All children regardless of their disability or the severity of their disability can and should be educated in regular classrooms with their non disabled peers. This is the definition of inclusion. As late as the 1990s children with disabilities were excluded from being in classrooms with their non disabled peers. It wasn’t until laws such as IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) were passed that children with disabilities were given rights to be educated in general education classrooms.
Today there are a number of inclusion advocates fighting to have every child with a disability included in general education classrooms. Let me be the one to say that while the concept may sound wonderful, it isn’t. Inclusion works for some kids, not all of them. I would hate to see the day when full inclusion was the only choice I had for my child.
Don’t let inclusion fool you. The concept is a good thought and for some kids it will be a great benefit to. Inclusion however, is only as good as it is supported. A disabled child sitting in the back corner of a classroom watching an iPad is not being educated in that classroom. A child having numerous aggressions and constantly being removed from the area is not being educated in that classroom. A child being filled with low self esteem because he or she can’t understand the lessons being taught is not being educated in that classroom. If you are truly going to include these kids the proper accommodations, the right amount of trained staff and any other necessary supports must be in place. And if you are a parent it is crucial that you make sure your child is being fully supported. Too many times we make ourselves believe children are being included but they really aren’t.
My daughter started school in general education classrooms. It didn’t work. She was then put in separate classrooms and included with her typical peers in classes such as art, music and gym. Sometimes these classes were a success. Other times they weren’t. One time a teacher made her come back during her lunchtime for extra help because she didn’t understand what was being taught in class. Another time a teacher didn’t even know she was on an IEP. And then there was all that bullying going on by some typical peers in those classes. Inclusion wasn’t proving to be a great thing for my daughter.
By the time she reached high school she was in completely sub separate classrooms and doing very well. She could care less if she was included in the general ed classrooms. There were two times in high school however that she was able to be included with her typical peers; the prom and graduation. It took a lot of planning and preparation from school staff but both times she was able to be fully included and happy to be there (well maybe graduation we had to work hard to make her smile come through). The point is that both of these times she was successfully included but we had all of the necessary supports in place.
There is a time and a place for inclusion. It is not for every child with a disability everywhere all the time. Should every child have the right to be included? Yes. Should every child automatically be placed in full inclusion? No. Every child is an individual and should be treated as such. Don’t be fooled into thinking differently.