Rediscovering Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.
Axis Consultation and Training Ltd
Originally published in: Villa, R., Thousand, J., Stainback, W. & Stainback, S. Restructuring for Caring & Effective Education. Baltimore: Paul Brookes, 1992.
© Copyright 1992 Paul H. Brookes Publishers.
Newtonian principles of physics were regarded as true until Einstein demonstrated that they provided an inadequate explanation of the laws of nature. Similarly, Freudian analysts viewed a woman's admission of being sexually abused by her father as a neurotic fantasy stemming from an "Electra complex." Only recently have other forms of therapy shown that women are accurate in their accounts of being abused. In every field of knowledge, anomalies such as these arise that call current practices and "paradigms" (i.e. world views) into question and necessitate the creation of new paradigms and related practices. It is precisely through this process that a body of knowledge develops. Such a process is now taking place in the field of special education. Anomalies have arisen that seriously call into question the validity of segregating students with specific physical, intellectual, or emotional needs. Moreover, these anomalies demand that new paradigms be created and embraced. THE SPECIAL EDUCATION PARADIGM: SKILLS AS A PREREQUISITE TO INCLUSION In the United States, P.L. 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975, and the concept of the least restrictive environment (LRE) initially were seen as meaningful steps toward including children with physical, intellectuaI, and emotional needs within regular classrooms. In actuality, however, this legislation and its embedded concept of LRE still gave credence to segregated, self-contained classrooms. Although lip service was given to the idea that students would be integrated as much as possible, the underlying paradigm supporting the maintenance of the continuum of services was that students with severe, or even moderate, impairments needed to learn and demonstrate basic skills (e.g., staying quiet in class, going to the washroom independently,) in self-contained classrooms before they could, if ever, be allowed to enter regular classrooms. This educational paradigm can be represented as follows:
STUDENT --> skills --> regular classroom
This paradigm has been the basis for the practice of placing students with moderate or severe disabilities in segregated, self-contained classrooms or programs in which the curriculum focus is basic skills instruction. As a result, segregated classrooms generally have been seen as a necessary educational option that must be maintained to meet the needs of "some" students. ANOMALIES IN THE SEGREGATION PARADIGM: LACK OF PROGRESS
The belief in the need for segregation has created a situation in which students with intensive physical, intellectual, or emotional needs enter the school system at the age of 5 or 6 and are placed in self-contained classrooms or programs in which life skills, age-appropriate behaviour, and possibly social interaction with other students are primary goals. These students typically stay in the school system for 15-18 years and, despite the commitment of hundreds of thousands of dollars, the majority fail to master life skills or appropriate behaviour and remain socially isolated throughout their school years. These students have not progressed at a rate that allows for a successful transition into community life (Lipsky & Gartner, 1989., Stainback, Stainback, & Forest, 1989., Wagner, 1989). Although teachers and teaching assistants may be fully committed to helping students acquire basic skills, many students seem disinterested, unwilling, or incapable of learning the skills. Moreover, students who do master certain skills often fail to retain the newly acquired skills or cannot replicate them in situations outside of the classroom. As a consequence, many "graduates" of...