Inclusion Education Thesis

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¶ … Inclusion

Those in favor of inclusion claim that the process benefits the special needs children, the mainstream children, the teachers and society as a whole. Those who are against inclusion use a variety of arguments that range from disruptions to the mainstream students to accusations of budget greed. This paper examines the issue of inclusion from both sides, presenting the pros and cons, as well as the research studies that have been done to support the claims on both sides.

The term "inclusion" refers to the assimilation of special needs students into the mainstream classroom. Whereas special needs students used to be separated from the other students in a school, with their own special classes and their own specialized teachers, today inclusion is becoming an increasingly more popular alternative. The primary reason for this shift is that inclusion is alleged to be helpful not only for the special needs students, but for the mainstream students as well.

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As the American classroom continues to become more and more diverse in terms of ethnicity, it is also becoming more diverse in terms of abilities. The idea is that diversity of all kinds is a positive influence on students, so the mainstream students learn from the special needs child, while the special needs child becomes better socialized and more adjusted to the daily situations he is likely to face inside and outside of the classroom. There is some concern however that special needs students are disruptive to the mainstream classroom and that teachers wind up spending too much of their time dealing with those students, and not enough time dealing with the "regular" students. It is essentially this argument that is responsible for the controversy surrounding inclusion.

The Pros and Cons

Proponents of inclusion claim that there are numerous benefits for the special needs students and the mainstream students. According to Jorgenson, Schuh & Nisbet, 2005) some of the benefits of inclusion for mainstream students include:

PROS and CONS of INCLUSION

1) a curriculum that is more flexible and responsive to individual needs

TOPIC: Thesis on Inclusion Education Assignment

2) the presence of support services and technology

3) Broader viewpoints incorporated into the teaching process due to the collaboration of additional teaching experts

4) Improved teacher training and teaching techniques that are advantageous to all students

Lyman (1993) adds that customized teaching strategies are essential components of a successful inclusion program because they persuade students to work harder and take more risks due to the notion that inclusion fosters an environment that requires" a sense of community among faculty and students, a shared mission, and the ability to successfully collaborate with others" (p.1). Most importantly, the experience of integrating disabled students into the mainstream classroom allows students who are not used to dealing with diversity to become better prepared to deal with the diversity of "the real world."

Each of the benefits has been advocated by pro-inclusion activists as reasons that the incorporation of special needs students into the main stream classroom is not only beneficial to the special needs child, but to the entire classroom, including the teachers. This is not to say however, that there are not numerous benefits for the special needs student as well. Raschke and Bronson (1999) report that, for the special needs student, inclusion:

1) affords a sense of belonging to the diverse human family

2) provides a diverse stimulating environment in which to grow and learn

3) evolves in feelings of being a member of a diverse community

PROS and CONS of INCLUSION

4) enables development of friendships

5) provides opportunities to develop neighborhood friends

6) enhances self-respect

7) provides affirmations of individuality

8) provides peer models

9) provides opportunities to be educated with same-age peers

Interestingly, most of the benefits that are described for the mainstream students are academic in nature, while most of the advantages outlined for the special needs student are related to socialization. So while the mainstream students are benefiting from a more diverse curriculum and teach collaboration, the special needs students are benefiting from becoming better socialized and improving their self-esteem. Perhaps it is because of these differences in types of benefits that some critics rally against inclusion. Some of the concerns of anti-inclusion activists are in regard to the special needs student and some are in regard to the mainstream students. For example, Tornillo (1994) is worried that the special needs students will not get the proper attention they need in the mainstream classroom, and at the same time, that the mainstream students will suffer from inclusion as well. He states "the disabled children are not getting appropriate, specialized attention and care, and the regular students' education is disrupted constantly." From an academic standpoint, Tornillo is concerned that inclusion will make it increasingly difficult for schools to meet national standards, which will result in less funding and in turn, even more disruption to the educational process.

PROS and CONS of INCLUSION

The pro-inclusion side's argument that disabled students being mainstreamed promotes acceptance of diversity and therefore enhances learning has been challenged many times by critics. For example, according to Antoinette (2003) "While promoting an integrated sense of community sounds attractive, opponents of full inclusion argue that, in reality it is quite difficult to achieve...Opponents further argue that the stigma of the disabled student may be perpetuated and enlarged in the general classroom, to the detriment of the general student" (p. 2041).

Another arrow in the anti-inclusion camp's quiver is that the only reason schools are pushing for inclusive classrooms is to save money. Essentially, the accusation is that they are not concerned about what is best for the students, but about their bottom line. However, Sklaroff (1994) rebuts that "while administrators may see inclusion as a means to save funds by lumping together all students in the same facilities, inclusion rarely costs less than segregated classes when the concept is implemented responsibly" (p. 7).

So who is right and who is wrong? Are the pro-inclusion activists correct in their assertion that inclusive classrooms are beneficial to both special needs and mainstream students? or, are anti-inclusion's concerns about the well being of both types of students the most well-grounded? One would think that turning to research would answer this question. And to some extent it does; there is more evidence in the scholarly literature that inclusion is indeed more beneficial than it is harmful. However, as with just about any controversial issue, there is also a considerable amount of research that supports the antis' point-of-view. If this was a civil courtroom and we were charged with making a decision based on the preponderance of the evidence, the pro-camp would be victorious. Yet it is still important to examine both sides of the issue.

PROS and CONS of INCLUSION

What the Studies Show

Idol (2006) conducted a program evaluation in 8 different schools in an attempt to determine how the inclusion process was perceived, as well as how well the inclusion process was managed. She included four elementary schools and four high schools in her study, conducting personal interviews with faculty. She interviewed mainstream teachers, special eduation teachers, principals and administrators, but no actual students. She found that:

"Overall, educators were positive about educating students with disabilities in general education settings. They were conservative about how to best do this, with many of them preferring to have the included students accompanied by a special education teacher or instructional assistant or continuing to have resource room services. Nearly everyone favored using instructional assistants to help all students, not just the students with disabilities. Most educators reported feeling positive about working collaboratively and felt they had administrative support to offer inclusive education programs" (p. 77).

Idol's study provides valuable information about how teachers and other educational staff members have experienced and perceived inclusion. But what about the students themselves? In this regard, Schnorr (1990) conducted a study that consisted of observations of a first grade student named Peter, who had been diagnosed with moderate retardation, and interviews with his classmates. Peter was somewhat of a "guinea pig" in the inclusion movement, and experienced only what is called "partial inclusion." In other words, he only spent a limited amount of time in the mainstream classroom, and then returned to his special education classes. Schnorr reported that the mainstream students did not view Peter as a part of their class, and provided the following exchange as evidence:

PROS and CONS of INCLUSION

" (pointing at Peter's desk)

Student: "Oh, that's Peter's desk."

Student: "He comes here in the morning. He's not in our class. He doesn't ever stay. He comes in the morning when we have seat work. Then he leaves to go back to his room." (Schnorr, 1990, p. 231)

According to Schnorr, Peter was very well aware of this sense of a lack of belonging and it affected him negatively. However, this is not surprising considering that Peter only spent a half hour every morning in the regular classroom. Any child, disabled or not, who spent such a… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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