All teachers are, or soon will be, teaching in classrooms that include students with disabilities. It is becoming increasingly unacceptable to limit the number of teachers in a school who have the skills to teach disabled students to only a few special education teachers. Regular teachers too must know how to teach such students to read, write, communicate and achieve to the highest educational standards. Excellent education is education that is excellent for all.
Children come from all racial, ethnic, and national origins and all economic backgrounds and in all this mix there are some children that have disabilities. If our education system is to be excellent, it must be based on the premise that every student can learn. By implementing inclusion into schools, children learn to accept individual differences. The best way to help children overcome their misconceptions about kids who have disabilities is to bring them together in integrated settings.
Inclusion remains a controversial topic in education because it relates to educational and social values, as well as to our sense of individual worth. There are advocates on both sides of the issue. James Kauffman of the University of Virginia views inclusion as a policy driven by an unrealistic expectation that money will be saved. Furthermore, he argues that trying to force all students into the inclusion mold is just as coercive and discriminatory as trying to force all students into the mold of a special education class or residential institution (Stout, 2001).
On the other side are those who believe that all students belong in the regular education classroom, and that “good” teachers are those who can meet the needs of all the students, regardless of what those needs may be. Between the two ends are large groups of educators and parents who are confused by the concept itself. They wonder whether inclusion is legally required and wonder what is best for children. They also question what it is that schools and school personnel must do to meet the needs of children with disabilities.
Frequently, the decisions that educators make regarding appro¬priate instructional, curricular, or behavioral interventions for stu¬dents with special needs have been based primarily on the places” (for example, Title I room, special education resource room) or “programs” (for example, remedial reading program, dropout prevention program) where the students are to be edu¬cated. However, students with special needs increasingly are being included in general classroom environments (Lombardi, 1999).
One difficulty with inclusion is that the interventions made to meet an individual student’s special needs often have been more intrusive than is necessary. However, there are two practical tools to assist general and special educators, working collaboratively, to make effective instructional decisions for students with special needs in the general classroom. The first tool is a Levels of Inten¬sity of Intervention Decision-Making Framework that may be used by individuals or teams to make effective decisions regarding instructional or curricular interventions for students with special learning challenges.
The reality of the benefits of inclusion of special needs students in regular classrooms, supported by twenty years of extensive research, according to Lapp, Flood, Fisher, Sax and Pumpian (1996), was described as follows: It has become obvious that inclusive education enhances: a)achievement of individualized education plan objectives, b)interactive social skills development and communication skills development, c) skill generalization, or the transfer of learning to new environments and d) post school integration into real jobs and homes in the community. (p. 580)
Inclusive methods of service delivery were thought to have moved from intrusion to inclusion, meeting the need for change in the special education system effectively. In order to discuss the concept of inclusion, it is first necessary to have a common vocabulary background. Mainstreaming has been used to refer to the selective placement of special education students in one or more “regular” education classes. Proponents of mainstreaming generally assume that a student must “earn” his or her opportunity to be placed in regular classes by demonstrating an ability to “keep up” with the work assigned by the regular classroom teacher.
This concept is closely linked to traditional forms of special education service delivery. Inclusion is a term which expresses commitment to educate each child, to the maximum extent appropriate, in the school and classroom he or she would otherwise attend. It involves bringing the support services to the child (rather than moving the child to the services) and requires only that the child will benefit from being in the class (rather than having to keep up with the other students). Proponents of inclusion generally favor newer forms of education service delivery.
Full Inclusion means that all students, regardless of handicapping condition or severity, will be in a regular classroom/program full time. All services must be taken to the child in that setting (Stout, 2001). The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), as we all know, is the public school’s special education legal basis of how and what programs will be in place for the special needs student. IDEA mandates that special education students be placed in the least restrictive environment with the appropriate supports. In other words, wherever possible, special needs students should be placed in the regular classroom.
As a result, the inclusion model was formed. (Wade, 2001). When placing a special needs student into the regular classroom, every effort possible must be made to ensure the student’s placement meets with success. Students and teachers need to understand the different needs of the particular student in order for the model to be successful. Peer support needs to be in place. Peers may act as helpers and companions to ensure that the child is met with total acceptance. Supports are in place to ensure that the child is able to participate in every way possible. Sometimes the support may be an educational assistant.
It’s the lack of exposure to students with disabilities that create the fears. When regular students are exposed to special needs students – acceptance occurs. Peer support and encouragement occurs quickly in an accepting environment. Teachers may need to develop some peer support lessons along the lines of building friendships’ and strengths and weaknesses that we all have. These types of lessons provide the regular student with a window into the life of a special needs student (Wade, 2001). In addition, there are many practical strategies that are effective in the classroom for inclusion.
It is up to the classroom and teacher to ensure that appropriate strategies are being used in the classroom to assist individual learning styles and provide success to all students with special needs. It is recommended that a multi-modal approach be used, visual, auditory, kinesthetic and tactile for optimum success (Hammeken, 2000). Classroom Environment ?Provide the use of a study carrel when necessary. ?Seat student in area free from distractions. ?Eliminate all unnecessary materials from student desk to reduce distractions.
?Use a checklist to help student get organized. ?Keep an extra supply of pencils, pens, books and paper in the classroom. ?You may have to allow the student frequent breaks. ?Have an agreed upon cue for student to leave the classroom. ?Reduce visual distractions in the classroom. Time Management and Transitions ?Space short work periods with breaks. ?Provide additional time to complete assignment. ?Allow extra time for homework completion. ?Inform student with several reminders, several minutes apart, before changing from one activity to the next.
?Reduce amount of work from usual assignment. ?Provide a specific place for turning in assignments. Presentation of Materials ?Modify expectations based on students needs. ?Break assignments into segments of shorter tasks. ?Give alternative assignments rather than long written assignments. ?Provide a model of end product. ?Provide written and verbal direction with visuals if possible. ?Break long assignments into small sequential steps, monitoring each step. ?Highlight to alert student attention to key points within the written direction of the assignment.
?Check that all homework assignments are written correctly in some kind of an agenda/homework book. Sign it and have parents sign it as well. ?Number and sequence steps in a task. ?Provide outlines, study guides, copies of overhead notes. ?Explain learning expectations to the student before beginning a lesson. ?Make sure you have the student’s attention before beginning a lesson. ?Allow for student to use tape recorders, computers, calculators and dictation to obtain and retain assignment success. ?Allow oral administration of test. ?Limit the number of concepts presented at one time.
?Provide incentives for beginning and completing material. Assessment, Grading and Testing ?Provide a quiet setting for test taking; allow tests to be scribed if necessary and allowing for oral responses. ?Exempt student from district wide testing if possible. ?Divide test into small sections. ?Grade spelling separately from content. ?Allow as much time as needed to complete. ?Avoid time test. ?Change percentage of work required for passing grade. ?Permit retaking the test. ?Provide monitored breaks from test. Behavior ?Avoid confrontations and power struggles. ?Provide an appropriate peer role model.
?Modify rules that may discriminate against student with neurological disorder. ?Develop a system or code that will let the student know when behavior is not appropriate. ?Ignore attention seeking behaviors that are not disruptive to the classroom. ?Arrange a designated safe place that student can go to. ?Develop a code of conduct for the classroom and visually display it in an appropriate place where all students can see it, review it frequently. ?Develop a behavior intervention plan that is realistic and easily applied. ?Provide immediate reinforcement and feedback.
Delivering an academic program to a room full of unique students is certainly a challenge. Implementing some of the listed strategies will provide a comfortable learning place for all students regardless of their academic abilities. When considering a move from traditional/regular special educational programming to a more inclusive approach, it is important that the entire school community be involved in a thoughtful, carefully researched transition. Dramatic top-down directives will polarize parents and teachers and will create environments that are hostile to any change.
As is true in other areas of school restructuring, change must be based on research and broadly shared beliefs and philosophies. The following recommendations can help districts or buildings in designing a positive transition to a more inclusive environment: (Wade,2000). ?A continuum of placements, supports and services should be made available for all students, but always assume that every student’s first placement is in regular education. ?All placement decisions should be based on a well-developed IEP with an emphasis on the needs of the child, her/his peers and the reasonable provision of services.
?Top-down mandated full inclusion is inappropriate. Neither federal nor state law requires full inclusion. ?Before any new programs are developed, the building staff must agree on a clearly articulated philosophy of education (an education ethic). Teachers and support staff must be fully involved in the decision-making, planning and evaluation processes for individual students and building-wide programs. ?Extensive staff development must be made available as a part of every teacher’s and paraprofessional’s workday. Areas of emphasis include: ?
Emphasis on higher-order thinking skills ?Integrated curricula ?Interdisciplinary teaching ?Multicultural curricula ?Life-centered curricula. ?Work toward unifying the special education and regular education systems. For instance, separate evaluators and evaluation systems are counter productive. There should be one system. ?Ensure that sufficient licensed practitioners are employed to address the social, emotional, and cognitive needs of all students. In inclusive settings, reduced class sizes and/or increased numbers of teachers in the classroom are necessary.
?Appeal processes must be developed that allow teachers to challenge the implementation of IEP’s and placements that they determine to be inappropriate for a child. ?Involve parents and students as partners in the decision-making process. ?When developing programs, consider multiple teaching/learning approaches like team teaching, co-teaching, peer partners, cooperative learning, heterogeneous grouping, study team planning, parallel teaching, station teaching, etc. It is critical that any district or building considering more inclusive practices take the time necessary to plan effectively.
Attention to special education students and staff alone is only half a strategy. Planning should involve all stakeholders in researching, discussing and examining the entire educational program. Real inclusion involves restructuring of a school’s entire program and requires constant assessment of practices and results. More comprehensive research must be done as inclusion becomes more widespread. Constant reflection is necessary if we ever hope to be able to make clear determinations about which specific strategies will help children to become happy, contributing citizens.
References Hammeken, P. A. (2000). Inclusion: 450 Strategies for Success. Minnesota. Peytral Publications, Inc. Lapp, D. , Flood, J. , Fisher,D. , Sax,C. & Pumpian, I. (1996. ) From Instruction to Inclusion: Myths and Realities in out schools. The Reading Teacher, 49, 580-584. Lombardi, T. P. (1999). Inclusion Policy and Practice. Indiana. Phi Delta Kappa Educational Foundation. Stout, K. S. (2001). Special Education Inclusion. Retrieved June 20, 2007 from http://www. weac. org/june97/speced. htm Wade, S. E. (2000). Inclusive Education. New Jersey. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.