In an ideal world all children would be born without disabilities. This idea is not possible though and sometimes children are born with special needs. The child could have only one disability or several. A disability can be mild and treated with medication or the disability can be severe and the child will need constant supervision. Once the child becomes of age to attend school, the issue of whether or not to place the child in a regular classroom or special needs classroom arises. This is when mainstreaming comes into place. Mainstreaming special needs children into the regular classroom has been a worldwide controversy; however, there are many advantages to placing these children there.
In the past disabled children were always looked upon differently and placed into separate schools or buildings. On November 29, 1975, the separation of regular students and special needs children ended, when President Ford signed the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, known as Public Law 94-142.This law marked the beginning of mainstreaming. The law was amended in 1983 by Public Law 98-199, which required schools to develop programs for disabled children. The act was renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 1992 (Giuliano 31).
Disabled children are defined as those who are mentally retarded, hard of hearing, deaf, orthopedically impaired, speech and language impaired, visually impaired, seriously emotionally disturbed, and children with specific learning disabilities, or those who require special education and related services (Giuliano 32). Mainstreaming is defined as the integration of children with special needs into ordinary education systems (Williams 126). Integration is divided into three main categories locational, social, and functional integration. With locational integration, the disabled students are taught at the same location as regular students, but in separate units of the school. This integration allows little contact between the different students (Williams 106). Where as in social integration, there is a separate formal education for the regular and special education students. Both groups of students have social interaction at mealtime, playtime, and extracurricular activities (Williams 106). And in functional integration, children with special needs attend the same classes as regular students and participate in other activities as well; the purpose is so that the curriculum is shared between the special education students and the regular students (Williams 106).
Research proves that disabled children have the desire and self-motivation to learn (Hasazi). When eight graduate students did an investigation on ninety-three students from inner-city public elementary schools, they came up with a somewhat unexpected result. These students wanted to examine the differences among students with learning disabilities, low academic achievement, and students with average academic achievement. In each of the twenty-two classrooms involved, two children labeled with learning disabilities were mainstreamed. As a result, the students with learning disabilities displayed greater academic engagement than the students with low achievement (Harries 1997). The students with learning disabilities showed a great interest in the academic lesson, and seemed to receive more attention from their teachers (Kastner 52-56).
Although special needs children may not score as well on tests as low or average achievers, their presence in the classroom will not disrupt the success of the other students. It is a known fact that students respond according to expectations placed upon them. When disabled students are placed in regular classrooms, higher expectations are placed on them. And in turn, their desire to learn more increases.
Advocates of mainstreaming believe if disabled children are mainstreamed into regular classrooms they will have...