Disabled Students in Mainstream Schools

Written by harold greengrass
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Disabled Students in Mainstream Schools
Integrating special needs students into mainstream schools presents great benefits and challenges to today's educators. (Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

Whether disabled by cerebral palsy, autism, dyslexia or a developmental disorder, students with disabilities are becoming increasingly integrated into mainstream schools in the United States and the United Kingdom. Controversy among administrators, teachers and parents has sprang from the debate on whether the older model of separate institutionalism and the newer model of seamless classroom integration are the best ways of educating students of all ability levels. Because of the implementation of the inclusion models, the presence of disabled students in mainstream schools continues to raise awareness and spark discussion on crucial issues in education.

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Under the inclusion model of education, students with special needs spend all or most of their time with nondisabled students. Over the last three decades, state schools have increasingly integrated special needs students into the mainstream classroom. Disabled students who had previously felt alienated as victims of educational segregation now began to be included in traditional lessons, games, and social rites. Many disabled students have reported feeling more socially accepted since integrating into traditional school.

Types of Inclusion

Inclusion has two subtypes: regular or partial inclusion and full inclusion. Under the regular inclusion model, the student is treated like a full member of the class but may spend nearly all or half of the day in the physical classroom. Specialised services are provided outside the classroom for students needing potentially disruptive assistance such as speech therapy or help with equipment. Under the full inclusion model, students with special needs are always educated alongside the students without special needs.

Arguments For Inclusion

Proponents of full inclusion purport that segregation is a violation of special needs student's civil rights. Because nonintegration reduces visibility of disabled people, it also reduces their social importance, self esteem, and sense of dignity. Another argument is that a fully inclusive school establishes a welcoming feeling that gives all the students a sense of belonging. Studies have shown that integrated special needs students grow more in the areas of reading comprehension, leadership skills and compassion.

Arguments Against Inclusion

Many disabled students have special needs that require them to have individualised or controlled environments; students with high inattention rates may not be able to focus in a large classroom setting. Another argument is that many special needs students are not capable of keeping up with the traditional curriculum and need a remediated version. Critics say that while inclusion is philosophically sound, subjecting disabled children to potential ridicule and alienation is impractical and cruel. There are teachers, administrators and parents on both sides of the debate as it continues on today.

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