Special Ed: The Move Away From Inclusion
Q. I was among the
parents who opposed the widescale inclusion of special-education students in
the regular classroom many years ago. I knew the comings and goings of aides,
the noises some of the kids make (even though they can't help themselves), the
stopping and starting that the teachers would make to accommodate their special
needs . . . it was destined to slow down the average and gifted learners.
History has certainly borne that out. I'm not against inclusion in classes
where student concentration aren't as important, such as art and P.E. and
Homeroom and so forth. It's just in math, science, English and history classes
where I feel students have a right to a peaceful, studious atmosphere that too
often the physically disabled students' needs interfere with. I've read that
most special-needs parents don't even want inclusion any more - they'd rather
have the special classrooms their kids really need, as much as is affordable.
Is there a move away from the dogma of inclusion?
The federal Individuals With Disabilities in Education Act
(IDEA) requires that all children should be educated in the "least restrictive
environment" possible. The idea was to keep from segregating children just
because they have learning differences, but to mainstream them with their peers
Even though it is tremendously more expensive to bring the
special-ed services to the child in the regular classroom, than to bring the
children to a set-aside room with the special-ed services in place, inclusion
was instituted in schools around the country beginning in the 1970s and '80s.
It works nicely for many special-needs children, and has
gone a long way toward building tolerance and appreciation for people with
"differences" among the regularly-abled student population, not to mention
parents and teachers.
But unfortunately, there have been some problems, too, such
as you describe. And yes, there is a move to reduce the amount of inclusion in
many districts, utilizing a "continuum of placements" so that the child's needs
can be met in the best way possible without creating an additional problem for
the regular classroom.
At the same time special ed inclusion was happening, all
kinds of new computers and equipment were being crammed into the classroom, and
the teaching style changed from mostly lectures and discussions to mostly group
projects and hands-on activities. All of those things were already cramping
school space. Now adding a student in a wheelchair with an aide and their
"stuff" and equipment . . . it got to be a problem.
And there are some conditions that really do respond better
in dedicated special-ed settings, rather than in the general ed classroom.
A good description of special-education "inclusion" is contained
in this article from the Wisconsin Education Association Council:
Ironically, since the movement for inclusion started in
Great Britain, a movement to STOP inclusion also started there. Both the
original proponent, and now the leading opponent, is Baroness Mary Warnock. She
said inclusion causes "confusion of which children are the casualties."
Special-ed children often have emotional problems which the regular classroom
setting makes worse, not better. Read more about this on:
an article written by a longtime teacher who's against full inclusion of
special-needs kids: www.lewrockwell.com/taylor/taylor122.html