Mainstreaming Special Needs Children- Understanding the Debate

The move to mainstream special needs children is born from very thoughtful, empathetic people. The road to mainstreaming is paved with very good intentions. I, as a parent of a special needs child am touched by the efforts of those who push so hard to mainstream special needs students into the regular classroom, but ironically, I do not believe it is the best choice for my daughter all the time. I believe in integration in moderation.

Do not get me wrong, I fully expect other people to demonstrate tolerance for my child. I expect them to accept her differences, embrace them, and befriend her as she is. I believe that within the school day, she should have plenty of opportunity to interact with same age peers, who by the way will also all have some differences as well. However, when it comes to her learning new skills, and practicing them, she needs a quieter, more isolated environment.

The law states that schools will provide the least restrictive environment for my child. I feel that if my child is in a classroom where she is asked to perform tasks similar to those of her same aged peers, this is not the least restrictive environment because she is not able to perform as her same aged peers. She does realize that she is different and has different abilities. To sit beside her same aged peers in a classroom and have those differences magnified as she struggles to keep up, is not nonrestrictive. It restricts her ability to perform and learn. My daughter, as well as some other students I know, learns new skills best in a private one on one setting. As a teacher, I feel that if that is what they need to succeed, that is what they should get.

I know this argument goes against the acceptable opinion of educators today, but I have come to this realization in the last few years. I appreciate the opportunities my daughter has to socially interact with other children. The children at my daughter’s school, after all, are the most loving, accepting, human beings I know. These children naturally love and reach out to my daughter. They are often overzealous about helping her. All of this is wonderful, and very much accepted, but when it comes time for her to increase her educational skills, it must be at a different pace and in a different place for her to find success.

As a primary school teacher, I find this to be true with some of my students as well. Sometimes, they need one on one individualized attention to achieve their goals. That is ok. My point here is that integration in moderation is necessary, but let us not overdo it. Let us be realistic. If we asked the children for whom we yell integration, integration, what they think, I would imagine that they would tell us that there is a time and a place for it. There is also a time and a place for some isolation. I know my daughter craves isolation at times. She likes to practice and learn skills as her teacher gives her the attention she needs and praises her for her accomplishments.