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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
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
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
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
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,
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Special education, Segregation, Education policy, Disability, Educational psychology, Inclusion, Mainstreaming, Least restrictive environment, Resource room, Learning disability, Special education in the United States, Deaf education
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