Inclusion "mainstreams" physically, mentally, and multiply disabled children into regular classrooms. In the fifties and sixties, disabled children were not allowed in regular classrooms. In 1975 Congress passed the Education of all Handicapped Students Act, now called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). IDEA mandates that all children, regardless of disability, had the right to free, appropriate education in the least restrictive environment. Different states have different variations of the law. Some allow special needs students to be in a regular education classroom all day and for every subject, and others allow special education students to be in a regular education classroom for some subjects and in a separate classroom for the rest. There are many different views on inclusive education. In this paper I will address some of the positive and negative views on inclusion and ways to prepare educators for inclusive education.
Perhaps the strongest argument for greater inclusion, even full inclusion, comes from its philosophical/moral/ethical base. This country was founded upon the ideals of freedom and equality of opportunity. Though they have not been fully achieved, movement towards their fuller realization continues. Integration activists point to these ideals as valid for those with disabilities, too. Even opponents agree that the philosophical and moral/ethical underpinnings for full inclusion are powerful. (SEDL, 1995)
Many agree that inclusion can be a positive experience for special education students, general education students and educators. Inclusive classrooms provide a diverse, stimulating environment for special education students. Vaughn and Klingner, 1995 found that special education students believe that inclusive classrooms provide them with more of an opportunity to make friends (Turnbull et al., 2004, p.70). Special education students who are included in regular education classrooms become part of a much larger learning community and they are able develop more of a positive self view.
General education students also benefit from the diversity of an inclusive classroom. Duhaney and Salend, 2000 found that parents of children without disabilities identified benefits for their own children such as greater sensitivity to the needs of other children, more helpfulness in meeting the needs of classmates with disabilities, and greater acceptance of diversity. (Turnbull et al., 2004, p.70). General education students develop an appreciation that everyone has unique characteristics and abilities, they become positive role models for the special education students and they are also able to develop a more positive self-view.
Inclusion, as it all too frequently is being implemented, leaves classroom teachers without the resources, training, and other supports necessary to teach students with disabilities in their classrooms. Consequently, the disabled children are not getting appropriate, specialized attention and care, and the regular students' education is disrupted constantly. SEDL (1995)
One of the major concerns of inclusive education is the lack of training general education teachers have. Scruggs and Mastropieri (1996) found that "Teachers need systematic, intensive training, either as part of their certification programs, as intensive and well-planned in-services, or as an ongoing process with consultants." (Turnbull, Turnbull, Shank ; Smith, 2004, p.69). Many general education teachers have very little or no training in special education and are not offered it through their school system. General education teachers may know nothing about IEP's and the meaning of accommodations and they may be unaware of how to implement a curriculum to include special needs students' individual accommodations. Teaching special needs students requires knowledge of how to adjust your curriculum to serve these students, without training general education teachers aren't able to effectively make these changes.
Another argument against inclusion is lack of time. Scruggs and Mastropieri (1996) found that "Teachers report a need for one hour or more per day to plan for students with disabilities." (Turnbull et al., 2004, p.69). The idea behind inclusion is to have general education teachers and special education teachers co-plan. The two teachers should act as a team and adjust and plan their lessons together. In a successful inclusive classroom, the general educator, special educator and the para-professionals (aides) must collaborate to meet the needs of their students. If these teachers are not given the planning time they need they will not be an effective team.
Another issue regarding time is that special education students need more intensive instruction and many