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Sunday, March 19, 2006

Mainstreaming vs. Inclusion

My husband and I recently returned from our second-to-last Parents As Leaders conference, a series of conferences dedicated to teaching Wisconsin parents of children with special needs how to be leaders in their communities for their children. It's for parents of children who are currently in Birth-to-3 or, as in our case, who were recently in Birth-to-3. It's a great program, and I highly recommend participating if you are offered the opportunity.

As always, we learned a lot at this conference. One was clarifying a common misconception, one that school districts tend to encourage. Mainstreaming and Inclusion are NOT synonymous. Even Wikipedia (cited above) treats them as equivalents with this statement:

Mainstreaming in education, also known as inclusion, is the process of grouping disabled students with general education students in the classroom.


However, this statement:

In the 1980s, the process of mainstreaming became popular after the requirement of a Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) (Clearinghouse, E. 2003). Students with minor disabilities integrated into classes of normal students while students with major disabilities were secluded to special classrooms, with the opportunity to be among normal students for a few hours each day.
--emphasis added


Followed by this description of inclusion:

An Inclusive Education refers to schools, centres of learning and educational systems that are open to all children, and that ensure that all children learn and participate. For this to happen, teachers, schools and systems may need to change so that they can better accommodate the diversity of needs that pupils have and that they are included in all aspects of school-life. It also means identifying any barriers within and around the school that hinder learning and participation, and reducing or removing these barriers. Inclusion in education is a process of enabling all children, including previously excluded groups, to learn and participate effectively within mainstream school systems. Placing excluded children within a mainstream setting does not of itself achieve inclusion. Inclusive Education must be underpinned by key principles and practices...
--emphasis added


...belies that notion.

I feel this distinction is important. Mainstreaming is, in essence, about a child with a disability earning his way into a regular classroom by not being too disabled. While those who cannot earn their way into such a classroom are segregated into special education classrooms. As per my recollection of history, which I've checked for accuracy, the legal concept of "separate but equal" was struck down in 1954.

From the Opinion of the Court:

We conclude that, in the field of public education, the doctrine of "separate but equal" has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.


And this:

Because these are class actions, because of the wide applicability of this decision, and because of the great variety of local conditions, the formulation of decrees in these cases presents problems of considerable complexity. On reargument, the consideration of appropriate relief was necessarily subordinated to the primary question -- the constitutionality of segregation in public education. We have now announced that such segregation is a denial of the equal protection of the laws.


I guess, nowadays, if you just take out the "equal" part, it's somehow okay? Mainstreaming is now widely accepted, though some still fight it because of the cost involved. However, inclusion is still all too rare.

As recently as 2000, the National Council on Disability found none of our states, none of them, were in compliance with IDEA, which is federal law.

More recently, the National Council on Disability (2000) released similar findings. Investigators discovered that every state was out of compliance with the requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and that U.S. officials are not enforcing compliance. Even today, schools sometimes place a student in a self-contained classroom as soon as they see that the student is labeled as having a disability. Some students enter self-contained classrooms as soon as they begin kindergarten and never have an opportunity to experience regular education. When families of students with disabilities move to a different district, the new school sometimes moves the student out of general education environments and into segregated classrooms.


This is unacceptable. Inclusion isn't easy, it's not cheap, but segregation is wrong. For a nation that cherishes freedom and equality, this is totally absurd. Parents, school faculty and our communities need to work cooperatively to ensure all children get a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment, as required by federal law.

There are many resources out there: just Google "resources for inclusive schools" and you'll find a bunch of them. None of us have to be in this alone. The risks are too great to fail. The successes too precious to ignore. Please remember, all children deserve a quality education. All children deserve to learn with their peers. All children should be equal under the law.

Support inclusion for every child!

60 Comments:

At 3/20/2006 1:36 PM, Blogger JasonSpalding said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 3/20/2006 1:37 PM, Blogger JasonSpalding said...

My wife has recently entered the education field. Her nightly stories cause me to consider wether or not public eduction is the correct choise for my 11 and 8 year olds.

I put up a continuance of my last blog detailing those that support the Westboro Baptist Church today. I would love to get your thoughts on my answer to the questions that were posted.

 
At 3/20/2006 2:25 PM, Blogger Stephanie said...

Public education is a blessing and a curse all at once. My family cannot afford to educate our children privately. Even the expense of texts and manuals would be too high for us to educate them at home at this time. However, there are ways to help ensure quality public education for your children. Mainly, you have to stay informed, and vote with an informed mind. You have to participate as much as you can within your school. Know your children's teachers on a first name basis. Know your children's principal. Talk to other members of the falculty. Review course work and homework with your children. Ask them what they learned. Ask them what they think of their fellow students. Keep the lines of communication open, so that when a problem occurs, no matter who it is with, your children will come to you for help, knowing that even if they're in the wrong that you will help them and that you love them.

...Maybe this should be the topic of my next parenting post.
:-)

 
At 3/21/2006 1:45 PM, Blogger Lisa Renee said...

I've seen situations where inclusion didn't work. That said, I think that should be done more than it is and that more support should be given so the cases where it does not work are less frequent.

Especially when it comes to students who are diagnosed with severe behavior problems. My friend who's daughter Trinity has autism has done well under our local systems inclusion plan though it is not a full day within the classroom she spends more time with her peers and less in the special ed classroom. That hasn't been the case with all of the students though and there were several problems with one student being violent last year that were very concerning.

The problems that have happened could have been easily resolved if more aides were funded or they had a better volunteer system. It's not realistic to expect a teacher to be able to handle a capacity classroom and several special needs children with only one aid and have it be a positive learning experience for anyone. Had that been done I don't think the one child who really had adjustment problems would have had some of the outburts he had. I think his frustration with not having his needs met on a more immediate basis due to the lack of additional trained assistance was partly responsible for this.

 
At 3/22/2006 12:19 AM, Blogger Lisa Renee said...

pssttt...check out your TLLB ranking...you are moving up!

:-)

 
At 3/22/2006 2:59 AM, Blogger David Schantz said...

I'm going to have to check with the Grand Daughter to see how "children with special needs" are really delt with in our local schools. I think given the chance a lot of the kids would go on to become special/important members of the community.

God Bless America, God Save The Republic.

 
At 3/22/2006 5:02 PM, Blogger Stephanie said...

Lisa,

Inclusion can work a lot better than it often does, but it has to be done right. Aides are one aspect of that, but so is classroom design. Linked in the "successes" of my last paragraph is a link to a very well-done video that I would highly recommend you watch if you should get a chance. I saw the video at the PALS conference I recently attended. It's enough to make you cry.

However, if "inclusion" means just sticking everyone in the same classroom and that's the only change, then it's going to fail at least some of the time. If "inclusion" means making the classroom more accessible for everyone, then all the kids learn more. One of the truly impressive parts of the video I watched was the stats on the kids. After this Bosten elementary school became fully inclusive the tests scores for ALL children went up dramatically.

 
At 3/22/2006 5:04 PM, Blogger Stephanie said...

Whooo-hooo!

I'm a flippery fish! Much better than a microbe!
:-)

Most interesting..."Eugenics: The Time is Now!" is a "top posts" and yet has only two comments. Just goes to show that no talk doesn't mean no attention!

 
At 3/22/2006 5:10 PM, Blogger Stephanie said...

David,

A lot individuals with special needs do go on to be productive members of society. And I certainly intend for my boys to be amongst those that do!

How schools handle these issues vary from state to state, from county to county, and really from school to school. A school district can have a school that's really good about how they handle children with special needs and another school that's really bad about it. I hope your Grand Daughter (presumably she's in school?) gets a good experience that teaches her there is nothing to fear from people who are cognitively different than her!
:-)

 
At 4/30/2006 8:48 PM, Blogger lucas baker said...

Inclusion is certainly not mainstreaming. It is a whole different mind set.

The way schools interprete the meaning of inclusion can get sticky when students reach middle and high school. Kids with special needs are mixed with students with diverse needs (underachievers) and wham! your child is for all intents and purposes (except on paper) back in a special education placement.

Comprehesive and ongoing teacher training in differentaiting curriculum and in collaborative team teaching as well as school wide school wide behavior (character education) programs and a strong team for writing Functinal behavior analysises and plans are just a few things that need to be present .

A major self check on bias against person with learning differnces by the whole school, local and national community would not hurt either.

Check my blog changeducation@blogspot if your interested in more thought on the subject.

 
At 10/06/2008 10:40 AM, Blogger kathleen said...

I am an art teacher I have been for 25 years. Each year I feel the students are more difficult. A good part of it is behavior. Screaming running out of the classroom, hitting, biting,swearing and the list goes on.
I am for equal education but when there is 2or3 special needs students
what about the rest of the class.
Safety first.

 
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