book that if we can think of all children as being special and having special needs, then special will no longer apply to only disabled children.
We need to change the language to support role change. Category: Miscellaneous