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Educating Students with Disabilities

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Educating Students with Disabilities

Inclusion

One of the most controversial issues facing educators today is the topic of educating students with disabilities, specifically through the concept of inclusion. The debate of how to educate students with disabilities is one that has existed since the inception of schools. This debate is one that stirs controversy because of the moral and ethical aspects involved. Inclusion has become a response to the debate, but this response has also raised much debate.

To truly understand what inclusion actually is, one must first clarify what it is not. The term mainstreaming is one that frequently gets confused with inclusion. Mainstreaming is the practice of educating a student with disabilities in a general classroom setting. With mainstreaming, disabled students will spend a majority of the day in a special education classroom and spend the remainder of the day in selected “regular” classrooms with supervision (Inclusion). Supporters of the idea of mainstreaming believe disabled students first belong in special education classrooms and must earn their way into a regular classroom (Special Education…).

The core philosophy of inclusion centers around the idea that support services should be brought to disabled students rather than students being brought to the support services. The supporters of inclusion believe that a student belongs in the regular classroom first and should only be removed from the regular classroom if the necessary services cannot be provided (Special Education…).

In general, disabled students in inclusive classrooms are usually within two years of age of their classmates. With most inclusive classrooms, there is a strong emphasis placed on friendships and interaction between disabled and non-disabled students. In many inclusive classrooms, a “buddy” is assigned to a disabled student. This “buddy” accompanies the disabled student in the cafeteria, on the bus, and throughout the day in an effort to further strengthen the disabled/non-disabled bond. Disabled students in inclusive classrooms are most often accompanied by an educational assistant or “shadow.” This “shadow” assists the regular classroom in the education of the disabled student and eases the transition from the special education classroom to the regular classroom (Inclusive Classrooms).

Although there are no federal laws mandating inclusive classrooms, there are two federal laws on record that aid supporters in creating inclusive classrooms. The first of such laws is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or IDEA. The IDEA mandates that students with disabilities must be placed in the “least restrictive environment.” Although inclusion is never mentioned in the IDEA, supporters of inclusion interpret this “least restrictive environment” as the regular classroom. However, in many cases, school districts view special education classrooms as the “least restrictive environment” for a student and he or she is placed in such classrooms (Special Education…).

The second piece of federal legislation that aids inclusion efforts is Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This law states that any recipient of federal funds (in this case, public schools) must provide education for each disabled student with non-disabled students to the extent appropriate for the disabled student. The disabled student must remain in the regular classroom unless it is found that the education the student receives is not or would not be satisfactory. In other words, if a district finds in cannot properly educate a disabled student in a regular classroom or does not have the means to do so, the student is therefore placed in a special education classroom (Special Education…).

Personally, I am not a supporter of inclusive classrooms. I believe students with disabilities should be given the same opportunities as non-disabled students. However, I believe by placing students with disabilities in regular classrooms, not only does the education of disabled student suffer, but the education of the non-disabled students as well. I believe disabled students placed in the regular classrooms cannot receive the attention they deserve, even with an educational assistant placed in the classroom. I also believed that the disabled student could even become a distraction to other students, especially if the student is severely disabled.

Although I am not in favor of inclusion, I am not, however, a supporter of the exclusion of disabled students. I believe disabled students belong in regular schools and mainstreamed into regular classrooms. However, I believe disabled students should be primarily educated in special education classrooms. If it is appropriate, these disabled students should be spend classes such as gym and elective classes in regular

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