Mainstreaming special needs students: Should we do it?
Mainstreaming special education students means providing them their education in the general population while maintaining whatever support is necessary under their current Individual Education Plan (IEP). It is believed that special education students should be with non-disabled peers as much as possible. To determine if this is the right thing to do we need to look at how mainstreaming looks in the classroom.
How It Looks in the Classroom
When a special needs student is in the general population and receiving services it is difficult to keep their accommodations and modifications private. It is only a matter of time before the students peers realize that the student is receiving extra support. Some teachers are good at dealing with this sensitive issue while others struggle to make the student feel comfortable. A special needs student may be embarrassed that they are receiving extra support and either not accept the extra help or worry so much what others think of them. Many special needs students feel uncomfortable in a regular education classroom and have difficulty getting along with their peers. They are often criticized by their peers and are too embarrassed to say anything. For tips on bullying look at http://www.bullybegone.org/
I think one thing that will help improve mainstreaming is the new movement toward Response to Intervention (RTI). This is a fairly new concept. RTI means that students will be able to receive extra help and services without being identified for special education services. This means many more students will receive extra support from time to time and special education students may not stick out as much
In a mainstream classroom a special needs student may be pulled out for extra services such as reading, speech, math, OT/PT services. In the classroom they may have a reduced workload, shorter assignments, books on tape, sensory equipment, and many other accommodations.
The Special Needs Classroom
I am an educator in a private special needs school. We often receive students from the public schools who were mainstreamed. Many times the students I receive are students that should have never been mainstreamed in the first place. By the time they get to my classroom they have struggled for such a significant amount of time. Forcing special needs students into regular education settings may result in a lower self-esteem, difficulty behaving in school, lack of friends, and lack of interest in extracurricular activities. Some students are significantly depressed and overwhelmed.
Does it Work!
Mainstreaming is extremely successful for some students. However, it is not for all students. In this country we have bounced back and forth so many times in regards to what to do with special education students. It is difficult to know what is going to work best for each student. The important thing to remember is monitor the student’s feelings and make them feel comfortable in a mainstream classroom and help them to feel smart and fit in with their peers.