Inclusion

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…

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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