It is most certain that the issue of mainstreaming students with disabilities has raised more than a few “controversial flags”, each person with an opinion of their own on the subject, the pros and cons arising in each intense debate and discussion as society takes the matter apart with such valor because indeed a sound education for all is imperative thus it is an integral part of society’s responsibility to ensure of it’s delivery. This is regardless of whether the education is for students with disabilities or non-disabled students. A result oriented education is inevitably vital to any student’s eventual self reliance and successful survival in society.
As expected, mainstreaming students with disabilities as a system and in its entirety bears a positive connotation, it is meant to be of advantage and in the long run profit students as they prepare for their future endeavors. It intends to train students with disabilities early enough on how to live in the real world, have and develop the confidence to compete, work, socialize and interact with their non-disabled peers effectively by providing disabled students an education in the same facilities, classrooms and under the same teachers as their non-disabled peers. It purports fairness and non discriminatory undertones as students with disabilities can, should they wish, participate and challenge themselves in the same activities as long as they require only a few alterations.
Some of the areas where mainstreaming may be weak and cons may arise would be if the school or teacher responsible for educating the disabled student does not see the value of mainstreaming and is of the mind that disabled students have specials needs and as such “only fit into” intuitional special needs programs. Teachers are vital tools as learning facilitators, they know the strengths and weaknesses of their students thus they should be equipped with adequate training and skills to educate and accommodate disabled students, this requires patience. The teacher must understand that it will take a longer duration to tutor the students, probably entail having extra support or aides depending on the kind of disabilities. A teacher who is not well prepared or resists mainstreaming may have a hard time coping and that would be detrimental to the learning process of the student with disabilities.
Language barriers between students with special consequence disabilities such as the deaf and mute or deaf and a teacher without sign language skills may be cause for failure to communicate and frustration on both sides. Issues in special needs interests which may concern deaf students also need to be understood in their mainstream classes as these students communicate by touch and signs therefore the teacher would have to explain to the non-disabled students to make them aware of the mode of communication used by the deaf student as some of the other students may be irritated by the touching.
Having students with disabilities such as Autistic or deaf students in the same class as non-disabled peers will slow the class down and they may lag behind their curriculum causing difficulty for the teacher in holding the attention of the rest of the class.
Students with disabilities may tend to feel awkward and inadequate being waited for the rest of the class and needing extra explanations in order to catch up or be uncomfortable that they are lagging behind the class thus leading to low self esteem and poor academic performance.
Without adequate supervision, education and explaining the non-disabled students especial in the elementary classes may bully or tease the disabled student causing them to wonder why they are “different” and they may be depressed, cower and isolate themselves.
Sometimes students with certain disabilities will not be able to comprehend the events happening around them and this may be rather “annoying”, make them agitated and they may bang tables and seem disruptive, and alarm the other students.
The costs of sustaining and mainstreaming a school in order to cater sufficiently for the provisions required to educate students with disabilities productively such as providing aides, resources for special physical activities ,provisions for wheelchair students etc may be too high and sometimes funding may be insufficient or not available.
On the lighter side, mainstreaming has demonstrated that it has its pros; it has been beneficial to students with mild levels of disabilities such as diabetes, dyslexia and other academic disabilities for they have improved their academic accomplishments and their overall long term performance.
Mainstreaming provides for an educational environment where students with disabilities can learn to stop considering themselves as vulnerable as “a gazelle surrounded by lions” when faced with thoughts of their future in the real world as they now are able to attend the same classes and utilize the same facilities as non-disabled students, this has greatly improved their confidence and self reliance and over time students with disabilities may gather the confidence on their own to socialize, make friends and get involved in projects with non-disabled students; this makes them feel more adequate and accepted socially.
The employment skills and career mentoring in a mainstreamed education facility will most probably be of a higher quality, offer a larger variety of options thus allowing any student with disabilities a wider choice and gainful challenges in career alternatives than in a special education program where the skills and career mentoring may be stereotyped and tailor-made to “suit” disabled students.
Students with disabilities grow positively from the social skills they amass from a mainstream school; hence they may be better prepared for college and the real world.
For any system to work, it is vital for all involved parties to assume a positive attitude towards the challenge and it is without doubt that mainstreaming has room for improvement but in the education facilities with this system little steps in the right direction are accepting and beneficial for example students with disabilities can bring dictaphones to class and then listen in on their lessons later on and at their own pace so they do not have to feel overly pressured during the school day. Resource rooms may also be accessible to students with disabilities so they can have one on one basis with special education teachers.
Mainstreaming may be crucial in the stance that inevitably students with disabilities must also go out in the world and fend for themselves, mix with people from all walks of life thus it trains them to effectively utilize whatever skills they may have and on the other hand it also teaches non-disabled students tolerance, understanding and erases to a point the stigmatization of students and people with disabilities.