Should Special Needs Students Be Taught in an Inclusive Classroom?
In 1975, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), was enacted by Congress to ensure that children with disabilities have the opportunity to receive a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment. Before IDEA was enacted, students with disabilities were taught in a regular education classroom, but were not given any accommodations to help them learn. IDEA’s purpose is to provide an education that meets a child’s needs and prepares them for further education, employment, and independent living. An Individualized Educational Program (IEP) is mandated by IDEA to develop goals and objectives that correspond to the needs of the student, and ultimately choose a placement in the least restrictive environment possible for the student. Each student with special needs is evaluated and tested, and by the results the IEP team decides on what the child’s placement is. The question is whether or not the students’ gain educational strength after being placed in the least restrictive environment. Supportive and positive faculty, students’ feelings of belonging and normalcy, teachers’ frustration, and parents’ opinions are all important points that have led to the debate of whether or not special needs students should be taught in inclusive classrooms.
One of the main points behind the debate of whether special needs students should be taught in inclusive classrooms is the amount of positivity present in this type of environment. If a teacher educates a special needs child begrudgingly it will be apparent to the youth. The classroom atmosphere should be warm and friendly at all times. The more positive the teacher, the more positive all of the students will be and learning will take place more effectively. The special needs students want to feel accepted, not different. They want to fit in and make friends, but they also want to learn. It may take these students a little longer than most regular-education students. Having an optimistic classroom for special needs students is important because they need to feel that they have their peers supporting them. In Mara Sapon-Shevin’s article “Learning in an Inclusive Community,” she says, “The classroom becomes a more positive place for everyone when multiple forms of peer support – such as peer mentoring and collaborative learning – are ongoing, consistent, and valued.” There are many strategies for creating a positive, inclusive classroom, such as “being explicit in explaining to your students why treating one another well and building a community is important, adopting a zero-indifference policy, providing lots of opportunities for students to work together, and teaching positive social skills.” (Sapon-Shevin 51) All teachers should do their best to improve their classroom and make it a positive environment for both special needs and general education students. With a positive environment for students to learn in, there will be a positive outlook on inclusion in the classroom.
Many people believe that the opinions of the parents of special needs students are an important aspect of this debate. According to Mercedes S. Tichenor, Bette Heins, and Kathy Piechura-Couture, workers at the Department of Teacher Education at Stetson University, “parents of children with disabilities are in favor of inclusion. However, there are some concerns among these parents.” The biggest concern is that full-inclusion cannot meet the needs of all students, both regular education students and special needs students. One concern is “managing students with behavior problems” (Shipley qtd. in Tichenor, Heins, and Piechura-Couture). Beverly Taylor, a regular education business teacher at Mt. Hermon School also agrees that behavioral issues are a huge concern in an inclusive classroom. She says, “The challenge comes when they struggle and get behind the regular education students. Sometimes it’s...
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