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Essay/Term paper: Inclusion

Essay, term paper, research paper:  High School Essays

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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

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. 

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