Bobby, a young boy, is diagnosed with autism at age 3. At age 5 his parents attempt to place him into the kindergarten class in their school district. The school district wanted to immediately put Bobby into a special education classroom that is made up of entirely special needs children of all different disorders. Knowing that Bobby was prone to tantrums and uneasy with things unfamiliar to him, his parents wanted Bobby placed into a regular classroom with normally functioning students but with extra help from perhaps an extra aide or teacher. The school district decided to accommodate Bobby’s parents’ wishes and placed Bobby into a regular kindergarten classroom with a one-on-one aide who would also assist a few other children in the class when needed. This type of classroom is an inclusion classroom, meaning normally developing students are placed in the same class as special needs children so they can all learn from each other. It is not always easy for special needs children to adjust to an inclusion classroom at first, but they then usually become a successful environment.
In the beginning of the school year Bobby had frequent outbursts when told to move from one activity onto another. These outbursts disturbed the classroom and Bobby’s classmates. Sometimes Bobby would scream and cry “NO!” when forced to relinquish a toy or supply to another student to teach him to share. Other times he wouldcry because he did not understand that every turn could not be his turn during games. Transition times were always a problem, because Bobby did not comprehend the concept of finishing one activity and moving onto the next. He just did not understand that the previous activity would still be there to do at another time or place. However, after a period of time and observing the “normal” students in his classroom, Bobby began to have fewer and shorter outbursts and began to understand simple concepts like finishing coloring and moving onto learning his alphabet.
Many parents argue that having special needs children in the classroom with their normal children will hinder everyone’s learning and cause disruptions and distractions. However, inclusion classrooms help to teach sensitivity to normal students and proper interaction with society to special needs students. Inclusion in the scholastic environment benefits both the disabled student and the non-disabled student in obtaining better life skills. By including all students as much as possible in general or regular education classes all students can learn to work cooperatively, work with different kinds of people, and how to help people in tasks. “As J.W. Whitworth, the Department of Education Chair of Texas, notes, ‘…the goal of inclusion in schools is to create a world, in which all people are knowledgeable about and supportive of all other people,'” (3).
Every child in a public school system is required to receive a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) (Public Law 102-119). For higher-functioning children with special needs FAPE means being included in a regular classroom. Despite many arguments that special needs children are a hindrance to education in inclusion classrooms, the benefits of inclusive teaching outweigh the negative aspects. Any specialneeds child who is capable of functioning with some assistance in a mainstream classroom should be afforded that opportunity. No high functioning special needs student should be forced to remain in a classroom full of students that are lower functioning than them, therefore slowing down their education.
Of the many benefits aspects for children placed in inclusion classrooms, there is none more important than the academic benefits. According to the Journal of Early Intervention, in a study of parents and teachers of inclusion classroom students, children with developmental disabilities placed in inclusion classrooms make great improvements in language, cognitive and motor development that are above their peers in special education classrooms (52). One way that students benefit is by learning skills of independence.
Special needs students learn to depend on themselves first and then ask for help when they really need it. In the inclusive setting there won’t be as much of an opportunity for teachers or aids to assist all of the students. In a study conducted by Johns Hopkins University (Success For All) it was determined that in an inclusion setting “assessments showed improved reading performance for all students, the most dramatic improvements occurred among the lowest achievers.” (Stout, 2001). By placing the special needs students in with the general education students, all students are provided with better resources in the classroom.
Aside from providing children with academic benefits, inclusion also provides children with a better understanding and respect for diversity. Being in a setting with many different types of students with different needs and abilities provides students with a way to learn about differences and how they can help others. In the “Success For All”study, results showed that the children involved had “a reduced fear of human differences accompanied by increased comfort and awareness” (Stout, 2001). If children are separated in the school because of their developmental differences then they will never truly learn that it is acceptable to be a unique individual.
According to the Early Childhood Research Quarterly “typically developing children from inclusive classrooms [give] significantly higher acceptance ratings to hypothetical peers with disabilities than children from setting that do not include children with disabilities” (Hestenes, Carroll, 231). The idea that it is acceptable to be different should become common knowledge to all students. With that knowledge, students can make the future a better place for everyone. One tangible problem that could be avoided in the future if children are given exposure to disabled children are that people will not be turned down for jobs by non-accepting employers who do not understand the capabilities of some disabled workers.
Another major benefit that students can gain from being in an inclusion classroom is a heightened self-concept. Larry Daniel and Debra King, writers for the Journal of Educational Outreach believe that “it is generally agreed that children who have learning problems and/or those who are behaviorally impaired often develop a poor self-concept” (Volume 91, Issue 2, 67).One way that students can gain a better self-concept is by learning that all students have strengths and weaknesses in the classroom and that needing help is acceptable. Special needs students will see general education students asking the teachers and the aids for help and they will realize that everyone needs help at some point (Daniel, King, 68). If a child who is viewed as “smart” asks a teacher how toread a certain passage, a learning disabled child will feel more comfortable with also asking for help with reading. Sometimes when a teacher starts children off with activities where they can not fail, it can build a better self-concept (Daniel, King, 68).
For example, a teacher could start off a lesson with a creative activity such as drawing what one feels a story is about. Children cannot fail at this activity because it is all based upon their personal feelings. When a child feels good about an activity at which they succeeded, it builds the foundation for the belief that they can succeed at anything if they try. One way to build a child’s self-concept that is easy and helpful to the teacher is by assigning small tasks around the room. Some such tasks could be watering plants, passing out paper, or running small errands. Assigning special tasks makes them feel important and enhances self-esteem. (Daniel, King, 68)
The way that a teacher talks to a child may either strengthen or weaken a child’s self-esteem. When a teacher uses many negative words and speaks loudly to a child in front of classmates that child may feel as if everyone will then make fun of him or her. This in turn makes the child feel poorly and lowers confidence. Wording phrases in a positive way can help to get the message across to the student effectively and mannerly (Daniel, King, 69). The child’s enhanced self respect can lead to many new friendships. Also, a refined self-concept develops feelings of empowerment in children. This new feeling can keep up self-confidence and allow the children to be less afraid to try new things.
Through the many studies, laws, and the support of the government, inclusion has had a very beneficial effect on society as a whole. Students are learning at a younger age to accept people for who they are while learning reading and writing. They are learningthat everyone is different but everyone is still “special” and should be accepted for being themselves. As they grow older inclusion stays beneficial by creating better self-esteem in the students. Ultimately, inclusion is benefiting society more and more every day, creating better and more educated people around the world.
Whitworth, J. W. “A Model for Inclusive Teacher Preparation.” Electronic Journal for Inclusive Education 1 (1999). Retrieved April 18. 2007, from http://www.ed.wright.edu:16080/~prenick/JournalArchives/Winter-1999/whitworth.html.
Peck, C .A., Carlson, P., and Helmstetter, E. “Parent and Teacher Perceptions
of Outcomes for Typically Developing Children Enrolled in Integrated Early Childhood Programs: A Statewide Survey.” Journal of Early Intervention (1992): 53-63.
Stout, Katie. “Special Education Inclusion.” Educational Issues Series: Wisconsin Education Association (2007). 18 Apr. 2007 .
Hestenes, L. L. & Carroll, D. E. (2000) The play interactions of young children with and without disabilities: individual and environmental influences, Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 15,229-246.
Daniels, Larry G., and Debra A. King. Journal of Educational Outreach 91 (1997): 67-81. 18 Apr. 2007.