School inclusion is the task which involves integration of students with special educational needs with those who do not require special education. Students who have disabilities are given a chance to spend considerable amount of time with their counterparts who do not have disabilities. Inclusive schools do not discriminate against special and general educational needs but rather all students are treated equally as they attend lessons together as well as other educational activities. This allows maximum participation of all learners in their preferred schools as well as making learning relevant and meaningful to all students. This encourages formation of close relationships among students with disabilities and those who are okay thus eliminating any biasness that some learners are better than others. Alternatively, this boosts their self-esteem such that they are able to perform well academically.
However, all is not well with inclusion as students with severe behavioral problems may pose problems to the classmates especially when they are irritated thus it is upon the school to ensure that safety of all students is catered for and maintained. Research has shown that students with special educational needs who are incorporated into normal classes are able to develop team work spirit in addition to valuing the contribution made by their friends. Inclusion has also been known to instill high levels of tolerance among learners such that with the correct measures, both sides of students are able to gain academic assistance. Counselors are especially helpful in helping the disabled learners understand that they are normal like their other friends and thus they can achieve personal goals if they work hand in hand with their friends. The students with disabilities should also undergo counseling so that they may learn how to treat and handle their friends who require special attention.
School inclusion refers to the aspect of allowing learners with special academic needs to spend more time in class with their colleagues who do not require special attention. Implementation of inclusion varies from school to school using the criteria of extent of the special need from mild to severe. Inclusion is generally involved in respecting the children’s right to participate in their learning and the chosen school has no option but to absorb the learner in their system. Rejection of special needs learners or the introduction of separate classrooms and schools for learners with special needs is ultimately wrong according to the laws on inclusion. According to the principles of inclusion, learners should be given equal rights of participating in social, physical and educational matters in full capacity or as they deem best for their career prospectus (Westwood, 2003).In inclusion, all students are complete members of the individual schools which they attend and are thus entitled to equal opportunities and duties which are delegated to other normal students.
However, the students with disabilities are provided with a less restrictive environment which will enable the learner to achieve their personal goals (Snyder, Garriott and Aylor, 2001).Schools which have introduced inclusion as part of their daily activities have been restructured to eliminate the boundaries that had been erected around general and special education programs. These schools have been made to change such that they adapt to the needs of the special learners rather than the learners adapting to the needs of the school. The adaptation is dependent on the type of inclusion which will be offered by the school as there are two main ways of carrying out inclusion. One of the procedures involves partial inclusion of learners with disabilities where the students are taught for the better part of the day in the general classroom and later on in the day they attend special remedial classes to boost their understanding.
Alternatively, the special classes are used for the specialized teaching especially where special equipment is being used such as Braille machine which may be disruptive in the regular class. Thus, attendance to the regular class is limited to a specific period of time and after that the learners move on to their special classes for more intensive instructional learning. The partial inclusion is a gradual way of reducing of allowing learners to develop strong relationships with their peers as well as giving them a chance to cope with normal classes which may enhance their understanding of the content learnt in class Jackson, Ryndak, and Billingsley, (2000).The other method of inclusion involves full time attendance of learners with special needs into the general classes from where they receive all attention inclusive of their special activities in the presence of their peers.
This method is popular among learners with mild special needs such that they do not require comprehensive assistance outside the normal lesson. Full inclusion allows the learners to compete amongst themselves as well as giving ample time for discussion groups such that students are able to develop their social skills Feretti, Macarthur and Okolo, (2001).Occasionally, students in inclusive schools are usually allowed to learn with their age-mates due to convenience regardless of whether the academic level of the learner with special needs is within those brackets. Thus, by placing the learner among his/her age-mates, they are taught values such as the benefits of closer relationships in addition to the sense of belonging experienced by that learner. This is because the special needs learner is able to associate well with an age-mate rather than with an elder such a as teacher.
Benefits of School Inclusion
One of the benefits derived by learners with special need from inclusion is increased opportunities of meeting role models who will facilitate the development of good morals and virtues. Some of the role models include teachers who are met in class and inspire the learners while alternatively fellow peers may also influence the special needs students positively. Similarly, development of good social and adaptive behaviors is enhanced by interactions with other students who practice similar virtues. This also creates a conducive environment for improving interpersonal communication and other skills. Encouraging play and discussions among the students has an even greater impact on the achievement of better communication skills.
This is especially substantial where the learner is unable to express him/herself verbally such that they may incorporate other aspects of communication to relay the information (Westwood, 2003).The inclusion environment is quite challenging as it encourages competition among the different categories of learners. This is quite stimulating such that learners who were originally reluctant to participate in discussions become more active. The challenges posed by competing with other learners who do not have disabilities are enough to make the learner with special needs prove they are equally talented. They will thus be stimulated to work harder and in the process they will achieve not only their academic goals but also their dream careers.
Consequently, the environment also helps in discovery of talents and special interests especially with the help of other students who lead normal lives. This is further boosted by presence of a time table that offers a variety of activities thus, increasing the chances of identifying and developing more skills. Some of the items the may be scheduled in the inclusion class could be quite different from the activities in the special need class therefore a variety of new things becomes even more challenging. This also encourages maximum participation out of curiosity as well as out of eagerness to explore new avenues of fun and learning (Feretti, 2001)Inclusion classes allow the special needs learner to make more friends outside in class as well as outside. In the process of making more friends, experiences are shared such that they are able to learn more as well as learn about new things outside the classroom setting.
Sharing of new experiences helps them understand their situation and appreciate the fact that they are people who are living with severe conditions hence no need to get worried about their status. The interactions are also a major breakthrough in understanding their weaknesses either academic or social and their newly acquired friends may help them get over their weaknesses. Sharing of experiences is paramount to opening opportunities for relevant counseling sessions from professionals as it will be easier to understand various problems. Peers are also able to identify the things which annoy their disabled friend and they are able to avoid such scenarios. This is made possible by increased chances of interaction during lessons as well as during recess.Most important of all, inclusion in schools creates a sense of belonging to the students with disabilities such that they are able to feel as part of the larger community (Snyder, 2001).
Alternatively, the interaction with other students who do not require special attention makes them forget their disabilities if only for a minute and they are able to explore more dimensions which may not be presented by special needs school. The delegation of responsibilities to all students regardless of their physical or mental condition creates a sense of equality and this boost the self-esteem of disabled learners. They are able to appreciate their contribution and this makes them go a step further to being creative or in some cases in establishing their creativity as their confidence is boosted so that they believe they can achieve a lot. In the special needs class, this may not be possible as there is no learner who is different from them who is able to see and applaud the work (Jackson, (2000).
Disadvantages of school inclusion
Special needs learners may pose great problems to the learning environment of regular students in the same class. Some have disruptive habits such as involuntary shouting while the learning equipment used by others such as the Braille machine as well as some speech items which may make a lot of noise in class thus distracting other students. These distractions are mostly felt by learners who do not have disabilities as they are not used to such items. Consequently, some may be curious to know how they operate such that instead of carrying out their private studies they end up hovering around the special needs student trying to see how the machine operates.
Without close supervision thus may cause a lot of mayhem when learners portray more interest on the machines being used by special needs learners rather on their own learning. Thus, inclusion creates a problem to the normal students in terms of uncensored distractions (Purich, Ross, Severino and Zwirz, 2009).The disabled learners may develop a negative attitude towards school, their parents and teachers when they discover that they are expected to compete with their peers who are not disadvantaged as them. Frustrations may be evident in failure to participate in class discussions or poor performance in other academic activities and the students give excuses such as “I have done better than so and so who does not require speech machines like me. So why are you branding me a failure”.
With such a perception in mind, the student lacks the motivation to work hard because they believe that their classmates (Purich, 2009).Despite the fact that the inclusion provides equal chances for all students, the special needs students may require extra help in remedial classes as their level of understanding may be lower than for the students who do not have disabilities. Thus, incorporating the two groups in the same class may be detrimental to achievement of full academic potential for those with disabilities. Consequently, lack of trained teachers in the normal classroom setting to provide the special instructional directions required for such learners may dampen their enthusiasm for learning.
Concurrently, failure to have enough trained special needs teachers to provide for the individual problems may result in a feeling of neglect and abandonment leading to poor academic performance. The amount scheduled for the lessons in inclusion may not be enough as compared to time allocation and utilization in special schools. The pace needed for instruction and perceiving may be less for the learners with special needs while their peers may see this as a waste of time hence get bored during the lesson. Scheduling classes with the two groups in mind as well as their different needs is an even greater problem to the teacher who prepares the time table (Schneider, 2009).
Research studies on inclusion
Research has shown that most learners who require special needs find life more difficult in mainstream inclusion schools as the conditions availed there are more to the advantage of their ‘normal’ peers than to them. Majority of the facilities that are present are suitable for normal learning without the introduction of equipment used by the disabled. The classroom environment makes special learning a strenuous task and so is participation in extra-curricular activities. Most disabled learners are discontent with the fact that they are not included in making decisions which directly affect them. Most of them would like to be treated as different from their peers and their cases handled differently from those presented by learners with out disabilities (Schneider, 2009).
Inclusion in schools is far from being equally beneficial to the special needs learners as research has shown that the nature of restructuring made in such schools are way below average. Lack of adequate professionals in the area to handle the different cases presented by these learners is a major problem which requires immediate solving. Use of academic performance should not be used to gauge the ability of a special educational needs student to cope in an inclusion school but rather a combination of mental, physical and academic growth should be used to determine success of the development (Speece and Keogh, 1996).
The role of counselors in inclusion
Counselors are responsible for initiating comprehensive guidance to special needs learners who have been included in a normal school. They should instill confidence in the learners by encouraging them that they are capable of excelling socially and academically if they work hard. These learners should be made to understand that they disability should not hinder the achievement of personal dreams. Therefore, counselors should ensure that the special needs learners understand that they are not different from their peers who do not have any disability. This is the first step towards accepting their status and after that they are able to adapt the new way of life confidently (Westwood, 2003).Counselors should be available for consultations at all times as it is quite difficult to predict trouble or problems and the disabled students should be attended to promptly to avoid further damage and harm from being caused. Alternatively, ‘normal’ classmates should be counseled so that they may learn how to handle their disabled classmates. Information on how to handle various situations during playtime should be relayed at relevant times to prevent conflicts (Jackson, 2000).
Inclusion in schools is an area that requires intensive research and preparation before incorporation of the learners. This is because different learners may be having the same condition but wit different needs and requirements such that the mod eon inclusion for both may be quite different. Consequently, counselors have an even bigger task in controlling conflicts by helping the disabled learners fit into the mainstream system.
Feretti, R.P. ,Macarthur, C.D. and Okolo,C.M. (2001), Teaching for historical understanding in inclusive classrooms. Council of learning disabilities: Delaware University press. Vol. 24 pp59
Jackson, L Ryndak, D.and Billingsley,F. (2000), useful practices in inclusive education: a preliminary view of what experts in moderate to severe disabilities are saying. The journal of the Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps. Vol. 25. iss. 3 pp 124-141
Purich, K., Ross, D., Severino, A. and Zwirz, D. (2009). Inclusion: why does it not suit educational needs for all. Spring publishers
Schneider,C. (2009), Equal and not enough-current issues in inclusive education in the eyes of children. International journal of education. Vol,1 no.1
Snyder, L. Garriott, P. and Aylor, M. W. (2001). Inclusion confusion: putting the pieces together. The journal of the Teacher Education Division of the Council for Exceptional Children, Vol. 24, no. 3. pp.198-207
Speece,D. and. Keogh B, (1996), research on classroom ecologies: implications for inclusion of children with. Routledge publishers.