When a child is first looked at for inclusion, the school and the parents should sit down and write up an Individual Education Plan (IEP). This will enable the school system to work with the parents in achieving a smooth transition. Hence it’s name, an IEP works on an individual basis. It looks at the individual circumstances of the child. Inclusion works for children with a physical disability as well as a mental disability. One parent told me about her son’s experience with inclusion.
“My son has severe and profound Mental Retardation. He had been in a self-contained classroom since 3 years old. Last year, at age 8, he entered a regular 2nd grade classroom with 20 other students and I was scared to death. I had to give him the opportunity. I’m glad to say he made more progress in one school year than in all the years before.
He has many more friends now and they did not forget him over the summer. They invited him to play and they came over to our house. He began to sign, which he had always been resistant to (he is essentially non-verbal). The kids from his classroom have gotten just as much, if not more, than he did from being in their room.”
With these experiences in the classroom, the child learns how to interact in an inclusive society. A lawyer put it in plain terms: “When a child with a disability graduates, he/she is in an inclusive environment regardless of what type of disability and how severe it might be. That person has no choice but to be in that environment. Whenever an inclusive environment is being used in school, that child will be taught how to adapt with the tools he/she has to cope with out in the real world after being in school for 18 years. Without these tools and the know how to use them, the child, as an adult, will be sunk in no time at all.”
The flip side to inclusion is the harm it can cause or not having any effect on the child. In 1990 a study revealed that although a majority of high school students with learning disabilities are in general education classrooms, nearly one-third are failing there. Researchers are discovering that general education classroom teachers provide little differentiated instruction for students with learning disabilities.
Now the questions come, what are the teacher’s responsibilities? On the one hand, you don’t want to single out the child with special instruction that can interrupt the regular classroom. But, on the other hand, you don’t want to forget that a child with a disability needs some modifications in their educational goals. What is a teacher to do?
More and more colleges are teaching coursework in special education. As teachers go for recertification, they are required to have a certain amount of special education training. Teachers are learning that they don’t necessarily have to change the lesson, but add various aids for the student. Something as simple as a tape recorder can be used so the student can take notes. This allows them to listen to them at home where they can put it on computer or write it out at their own pace instead of trying to keep up with the teacher, or the teacher slowing down affecting the whole class. It’s the little things that can help that student, yet hose little things can also benefit the rest of the class too.
Inclusion is a very touchy subject that can make many people either very happy or very mad. One thing that should always be kept in mind is: What is right for the child? What he/she learns now will affect the rest of his/her life. “Before you decide not to seek inclusion for your child,” a word of advice given to me from a parent who has been there, “look at a positive example first.”