Inclusion of Special Education in Regular Education
Special education is a form of education that is mainly focused on children with special needs; it is geared towards addressing individual needs and differences of students. Special education involves systematically monitoring, individual planning and arrangement of teaching procedures, accessible settings, use of adapted materials and equipment and other modes of interventions that are intended to enable students with special needs to gain a higher level of success and self sufficiency in the community and at school than they would if they were to attend the general classroom education. Special education is administered to students who have physical disabilities, difficulties in learning, developmental disorders, behavioral and emotional disorders and communication challenges. Such students benefit from education by use of different teaching approaches and educational services, use of technology and having access to a resource room. Students who are gifted intellectually too can benefit from use of different educational programs and special teaching techniques. However, special education tends to concentrate on the students who have a reduced learning capability and therefore such students are handled in a different manner.
In the United States, citivans were the pioneers of providing special education by training teachers in this field in 1952. However, it was not until 1975 that children with special needs were allowed to enroll in public schools. This was as a result of the passage of the education for all handicapped children act, these enabled students with special needs to access appropriate education.
This research paper seeks to study the inclusion of special education students in a regular class, how teachers can implement inclusion, the resources needed for inclusion and to provide one with a basis on how to evaluate regular education teacher’s support for special needs. The paper also discusses the advantages and disadvantages of inclusion of special education students in regular education classes.
Inclusion of special education students in regular education classes.
Inclusion is an approach in which regular students spend all or most of their time with students that have special needs. The implementation of this approach differs between schools; most of the schools apply it for students with moderate and mild special needs.
Schools that practice inclusion do not distinguish between special and general education, such schools are structured in such a way that all students are accommodated and learn together. Inclusive learning can be differentiated from past ideas like mainstreaming and integration, such ideas tended to focus mainly on special education needs and disability and proposed that students should made ready or changed by mainstreaming in order to be accommodated in the general system. However, inclusion is focused on the duty of the school, that is to accept the child and the child’s right to participate. The practice of inclusion rubbishes the use of special classrooms and schools to divide students with disabilities from those without. Hence inclusion stresses on respect for the educational, social and civil rights of students with disabilities.
The aim of inclusive education is to capitalize on the involvement of all students in schools of one’s choice, formulate an education system that is relevant and meaningful for all, especially for students who are susceptible to exclusion, and to restructure and rethink cultures, curricula practices and policies in schools and to provide a favorable environment where the diverse needs of students are met whatever their nature or origin.
Inclusive education is therefore a procedure of eradicating barriers and facilitating excluded groups and all students to participate and learn efficiently within the normal school settings.
This can be achieved upon the realization that all students can be taught and benefit from education, individual differences of students are not a problem but rather a source of diversity and richness, schools should acclimatize to the requirements of learners rather than the students acclimatizing to the requirements of the school, and that the variety of students’ needs and pace of development can be tackled through a flexible and wide range of means. (Allen, 2003)
Classification of inclusion:
Inclusion can be classified into two main sub types; the regular or partial inclusion and full inclusion.
Regular/ partial inclusion:
In this approach, special needs students are accommodated into regular classes for virtually all or more than half of the day. With this arrangement such students with special needs receive special instructions or any additional help only when a need arises. Such instructions or help is provided outside the regular classroom and especially if such instructions might disrupt the rest of the students or if a special equipment is required. A resource room is reserved purposely for instructional sessions, language or speech therapy, physical or occupational therapy, and social work.
This refers to the complete incorporation of special needs students into the general classroom. Such a student is given special instructions in identical general classroom with all other students. It is commonly practiced on special needs students whose requirements are easily met in such a classroom. For instance, allowing more time for a disabled student to complete an assignment.
Schools with such an arrangement normally combine classes and there are no separate classes for special education. However, there have been arguments against full inclusion; it is seen as controversial and inapplicable. Such arguments propose that full inclusion is not likely to enable students achieve individual goals of education.
Other practices include:
-Mainstreaming: In this model special education and regular education classes are combined during specific periods of time on the basis of the special needs students’ skills.
-Segregation: in this model students that have special needs do not spend time in the regular classes. In this arrangement, special needs students attend special needs classrooms but in the same school as the regular students or attend a special school.
-Exclusion: this occurs where a student does not receive direction in any school, this may be as a result of lack of legal mandate for special services. This normally occurs when a learner is homebound, in hospital or a detainee. (Oakford, 2003)
The Role Teachers in Inclusion
A teacher is very instrumental in the process of inclusion; this is because a teacher is in direct contact with special needs and those without special needs. In an inclusive classroom students are categorized with their age-mates independent of whether they are working below or above the normal academic level for their age. Teachers foster a relationship between a student without special needs and an age-mate student with special needs by emphasizing on the value of friendship and by encouraging a sense of belonging. Another good approach is assigning a friend to always escort a student with special needs, this is important because it depicts that a community is made up of a diverse group of people, that no one is better, and to eliminate any obstacles to a friendship. Such ideas lower the possibility of elitism in higher classes and it also supports cooperation among groups.
Teachers can implement numerous practices inclusion; focusing on the potential of both special needs students and those without special needs, teaching the importance of helping one another, giving assignments that build their relationships, open discussions on individual differences, involving all students in problem solution, introducing games that build their relationships, encouraging participation of special needs students by using physical therapy equipments, and by introducing books and songs the teach the importance of appreciating one another.
The resources needed in implementation of inclusion
In implementing inclusion there are a number of resources that need to be in place, such resources include; enough services and support for the students, individualized education programs that are well structured, professional training of both special and general teachers, enough time for teachers to meet, plan, create and evaluate students performances, collaboration between teachers, administrators and parents, enough funds for skill development, and proper skill development in areas such as peer tutoring, cooperative learning and adaptive curriculum.
Advantages of inclusion of special education students in regular education classes.
Advocates of inclusion believe that non- inclusion lowers the social importance of special needs students, to them social visibility of such students is more crucial than their achievement in academics. They propose that society views people with disability as having less human dignity and should be less visible. However, to such advocates even if the typical students in general classrooms are affected academically by the inclusion of students with special needs, non inclusion is still unacceptable morally. The effect on the on the typical students is lesser than the social harm caused by non inclusion in society.
Another important advantage of inclusion is that everybody benefits from it. For the many children who feel unwanted and do not fit in inclusion of students with special needs inclusion helps them to appreciate themselves and to appreciate others. In addition, a study carried out on the impact of a divergent student body found out that, there is an increase in academic proficiency and social skills for children with mental disorder which is as a result of inclusion. (Thomas, 2007)
The long term effect of inclusion is that when typical students are combined with special needs students, it make them be tolerant, mindful of the challenges others face and makes them appreciate them too this instills in them good leadership skills, increased compassion and empathy which is crucial for the society as a whole.
A combination of partial and full education is instrumental to students that experience difficulties in learning, for example comprehension reading and it is preferred by special education teachers.
For the disabled student their inclusion in a regular classroom boosts their self esteem, confidence and exhibit raised self efficacy. It also gives such students a chance to learn social skills by observation; they acquire a better understanding of how the world around them works and fit in the society. (Kavale, 2002)
Disadvantages of inclusion of special education students in regular education classes.
Students with special needs generally require more attention and time, this time and attention is given at the expense of the whole class meaning that the class has to depend on the disability and the resources available. Suggestions on how this problem can be solved propose that an aide should be employed to take care of the needs of such students however this translates to an increased cost of education.
According parents, administrators and educators, partial or full integration fail to acknowledge the fact that students with special needs require highly controlled environment or individualized instructions. Therefore general inclusion of all students’ means that teachers are teaching the normal curriculum but special needs students requires a special curriculum. (Schwartz, 2001)
General classroom teachers may lack the proper training on how to handle students with special needs this may lead to regression for students with special needs and the decreased productivity of the class as a whole. This can be addressed by providing support services and professional training of existing and new teachers, however this also to an increased cost of education.
Students with special needs often feel more comfortable working in a class where the other students are at the same level with them or receiving the same level of support. Such students may also feel socially rejected or conspicuous and are prone to bullying.
Special education comes with additional costs; others argue that it is less cost effective than as compared to other methods of intervention such as special education. In addition, most governments fail to include such additional cost on the budget for schools. These costs involves provision of training on how to handle kids that needs special attention, employment of aides to help such students and the cost of specialized equipment in resource rooms.
Another important issue is that teachers should be very careful in combining students, some students have disorders that can affect others for instance students with autism should not be combined with those that have conduct disorder. In other cases a special need child may display disruptive behavior which will in turn cause distractions to the other students. (Loxley, 2007)
Some argue that inclusion is philosophically attractive but not practical; research has yet to confirm the proposed advantages of inclusion.
The need to appreciate, include and integrate student with special needs into the regular system cannot be overemphasized. Such students are part of the society and deserve the dignity and respect that any other member of society is accorded in equal measure. In implementing inclusion there are numerous approaches teachers can use to effectively include all kinds of students; also there are certain resources that are needed in implementation.
Therefore, inclusion involves effecting changes in how teachers teach, how students without and with special requirement interact and relate with each other. Such changes rely on inclusive educational practices such as active learning, applied curriculum, authentic assessment practices, multi-level instructional approaches and individualization. However other people are bitterly opposed to such an arrangement, they say that inclusion does not consider individual needs of such children, its time consuming and costly
Kavale, K.A. (2002): Mainstreaming to full inclusion: From orthogenesis to pathogenesis of an idea. Pg. 201-214. International Journal of Disability, Development, and Education.
Loxley, A. Thomas, G. (2007): Deconstructing Special Education and Constructing Inclusion. 2nd Ed. Open University Press. Maidenhead:
Oakford, S., Hastings. R.P. (2003), Student teachers' attitudes toward the inclusion of children with special needs. Pg 87-95.Educational psychology.
Schwartz, I.S. Allen, K.E., (2001). The exceptional child: Inclusion in early childhood education.4th Ed. Pg. 72-89. Delmar. New York.