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Special Learners        < Previous



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 whenever possible.


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:



Homework: See an article written by a longtime teacher who's against full inclusion of special-needs kids:


By Susan Darst Williams Special Learners 06 2008




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