How not to Mainstream a Student with Special needs

When it comes to children with special needs, parents must often make the difficult kind of decisions, like, whether they want their child to be placed into a private, “Inclusive” educational system, or a traditional “Mainstream” classroom setting.

Unfortunately, this isn’t always the easiest choice, especially since there are so many strong arguments that advocate the benefits of both inclusive and mainstream education.  As a parent, we just want to make the right choice, hoping that it will provide our children with the best chance of living a normal, healthy, and happy life.

So, how does a parent not mainstream a student with special needs?

According to Federal law in the US, under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (I.D.E.A.), all public schools are required to provide free education, guaranteeing that all students with special needs receive instruction that meets their individual and unique needs.

However, this being said—not everything is as simple as what the law dictates. Each child with special needs have very unique learning requirements, and they each interact very differently in a social atmosphere like public school.

Parents that want an alternative to mainstreaming can consider the option of homeschooling.  Homeschooling is an accepted method which involves either a parent or a private tutor to come into the home to provide the necessary material to facilitate an approved curriculum. 

Benefits of homeschooling for a special needs student include:  Working in a familiar environment, students are likely t be more at ease within their own home.  Homeschooling also allows the teacher (usually the parent) to teach at a pace that is comfortable for the student; taking breaks when its apparent there is a lack of focus or acceptance of the given material.  Lastly, parents don’t have to be worried about what might happen at school—fire alarm drill, lock-downs, and a plethora of other events are avoided. 

Another avenue to take, although costly, is private schooling. This form of inclusive education, involves sending your child to a facility that has teachers and material designed specifically for your child’s needs. Other students; also, will have same or similar needs, which can lessen or eliminate the chances of your child from undergoing any of the social trappings of a mainstream environment.  Again, material and delivery can be adjusted and paced to fit each students individual learning pattern.  Teachers are less likely to ignore or avoid giving special attention where it may be needed most. 

Several parents that have already experienced the mainstream environment have voiced their concerns over situations where a student  is left to the wayside.  Reading skills may never be fully developed, math and writing—are treated with disregard, due to the large volume of students in each class.   

But, most of all there is the fear of what might happen at school, or how the student is treated by their peers and mentors.

Often in a public setting, special needs students;  say, for instance with Autistic Spectrum Disorders (A.S.D.).They may not adapt easily or at all to the typical schoolyard social structure.  Fear, anxiety, of being left out, unable to understand why they don’t fit in—this is one of many reasons a parent might not want to consider mainstreaming.

In the US, schools are required to provide a Individualized Education Program (I.E.P.), which often means they assign a teacher’s assistance or special Ed, so for 2-3 hours or more, depending on their assessment—the student gets someone to help, one-on-one.  But, often what happens, is the student still struggles with the given material or has issues coping with the mainstream environment. 

Yes, there are many special needs students that find a way to adapt and even thrive in a mainstream classroom setting, but usually these are cases where the student only has mild to moderate problems.

To be honest, it’s not easy being different, whether it’s the way we look, the way we speak, or the way we behave.  And, children or young adults are not always as accepting to another child that is different . Name calling, laughing, and avoidance are weapons of choice, and a special needs student might not know why or how to interpret these actions. 

Shaking hands, passing a ball, or skipping rope—these are just a few simple interactions, which to someone with unique needs, might find complex and confusing.  Adding two plus two, or deciding whether fifteen is greater than eighteen; these may seem simple to us, but difficult to someone else.

Times have changed, at onetime children with conditions like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (A.D.H.D.)-they, once had no options, but to battle their demons within a mainstream environment.  Never getting the extra help or resources needed to cope, and ultimately they might not have a chance to get the grade average necessary to get into a good University or College.  

Luckily things have changed in the last twenty-years, and we are learning to understand the needs of students with a disability.  Instead of ignoring the problem, we need to integrate both, mainstream and special needs into the education system.  Everyone deserves the respect and chance at being the best they can be. And, until we overcome all the education adversities within the system-inclusive education can be the only way to achieve what the current mainstream system cannot.