Mainstreaming is an important issue and realism that has a direct impact on all parties involved, including educators, students and parents. Mainstreaming is a matter that has become very controversial and therefore it requires important awareness and understanding from all peoples involved. One essential way of gaining this understanding and awareness is by reviewing what mainstreaming really is, as well as the positive and negative aspects that may arise from it. Defining the Issue: Mainstreaming.
Mainstreaming, now more commonly referred to as inclusion, is thought of as the integration of exceptional students into regular educational settings, in which emphasis is placed on participation rather than placement (Perry, Winne & Woolfolk, 2000 p. 136). A classroom that is mainstreamed, is one which includes many different types of learners; in other words, mainstreaming is a classroom that accommodates students with disabilities and those without, as well as those students who are thought of as being gifted with an IQ score of above average.
Disabled children in a mainstreamed classroom may vary greatly in the types of disability they might have. For example, children may have one or more of the following disabilities: physical, behavioral, mental or learning disability. It is evident then, that a classroom that is mainstreamed will indeed present a number of challenges for the teacher, since he or she must accommodate to so many different needs of the students. The main purpose of mainstreaming is to “equally support and promote a typical classroom experience for all students” (Lyness, 2001, p.3).
However, this does not exclude the usage of outside support services such as teachers’ assistance or resource rooms. Therefore, the basic idea of mainstreaming is for students to receive assistance, while also benefiting from a regular classroom atmosphere. Positive Viewpoints of Mainstreaming There are a number of interesting points that support the idea of mainstreaming. For example, in a mainstreamed classroom all special education students must have an Individual Education Program (IEP).
An IEP is an “annually revised program detailing present achievement level, goals and strategies, drawn up by teachers, parents, specialist and if possible the student” (Perry, Winne, & Woolfolk, 2000, p. 138). The use of the IEP is geared to meet the needs of the special education student. This is an issue that should be further educated and explained to the parties involved, most importantly the parents, since most of them feel that their child may not be receiving the support that they need in order to perform adequately in a regular classroom.
As mentioned previously, students in a mainstreamed classroom receive support services such as teachers’ aids and access to resource rooms. Resource rooms are generally equipped with materials that are designed to meet the needs of the special educational student. A student may spent as much time as they need in the resource room with a special education teacher in order to receive the extra help they need. Another point that supports the idea of manstreaming is the fact that it seems to be beneficial for all students, both disabled and non-disabled.
For example, placing special education students in a regular classroom reduces the risk of the student as being labeled or stigmatized. This point stands out clearly in the statement by Perry, Winne & Woolfolk (2000) that Segregation away from the mainstream in special classes robs disabled students of the opportunity to learn to participate fully in society, robs non-disables students of the opportunity to develop understanding and acceptance of the disabled, and increases the likelihood that the individual will be stigmatized (p. 139).
Also, a classroom that includes and involves different types of learners is one that will be more accepting of the differences present amongst the students. According to studies by Lyness (2001), research has shown that students without disabilities who are in a mainstreamed classroom accept and value the differences in their classmates, have enhanced self esteem, and a genuine capacity for friendship. It is important for students to respect the differences of their peers, which is what a mainstreamed classroom helps to accomplish.
Negative Viewpoints of Mainstreaming Along with the good points of mainstreaming come a number of interesting points that do not support the idea of mainstreaming. For example, in a mainstreamed classroom a child may not feel a sense of belonging from other children. This may been displayed in the form of teasing or ridicule, in which the special education students self esteem is greatly affected. Feelings of inadequacy to keep up with non-disabled students may also arise amongst special education students.
Perry, Winne & Woolfolk (2000), state that “disabled students can be just as socially isolated in a regular class as they would in a special education class, across the hall across the country” (p. 139). Another pessimistic viewpoint of mainstreaming is the great demand that is places on the teachers. With so few teachers available and the large amount of students in need of assistance, it is impossible for teachers to focus special attention on individual students with special educational needs.
This creates a problem for both the teacher, whose job becomes absolutely over whelming and stressful, as well as the special education student who lacks the vital support and attention that he or she may need. Mainstreaming may also place pressure on special education students. For example, a special education student may feel that he or she may have to perform at the same level as his or her fellow classmates even though the disability they possess prevents them from doing so.
Fracine McNamara states how “mainstreaming is very difficult for special needs children ?and it is hard enough for a regular education child to keep up with the curriculum and the world, it is even harder for a children with road blocks” (Pantazis, 2000, p. 11). My Opinion As this paper demonstrates, I also agree that there are positive and negative aspects that are associated with mainstreaming. I do agree that children should have individual programs that support their needs, as they would receive in a special education program; if these needs can be met within a regular classroom, all the better.
I also believe that by placing special education students in a regular classroom, this can increase their motivation to perform well in school. Often, when children are placed in special education classrooms, they do not perform to the best of their ability because they are stigmatized into thinking they can not do better. I also believe another advantage of mainstreaming is the fact that special needs children may begin to model the positive behaviors of regular students such as completion of homework, improved social skills and age appropriate behaviors.
This is especially important for children with behavior problems, since they often may need a positive role model in order to perform to the best of their ability. I also believe that in some cases exceptional students are very good in non-academic areas such as sports, drawing and mainstreaming allows these students to share their skills with regular students. This, in turn, is beneficial for both parties.
However, I also believe that in some cases mainstreaming is not the best option for all special needs children. Some children’s needs go far beyond what a regular classroom can offer. Self-contained programs are necessary for these types of children, programs that teach children skills that will be useful to the in the real world, and also prepare them for community living. These life skills may include personal hygiene, money managing, basic household chores and safety.
Also, severely handicapped children need to be in contact with other students who share a common affliction. This is not likely to happen in a mainstreamed classroom since regular students outnumber special education students. By taking a closer look at the definition of mainstreaming as well as the positive and negative aspects associated with it, one can perhaps acquire better understanding and awareness of the issue.
As this paper has demonstrated, there are both positive and negative viewpoints of mainstreaming, which in turn, cause large amounts of controversy. However, the most important issue, which must not be forgotten, is it is vital to help all students obtain the best education possible. References Lyness, D. (2001). http://www. kidsheath. org Pantazis, S. (2000). http://www. epinions. com Perry, N. , Winne, P. , Woolfolk, A. (2000). Educational Psychology. Scarborough: Allyn and Bacon Canada.