One of the most rewarding years in my seventeen year teaching career was the year I had a full inclusion class. The amazing part was that my students didn’t even know that I was their special education teacher. They viewed me as just one of their teachers. The regular education students also had no idea that I was there especially for the ten students that had Individual Education Plans. After having a year like that you would think that my answer to the question would be absolutely yes. Well not quite. A closer look at the inclusive model is necessary to weigh in on this question. In TAKING SIDES: CLASHING VIEWS ON EDUCATIONAL ISSUES, Mara Sapon-Shevin, (2008) states, “In our increasingly diverse world, all people need to be comfortable with diversity. Inclusion benefits all students by helping them understand and appreciate that the world is big, that people are different, and that we can work together to ﬁnd solutions that work for everyone”. (as cited in Noll, pg. 233) I agree with this statement however, does that mean inclusion will work for all?
According to Wade A. Carpenter, (2008) inclusion “does not mean that every student is educated with peers at all times, but it does mean that the responsibility of discovering effective means for all students to learn together is taken very seriously and deviations from this approach are made with reluctance and only after careful deliberation”. (as cited in Noll, pg. 239) Each child is unique and learns in different ways; however, the trend today is that most schools still have a tendency to hold onto to the one-size-fits-all education philosophy. It is often the case where a handful of students of varying needs are set amongst a group of normally functioning students. What is the reasoning for this? To benefit the special needs students or have the regular students become more aware of disabilities. Disabilities aren’t always visible nor are they always what we think they are. A child may have an undiagnosed hearing or vision problem, that’s a disability.
He or she may have difficulty with attention or with sitting still, that’s a disability. They may have difficulties with comprehending instructions, this is also a disability. Whatever the need, the issue is whether or not that child should be pulled from the classroom and work with a specialist in a resource room, or whether they should be fully included within the general education. IN CLEARING THE HURDLES OF INCLUSION, Sandy Merritt (2001) states that “inclusion does not mean that the student cannot be taken from the room for instruction if the IEP team deems it necessary. If it is not in the best interest of all students in the classroom for the special education student to remain there, the team can and should make changes in the student’s placement. There is not one recipe for the inclusion of special education students. Because inclusion is individualized, it will look different for every student.”(Pg. 67) This is the statement that I agree with the most.
I do not believe that one size fits all! I do believe that inclusion works under the right circumstance and with the right students. In the beginning I told you of the best year in my teaching career. Well I can also tell you about the worst year. It was also a year when I had a full inclusion class. I had one student that required my attention to the extent that I struggled meeting the needs of the rest of my IEP students. The student that was getting my attention was a student with a behavior disability that required more structure that a regular inclusion class. His IEP stated his least restrictive environment as a regular education class.
It took me almost a whole year of documentation to finally have someone finally admit that this placement was not only inappropriate for the student but also for the 25 other students whose education he interrupted on a daily basis. What do I feel would be common ground between each side? An inclusive model is workable when all students benefit and thrive in the education setting. Do I think it’s important for regular students to understand varying disabilities? Absolutely, there are many ways to accomplish but only if it beneficial to all students.
Merritt, S. (2001). Clearing the Hurdles of Inclusion. Educational Leadership, 59(3), 67-70 Noll, J. (2010-02-08). Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Educational Issues. McGraw-Hill/Dushkin. Kindle Edition.