Term Paper: Students With Visual Impairments Inclusion or Traditional School for the Blind

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Students With Visual Impairment

The words "inclusion," "full inclusion" and "inclusive education" narrowly defined by educators of students with severe disabilities to adopt the philosophy that all students with disabilities, regardless of the nature or the severity of their disability shall receive their total education within the regular classroom setting (AFB, 2005).

According to Smelter, Rasch and Yudewitz (1996), inclusion is placing special education students in regular education classrooms and bringing the support services to the child, rather than bringing the child to the support services. This means that instead of drawing the child away from normal or regular students, inclusion keeps special students learn in the same environment as the regular ones.

A consensus among educators about the benefits of inclusive placement for learners with disability has emerged during the past 22 years (McLeskey & Pacchiano, 1994; Scruggs & Mastropieri, 1996; Wang, Reynolds, & Walberg, 1994). Conversely, inclusion was only advocated during the past decade for all learners with disabilities, including those with severe disability (Bicklin, 1985; Everson & McNulty, 1995; Hanline & Hanson, 1989; Giangreco, Cloniger, Dennis, & Edelman, 1993; Hanson & Widerstrom, 1993; McDonnell, McDonnell, Hardman, & McCune, 1991; Shriner, Ysseldyke, Thurlow, & Honetschlager, 1994; Stainback & Stainback, 1984) perhaps due to several debates or resistance regarding this matter.

Full inclusion of young children with special needs has a variety of definition. In some countries inclusion of these children into normal school is encouraged as a means to enhance early development.

As declared in 1990 by the United Nations Convention in the Rights by the Child, all children including those with special needs has the right to be provided with basic education and enjoy full participation in their communities (Evans, 1998). In full inclusion it is assumed that children and families with diverse developmental needs, from diverse cultural-linguistic backgrounds and diverse social experiences, are accepted and accommodated with sensitivity and respect in high-quality early childhood programs (Early Childhood Resource Teacher Network of Ontario, 1997). Teachers, parents and children preparation for innovation is required for inclusion (Peck, Hayden, Wandshneider, Peterson, & Richardz, 1989). Environmental modifications in ensuring that programs are physically accessible by children with disability is not only what composes the preparation but also enhancement of all participant's knowledge about children with special needs and appropriate instructional strategies, and developing positive attitude towards inclusion (Irwin et al., 2000)

Moreover, a similar approach, assumes that the collaboration of parents, early childhood educators, resource teachers/consultants, center directors, and professionals from community health, medical, and social agencies is actively sought and used to provide effective programs for children with special needs and their families (Irwin, Lero, and Brophy, 2000).

On the other hand, a study done by Corn (2003) regarding students' perceptions of their education placement at a special school for the blind concludes that student's perceptions and attitudes must be coupled to the attitudes and feelings of teachers, administrators, and parents when education placements and decisions are made. Students felt that attending a school that did not cater exclusively to students with visual impairments would not afford them with the same level of academic support that they were currently receiving. Hence, students in this study believed that they were placed at a special school because their local school could not adequately provide for their education.

In support, Sandra Lewis (2002) also mentioned that lifelong inclusion is the ultimate goal in the education of students with visual impairments, but the class room inclusion may not necessarily always be the best method to achieve the goal.

Educational Dilemmas

Placement dilemmas arise for students who appear to need more than the local school is able or willing to provide. Schools for blind and visually impaired students are often an ideal choice, even for a short period of time, so that necessary skills and understanding can be taught (Chase, 2000).

In addition, the concept of normalization provides another dilemma. Humanity has struggled for centuries with definitions and descriptions of "normal" behaviour and function. There are no standards by which such issues are judged. Each of us has so many descriptions to identify "normal" state. Parents and educators hope students will move on to live "normal" lives, if that implies living and learning in normal environment. However, considering a blind person with learning disability; what does "normal" mean for this individual? Is it the role of regular schools to "normalize" these visually impaired individuals (Chase, 2000)?

Students with visual impairments deserve teachers who have highly sophisticated training and a skill to meet their unique needs (Chase, 2000). However, in full inclusion students with visual impairments have unique educational needs which are most effectively met using a team approach of professionals, parents and students. In order to meet their unique needs, students must have specialized services, books and materials in appropriate media (including braille), as well as specialized equipment and technology to assure equal access to the core and specialized curricula, and to enable them to most effectively compete with their peers in school and ultimately in society (AFB, 2005).

Some countries opposed the integration or full inclusion of specials students, while other countries support the role of full inclusion. According to Lieber et al. (2000), "one of the more recent educational innovations that have been inspired by changes in public policy is inclusion." Fullan (1991) has noted, "Systematic implementation of inclusion is a complex process that goes beyond legislated action. And that all participants need time to understand the pedagogical nature of change." Efforts to bring about inclusion must take into consideration not only pedagogical, procedural and attitudinal factors, but also the evolving socio-political realities and relationships that will have an impact on individuals and environments as inclusive practices are implemented (Peck, Furman and Helmster, 1993).

Disabled alongside not disabled (Advantage)

Arguments supporting inclusion generally center around the benefits derived both academically and socially for children with disabilities. Academic achievement is enhanced, advocates contend, when children with disabilities are expected to adhere to the higher standards that usually exist in the-regular classroom setting. Furthering this argument, supporters stress that these higher standards are necessary because special education students are far less likely than their non-disabled peers to graduate from high school, successfully maintain employment, or live without assistance provided from a variety of sources (O'Neil, 1993). Models of appropriate social behavior are more readily available in regular education classrooms; students have the opportunity to form friendships with non-disabled peers as well as with those who live in surrounding neighborhoods (Willis, 1994; King, 1997).

Special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of disabled children from the regular educational environment occurs only when the nature and severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily (Fuchs & Fuchs, 1994)."

Advocates for full inclusion endorse the practice of placing all students with disabilities in a regular education classroom housed in their neighborhood schools regardless of the nature or severity of their exceptionalities. Full inclusionists favor the abolishment of placement options (e.g., self-contained classrooms, homebound instruction, special schools), advocating instead that all special education students should receive instruction in the regular education classroom. This environment, supporters stress, more appropriately reflects mainstream society and establishes a supportive, humane atmosphere for all students (Behrmann, 1993; Johnson, Proctor, & Corey, 1994; Sapon-Shevin, 1994; Stainback & Stainback, 1990; Staub & Peck, 1994; King, 1997). Advocates further imply that special education provided outside the regular education classroom is cost ineffective; student potential is limited when labels are applied; students frequently endure long bus rides to locations housing special education programs; and the special education curriculum lacks continuation and flow (Behrmann, 1993; Haase, 1993; O'Neil, 1993).

A body of research educating children with disabilities in classrooms alongside children without disabilities has shown positive effects for children with disabilities in areas such as reaching individualized education program (IEP) goal, improving communication and social skills, increasing positive peer interactions, many educational outcomes, and post-school adjustments. Positive effects on children without disabilities include the development of positive attitudes and perceptions of persons with disabilities and the enhancement of social status with non-disabled peers (Bennett, Bruns and Deluca, 1997).

The Division for Early Childhood of the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) endorsed by the National Association for the Education of the Young children published a position Statement on Inclusion in April 1993 which gives strong support on the ideals of inclusive classrooms as well as parent involvement within such settings.

This was supported by Hilton & Henderson (1993) saying that these two are important trends in the education of children with disabilities.

Consistent with the pursuit of more naturally existing supports, some parents said that they viewed themselves as the coordinator of services because they knew their child best and had both the historical perspective and vested interest in their child's future (Giangreco et al., 1991).

As mandated by the Education for all the handicapped Children Act of 1975 (now the individuals with disabilities Education Act), the latest practice is a trend of approaches… [END OF PREVIEW]

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