Inclusive education is a relatively controversial topic for many parents and educators. The idea behind inclusive education is that students with special needs will be placed in the same classroom environment as other students their age who do not have special needs.
Within inclusive education, there are two main branches of thinking: mainstreaming and full inclusion. Mainstreaming is a process that allows children with special needs to enter certain standard classrooms after they show the ability to keep up with the rest of their peers.
Full inclusion puts students with special needs in standard classroom environments without testing or demonstration of skills. Individuals that support full inclusion believe that all children belong in the same classroom environment no matter what.
Why Is Inclusion Important?
While feelings about inclusive education are still somewhat mixed, many studies show that children with special needs thrive in standard classroom environments for a variety of different reasons.
On an interpersonal level, inclusive education allows children to develop friendships with their peers and feel less social tension about their disabilities. Some people believe that children who are placed in standard classroom environments generally have higher self-esteem than children who are isolated to different classrooms simply because they have special needs.
Other studies show that children with special needs actually learn more in regular classroom environments, provided they get the help and support they need in and out of the classroom when it comes to academic subjects. Groups that oppose inclusive education often maintain the position that children without special need will be forced to learn at a slower pace, but in practice, this is easily avoided by qualified teachers.
Children Want to Be Included
The need to feel included or to belong to a group is strong in most children. Children that are relegated to special classes or schools because they have special needs may develop self-esteem and image issues that could stay with them the rest of their life, making it difficult for them to feel like they belong as adults.
Unfortunately, that can lead to lifelong interpersonal problems, and problems related to employment and daily life.
Children Have the Right to Be Included
According to the Children with Disabilities Act, children with special needs have the right to be educated with nondisabled children their own age. The Children with Disabilities Act also states that children should have access to the same general curriculum taught to students without disabilities.
Simply put, children have the right to a quality education, no matter what special needs they may have. No single school has the right to deny education to children and families who want the best for their child simply because he or she has a disability.
Focus on Your Child’s Needs
The idea of inclusive education has actually garnered more attention recently because of NBC’s popular television show, Parenthood. On the show, a main character named Max, has autism, and he and his parents make the decision that he will attend a mainstream school.
Many parents are making similar decisions for their children, and as the idea of inclusive education spreads, it’s likely to become more and more common, to the benefit of many children with special needs.
Inclusive education is becoming more and more common all over the world.