The Right of All Children
For many years children with special needs were isolated from their peers at school. They were placed in separate classrooms away from other students, but inclusion has changed this. Inclusion involves a commitment to educate children with special needs, including those with disabilities by bringing the support services to the children in a regular classroom setting rather than moving the child to the services (Schultz).
The regular education teacher may receive assistance from individuals such as the special education teacher, speech therapist, and physical therapist if needed, in order to provide needed services within the regular classroom. These students have Individualized Education Plans (IEP) with objectives that are developed around their needs and must continue to be met in the regular class (Tomko). Some important questions concerning inclusion are as follows: 1) What are some concerns regarding inclusion? ; 2) What are the two most common forms of inclusion? ; 3) What are some positive and negatives aspects of inclusion? ; 4) What strategies can be used in the classroom to make inclusion effective and successful? II. BODY Inclusion has been implemented in many school systems throughout the United States. These school systems have adopted the idea that all children should and can learn in a regular classroom (Cromwell).
Initially and still today, there are many concerns regarding inclusion on the part of parents and teachers. Parents of children with special needs fear a loss of advocacy because the primary responsibility for the education of their children is being shifted to the regular education teacher (Deloney and Tompkins). Before inclusion, the special education teacher had the primary responsibility of educating and providing the appropriate resources and services to their students because they were familiar with each child's situation, unlike the regular education teacher. Additionally, parents are concerned about whether their children will be able to keep up in a regular classroom, so they prefer the child to stay separated. In addition to parental concerns, many teachers also have concerns about inclusion. One area of concern for teachers is the fact that many feel they have not been adequately trained for inclusion, especially when handicapped children are placed in their classrooms.
These students may require the use of special types of equipment and classroom modifications. Teachers may also have students with medical problems in the class, and some teachers are concerned because they lack medical training to handle emergencies if needed. Special education teachers are concerned about the number of students with special needs being assigned to them (Trump 12). Special education teachers are being assigned more students than they can handle and are having problems getting around to all of them (Trump 12). In many schools today children with special needs are being integrated into regular classrooms by two common forms of inclusion full inclusion or mainstreaming. Full inclusion is the placement of children with special needs into a regular classroom setting full-time or all day (Shultz).
Any services the child receives are brought to them in the regular classroom (Shultz). According to Adria Robertson, a sixth-grade teacher at Elysian Fields Middle School, "Many children cannot handle full inclusion. After a while they begin to get very restless, and you can tell they have had enough of schoolwork, especially those kids with behavior problems or attention deficit disorder." These students have short attention spans and being confined in a regular classroom for all day is too much for them, and as a result they may begin acting up and disrupting the class. In addition, full inclusion may not be appropriate for students with severe physical and medical conditions because they may need to rest at times during the day. Mainstreaming is the most common form of inclusion being implemented in schools. Mainstreaming refers to the placement of children in one or more regular classrooms for part of the day (Shultz).
The students have to earn the opportunity to be placed in a regular class by showing they can keep up with the work assigned by the regular education teacher (Shultz). According to Adria Robertson, mainstreaming works because students have to earn the opportunity for placement into a regular class, and mainstreaming gives them the incentive to work hard in order to remain in the class where they want to be. Even though inclusion has been successful in many cases, some teachers and parents remain skeptical. Inclusion or mainstreaming has some positive aspects. According to Catherine Voelker Morsink, regular education students are given the opportunity to be in close contact with those students that have special needs or physical disabilities, and this helps them get past their fears and misconceptions about disabled people (18). Regular education students also can learn about the problems their peers with special needs have, and knowledge about the problems of their peers can help regular education students be more patient and understanding with them.
The child with special needs also benefits from inclusion. Inclusion helps to build up self-esteem and give students with special needs a sense of belonging (Deloney and Tomkins). It also takes away the stigma of labeling (Deloney and Tomkins). While there are many positive aspects, there are some negative aspects of inclusion.
Inclusion is not appropriate for all students. Some students cannot handle being part of a large class. They may feel more comfortable in a smaller class and need more one-on-one attention from the teacher. Adequate resources may not always be available in the regular classroom for those students with special needs. According to Morsink, if students with special needs, including those with physical disabilities, are not given appropriate materials and assistance, they are still segregated from their peers even though they are in the regular classroom with them (19). Another negative aspect of inclusion is insufficient planning time.
Both special and regular education teachers complain about not having enough planning time (Trump 12). They feel they would need more time to plan alone and with co-teachers in order to make the needed modifications for those children with special needs (Trump 14). An increase in planning time is needed for each special education student that is added to the classroom (Trump 14). In order to help teaching students with special needs in the regular classroom to be done effectively and successfully, different strategies such as peer tutoring, collaborative planning, and classroom management can be used within the classroom.
Peer tutoring involves students being placed in small groups and teaching one another under the supervision of the teacher (D'Zamko and Hedges 232). In a group setting students with special needs can be help by regular education students without experiencing embarrassment and both the tutor and tute e benefit (D'Zamko and Hedges 232). According to Robertson, "Peer tutoring really works because it makes students feel good when they can help one another, and it gives them a sense of responsibility." A second strategy is collaborative planning. Both teachers need to work together to plan instructional modifications in order to meet the needs of all students in the classroom (Trump 21).
A third strategy is classroom management which is essential for an inclusive classroom setting and can prevent discipline problems in the classroom (Morsink 135). According to Morsink, classroom rules should be clearly posted in order to remind students of behavioral expectations and consequences (136). Teachers need to be consistent with discipline, and the consequences should be the same for everyone, including those students with disabilities. For classrooms that include those students that do not read or speak more than one language, the rules should be illustrated with pictures (Morsink 136).
III. CONCLUSION In conclusion, all children deserve the right to an equal education, and inclusive education gives students with special needs that opportunity. Inclusive education provides students with special needs contact with their peers, and teaches children how to work together and relate to others with different abilities (Tomko). The regular classroom may not be appropriate for all students with special needs, but for those that can placement in the regular classroom can be very beneficial. Proper planning ahead, preparation, and supports for the child are essential for inclusion to work properly (Tomko). I feel that with inclusion there are still problems that need to be addressed, but with the cooperation of everyone involved inclusion can be successful and effective.