While mainstreaming special needs students has positive results, few realise, or conscientiously consider, the negative results of a poorly planned placement. There are many considerations before mainstreaming special needs students. If any consideration is not given its due respect, the consequences could be more detrimental than helpful. Negative results of mainstreaming special needs students include academic, social and emotional repercussions.
Special needs children do not just struggle with the normal demands of the subjects that they study. They also need to deal with their special needs that are likely to interfere with their studies. Having to cope with studies on top of their special needs in the mainstream means meeting two challenges within the same time that children with no apparent learning needs, need. If the learning requirements of special needs students are not carefully weighed, these students may find the pressure to succeed too much to bear, and hence give in and feel a total academic failure.
Special needs children may have behaviours that other children do not exhibit. Children are born curious, and may not have the social skills of controlling their tongues. They may ask questions that leave the special needs children uncomfortable, feeling small and useless, and totally out of place whereas they would have felt accepted and ‘normal’ in a special needs environment.
Both mainstream children and special needs children need to be prepared for mainstreaming the special needs students. Mainstream students need to be briefed on the nature of the special needs children and how they can be sensitive to the needs of the special needs students. Special needs students must be taught to handle rude stares, embarrassing and annoying queries, as well as blatant physical assault from cruel children. They must learn to be determined to succeed in the mainstream. Otherwise the negative results will not be easy to stand up to.
Special needs children may have behaviours that can cause injury to themselves and to others. Some of them may have neurological disorders that lead to harmful behaviours and lack of self-control, hence posing a danger to others and themselves. If they are provoked, they may injure themselves or their classmates. There is a need, therefore to assess carefully whether special needs children can be mainstreamed. The decision to mainstream special needs children should therefore be based on individual students.
Not every special needs student can be mainstreamed. It all depends on their needs and the degree of seriousness of the disorder that they have. Some special needs children may be well-behaved in a slower-paced school for special needs and experienced teachers who can handle them. When placed in a more stressful mainstream class, however, the challenges are there to keep up with the rest. When faced with pressures and perhaps unkind school mates, it is easy for them to display unacceptable behaviours, and get themselves misunderstood for life. Academically, they will also suffer.
Mainstreaming special needs children must be a decision that is not made hastily, and depends on the children concerned. More than one assessor should be involved, and both possible positive and negative results must be weighed carefully before a decision is finalised. A special needs child is still a special child, and his needs and welfare must come before all other conveniences.