Full Inclusion is the theory that children with disabilities, particularly those with learning disabilities, should be placed in regular classrooms full time. The advocates of this method argue that doing so will allow disabled children to make friends with so-called "normal" children and will learn in a stimulating environment. While these arguments carry weight, there are also arguments against full inclusion.
Full Inclusion vs. Inclusion
There is a minor but important difference between these two theories. Inclusion is the idea of educating disabled children part time in regular classrooms. On the other hand, full inclusion would not allow disabled children to have any time outside regular classrooms. Thus they would always have to learn in an environment not tailored for the disabled, as well as keep up with the pace of non-disabled students.
Dr Alan Harchik of the May Institute for Children with Autism says, "It is unrealistic to expect that regular education teachers will always have the specific training...be aware of the latest research, or be able to readily adapt the school's curriculum." Thus, children with disabilities need a supplementary class and teacher who can deal with these issues.
Every Classroom is Different
In the "Handbook for Successful Inclusion," the authors point out that "Proponents of full inclusion assume that the general education classroom can and will be able to accommodate all students with disabilities, even those with severe and multiple disabilities." To look at all classrooms in all schools as being the same is a dangerous mistake. Teachers without special training in dealing with mentally disabled kids may find it very difficult to cope. Furthermore, it is not fair to the child to expect them to keep the same pace as the rest of the class. Put simply, the traditional classroom is not prepared to cope with students with special needs.
The High Cost
To specially train teachers and develop facilities in state schools to allow for full inclusion could cost many millions of dollars. State schools in many parts of America already complain of insufficient funding and large student populations. Disabled children will need extra facilities and helpers such as scribers, minders, extra time with the teachers, access points and so on.
The Benefits of Specialized Schools
There are many specialised schools that cater to children with learning disabilities. Some educational theorists have argued that these are a much better place for disabled children to learn. Here they will not be stigmatised or bullied. In turn, they will be given equal opportunity to learn and develop in a safe environment.
"Our students can grow and gain strength. They get to take part in all the activities of a school. They can write for the newspaper, assemble a yearbook, set up a prom, serve on the LSC. They have a rich range of opportunities that it's unlikely they would have at a regular high school," says Jay Mulberry, principal of the Jacqueline Vaughn Occupational High School. This high school has special programs for disabled kids and has greatly improved the grades of many of its students as well as placing them in jobs after they graduate. It is unlikely that your neighbourhood state school could do this.
- SEDL: Inclusion: The Pros and Cons of Inclusion
- New for Parents: Including Children with Special Needs in Regular Classrooms: Pros & Cons
- Education World: Inclusion: Has It Gone Too Far?
- Chicago Reader: Inclusion debate: parents battle bureaucrats over the mission of Vaughn High
- The Star Herald: Durant Public Schools Discuss Lack of Funding