Mainstreaming Special needs Students Understanding the Debate

“Mainstreaming is the practice of educating students with special needs in regular classes during specific time periods based on their skills”- Encarta Dictionary: English (North America). Special needs can mean anything from children with learning disabilities which as defined by the Individuals with Educational Disabilities Act (IDEA) as a “disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using spoken or written language, which may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations.” These include such things as Dyslexia and ADHD (Attention Deficit/Hyperactive Disorder) where in some cases a child is incapable of concentrating, remaining calm or following instructions as well as the inclusion of gifted children that may excel in one specific area for their grade level while lagging behind in others. The premise of teaching based on a child’s individual skills sounds like the perfect formula for educating not only special needs children but all children. Unfortunately we already have a serious shortage of qualified teachers. And, Although it is a great idea, Mainstreaming does not address the different levels of social and emotional skills of all of the children in these classes. I am 100% behind any program that integrates children for any educational purpose – in theory. However, having once been a child, having had the privilege of raising two children and now the pleasure of watching four grandchildren travel through the social and emotional world of “education” I cannot in my heart nor head justify subjecting children with special needs even “during specific time periods” to a segment of our population who are themselves experiencing their most self-centered, boundary searching, unkind, mean spirited and often thoughtless life cycle. The lack of qualified “Special education” teachers makes the threat of these child-on-child abuse situations more likely to occur. Special needs children are aware and sensitive to their differences. They need to be surrounded by their peers but not unless the school system can assure that the program will also support sensitization of the student population as a whole while providing the qualified special ed teachers necessary. I have heard the argument that one of the reasons for mainstreaming is that “these” children should be prepared for the real world. That statement was not about the children who had special needs getting a better education; but rather that they should get use to being called names and treated badly. It is a statement that speaks poorly of our society in general, not just our education system. Our children, all of our children, are our country’s greatest resource and by properly mainstreaming these special needs children into our school system with the proper qualified teacher/child ratio has great potential.