Mainstreaming Special needs Students Understanding the Debate

Today, more emphasis is being placed on inclusion, the practice of placing students with disabilities in regular education classrooms. Inclusion is based on the diverse society in which we live. The same way desegregation of public facilities brought about a better understanding of race and cultural difference, inclusion is a way for average students to become acquainted with people with disabilities and to understand their disabilities and their perspectives. Inclusion allows average students and students with disabilities to communicate and work together to achieve common goals, a familiar practice used on day-to-day job sites and other adult activities.

Research has found that the practice of inclusion is socially beneficial; however, there is question on the academic success of the program. A study, Data Analysis for Comprehensive Schoolwide Improvement by Victoria L. Bernhardt, found that students in general “felt” that they benefited, both socially and academically, from inclusion. However, a study of deaf and hard-of-hearing students by Michael Stinson and Shirin Antia discovered that children with certain disabilities, such as hearing loss, do not benefit from inclusion and score below average most often; Stinson and Antia believe this is due to poor communication between the teacher and the hearing impaired student. On the bright side, research conducted by Mary F. Piuma found that the employment rate for students with disabilities who were educated in inclusion classrooms was 20% higher than for students who were in segregated classrooms. A study by Bogdan and Taylor in 1989 revealed that average students in regular education classes become more accepting of students with disabilities and develop friendships with people with disabilities more easily than the other students. Given this information, I believe inclusion is the best method of educating students with disabilities who are able to be placed in regular classroom setting.

Educating students with disabilities amongst average students can be stressful, but it is no different than teaching students who learn at different levels. Teachers have found that they already individualize for students who learn through different mediums, such as visual or auditory learners, and for those that learn at different rates. Individualizing the curriculum does not require a teacher to “water-down” the lesson, but rather the teacher has to be innovative in reaching all students. In order to reach all the students, a teacher must modify and adapt the lessons repeatedly to see what works. The teacher must use different methods of teaching. Quoting experts in lectures or assigning chapters to read is not the only way to teach. Teachers should use hands on approaches, perhaps using examples or mediums that the students are more familiar. For instance, in my experience of teaching mathematics, students could not grasp the physics concepts of certain word problems. I brought in a remote-control car and had the students apply the mathematical concepts to the real scenarios. Also, teachers can modify work assignments to meet the needs of individual students.

There are many benefits to teaching students with disabilities in regular education classrooms. Some of the students with disabilities might have a different perspective on the educational material, and perhaps a different approach to the understanding of the literature or the solving of a problem. By encouraging the students to work together, all students benefit academically as well as socially. Average students also learn to be tolerant and perhaps patient with students with disabilities. Students with disabilities become more comfortable with people in a social setting.

Inclusion is not for every student. Some students require extraordinary needs in order to obtain a proper education; however, students with disabilities who are able to function in the regular education classroom should be placed amongst the average students. Research shows that students benefit, both socially and academically, from inclusion. While everyone is not right for the inclusion program, I believe it is the best method for teaching children with disabilities who want to integrate into society. It gives students with disabilities a better chance of a “normal” life as well as educates average students on what it is like to live with a disability.