Alternative terms: Inclusion, Mainstreaming
General education settings in which students identified as having disabilities (e.g., learning disabilities; mild/moderate/severe mental retardation; serious emotional disturbance; orthopedically, visually, hearing impaired) are placed to receive instruction for all or part of their educational program.
In 1975, the U.S. Congress passed Public Law 94-142, popularly known as the Education for AH Handicapped Children Act, that required every school district in the country to insure that students with disabilities are educated alongside their non-disabled peers to the maximum extent appropriate. It decreed that "special" classes or schools be used only when special education students cannot achieve satisfactorily in general education settings. This law was reenacted as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) (PL 101-476) in 1990.
The current inclusion movement that has come to be known as the "Regular Education Initiative" (REI) was triggered by Madeline Will's call for general and special educators to assume a "shared responsibility" for educating children with learning problems. REI proposes more integrated general and special educational systems in order to provide effective and appropriate education to the full range of students in the context of general education classrooms. As a result of the inclusive movement, growing numbers of students with disabilities, especially learning disabilities, are being placed at least part-time into regular classrooms.
In 1992, Oberti v. Board of Education of the Borough of Clementon School District established that placement in inclusion classrooms can offer substantial benefits and must be considered a right of all students, rather than a privilege for selected children. Based on verdicts reached in two separate cases, the decision to remove a special education student from a general education classroom must be based on evidence that the student cannot be effectively educated in that setting. PL 94-142 requires that the educational program of children with disabilities be determined individually for each child and documented in a written plan called the Individualized Education Program (IEP). Factors used to determine whether a student's IEP should be implemented in general or special education classes include the severity of the child's disability, including potentially disruptive behavior, and whether the costs of providing a student's education in a regular classroom significantly affects the resources of the district to educate other students.
Debate on inclusion
The implementation of inclusion has triggered intense debate among both special and general educators, as well as among parent/student advocacy groups representing children with different disabilities. Proponents of inclusion cite several benefits that can be gained by placing special students in general classrooms. They include increased positive social contact with peers, reduced stigma related to special placements, and exposure to the traditional curriculum. The most adamant inclusion supporters call for "full inclusion," full-time placement of all students with disabilities into general education classrooms, regardless of the severity of the disability. The Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps (TASH) and the Association of Retarded Citizens (ARC) are two advocacy groups that have called for implementation of full inclusion practices.
Concerns about inclusion have been raised by supporters of the special education system and professional and disability advocacy organizations, including the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), the Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDA), and the Council for Children with Behavior Disorders (CCBD). These groups question the ability of the general education system to meet the needs of the wide range of instructional, emotional, and behavioral needs of all students. General classroom teachers are trained to develop and implement instructional programs for children who fall within the "average" range of abilities. Their preparation does not include substantive training in curriculum modification for low-performing and low-skilled students, or in dealing with the behaviors often displayed by children who are severely emotionally disturbed. Others maintain that many special students primarily need to learn functional life-skills or basic academic skills, rather than informational learning, which is the focus of most general education curricula.
While the debate on inclusion continues, the practice of placing disabled students into general education programs continues. Various groups are examining the still scant but growing research on inclusion and have developed some guidelines for schools implementing inclusion programs.
STEPS FOR EFFECTIVE INCLUSION
The National Information Center for Children and Youth for Disabilities (NICHCY) has identified these steps for effective inclusion:
- Include teachers, parents, and building administrators in planning the inclusion process.
- Train teachers in instructional practices for disabled students.
- Use support professionals (special education teachers, physical therapists, school psychologists, etc.) to assist classroom teachers.
- Change the school curriculum as necessary to accommodate the needs of students with physical and cognitive disabilities.
- Evaluate program results in relation to targeted outcomes.
Block, Martin E. A Teacher's Guide to Including Students With Disabilities in Regular Physical Education. Baltimore: Brookes, 1994.
Clark, Catherine, Alan Dyson, and Alan Millward, eds. To wards Inclusive Schools? New York: Teachers College Press, 1995.
Cook, Ruth E., Annette Tessier, and M. Diane Klein. Adapting Early Childhood Curricula for Children in Inclusive Settings. 4th ed. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Merrill, 1996.
Moore, Lorraine. Inclusion, A Practical Guide for Parents: Tools to Enhance Your Child's Success in Learning. Minnetonka, MN: Peytral Publications, 1996.
Westwood, Peter S. Commonsense Methods for Children with Special Needs: Strategies for the Regular Classroom. 2nd ed. London; New York: Routledge, 1993.
Wood, Judy W. Adapting Instruction for Mainstreamed and At-Risk Students. 2nd ed. New York: Maxwell Macmillan, 1992.
Fuchs, D., and L. Fuchs. "Inclusive Schools Movement and the Radicalization of Special Education Reform." Exceptional Children 60, 1994, pp. 294-309.
Katsiyannis, A., G. Conderman, and D. J. Franks. "State Practices on Inclusion: A National Review." Remedial and Special Education 16, 1995, pp. 279-87.
Kauffman, J. M. "How to Achieve Radical Reform of Special Education." Exceptional Children 60, 1993, pp. 6-16.
Schumm, J. S., and S. Vaughn. "Getting Ready for Inclusion: Is the Stage Set?" Learning Disabilities Research & Practice 10, 1995, pp. 169-79.
Will, M. C. "Educating Students with Learning Problems: A Shared Responsibility." Exceptional Children 52, 1986, pp. 411-15.
Zigmond, N. "An Exploration of the Meaning and Practice of Special Education in the Context of Full Inclusion of Students with Learning Disabilities." Journal of Special Education 29, 1995, pp. 109-15.
Facing Inclusion Together. Reston, VA: Council for Exceptional Children, 1993. (One 50-minute video depicting collaboration between special educators and classroom teachers.)
Regular Lives. Reston, VA: Council for Exceptional Children, 1990. (One 30-minute video narrated by actor Martin Sheen showing the inclusion of students with mental and physical disabilities into regular classrooms.)
Two Faces of Inclusion: The Concept and the Practice. Reston, VA: Council for Exceptional Children, 1993. (One 50-minute video presents the inclusion debate.)
Council for Exceptional Children (CEC)
Address: 1920 Association Drive
Reston, VA 22091-1589
Telephone: (800) 232-7323
National Center on Educational Restructuring and Inclusion (NCERI)
Address: Room 1530, Graduate Center CUNY
33 West 42nd St.
New York, NY 10036
Telephone: (212) 642-2656.
The National Information Center for Children and Youth for Disabilities (NICHCY)
Address: P.O. Box 1492
Washington, DC 20013
Telephone: (800) 695-0285
Research on inclusion is being conducted by: Dr. Naomi Zigmond
Address: University of Pittsburgh, 4K38Q
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
Dr. Jeanne Shay Schumm and Dr. Sharon Vaughn
Address: University of Miami
P.O. Box 248065
Coral Gables, FL 33124-2040
—Jan E. Hasbrouck, Ph.D.
Texas A&M University