Term Paper: Mainstreaming in Education, the Practice

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Mainstreaming supporters argues that the process is more beneficial to special education students than it is harmful. They say that many children with special needs suffer a stigma when they are segregated in separate classrooms or buildings. They believe that these students have a need to "fit in" and to socialize with their peer group, and they are deprived of this when they are separated and placed in special education classes. This separation also causes typical students to see handicapped children as separate and different, resulting in a lack of understanding and compassion for this group. This is an idea that has been proven true. Recent studies demonstrate that find that handicapped students who are mainstreamed tend to have higher academic achievement, higher self-esteem, more probability of attending college, and better physical health than those who are not.


Basically, mainstreaming promotes diversity in schools and helps all students to learn to accept others who are different from themselves. Thus, the process benefits general-education students and society as well as special education students.

To counter the charge that general-education teachers are not adequately trained to educate children with special needs, inclusion advocates point out that mainstreaming programs can include a variety of support resources for teachers.

It is important to note that including a child with special needs into a regular classroom involves great change on the part of all the participants, particularly the classroom teacher. The mainstreaming process requires support in order for the concept to be translated into effective classroom practice.

In most discussions of the mainstreaming process, the phrase "with support" is heard, but just what that means in practice is not always clear (McIntyre, 1992). While there is an awareness of the importance of providing support when mainstreaming, the literature reflects that in many cases, the necessary knowledge and other support structures are not implemented. Instead, in some studies, feedback teachers about mainstreaming have revealed frustrations with a lack of resources, insufficient contact with resource personnel, an overwhelming workload, and a feeling of isolation where the students have been just dumped in the classroom.

This reinforces the idea that both student and teachers need support in the mainstreaming process. Among those who can provide support to the students and teachers who is involved in mainstreaming are: school principals, special education teachers and consultants, colleagues, paraprofessionals, parents, and students and teachers themselves.

Ideally, a mainstreaming model should create an organizational structure where a teacher mainstreaming a student with a severe handicap does not work alone. The task of effectively educating a diverse population of students is too complex for any one person to attempt alone. Instead, the expertise, input, and actions of many support providers must be incorporated to create the conditions and support for students to experience successful mainstreaming.

In a successful mainstreaming model, providing services within general education does not necessarily mean all services for a particular child will always take place within the general education setting. For a portion of the school day, a child with a disability could receive specialized instruction using specialized equipment in specialized environments outside the general education classroom. For example, a high school student with severe mental retardation may require extra time in the locker room with support of a teacher assistant in getting dressed for class. This student may need to leave general physical education early to work on these functional dressing skills. However, this student is still a member of the general physical education class.

As the nature of teaching continues to change, educators need to have appropriate support and a greater understanding of how to deal with handicapped children. According to Lipp (1992): the purpose of implementing support services is "to reaffirm the efforts of those who are expected to implement the changes in special education programs, rather than to support those who designed the change" (p. 33). Teachers and support providers, working together to achieve the goal of successful mainstreaming of students with special needs by providing appropriate support, bring results to themselves and students which indeed make the quest worthwhile.


McIntyre, Maryann. (October, 1992). Should Schools Eliminate Gifted and Talented Programs? NEA Today, p. 39.

Saskatchewan Education. (1986). Toward the year 2000: Future directions in curriculum and instruction. Regina, SK: Saskatchewan Education.

Stanviloff, L. (2002). Support for Classroom Teachers Involved in… [END OF PREVIEW]

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