In order to realistically discuss the pros and cons of total inclusion, several points must be considered.
First, let's define terms:
...is a situation where the child is educated in a regular classroom, but not necessarily with the exact same curriculum. Less than 20% of the student's time is spent in a special ed setting (whether for physiotherapy, resource room, or whatever else).
LEAST RESTRICTIVE ENVIRONMENT
...a phrase of IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) includes the provision that separate classes must be provided for children "when the nature and severity of the handicap is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily."
What Do Studies Show About Inclusion?
- The "disabled" child learned at least as well academically as similar students in special ed
- The disabled child showed more independence and better social skills than similar children educated in special ed
- The academic level for regular students did not decrease
- In general, the cost of inclusion is less than the cost of special ed
- Teenagers in inclusion are often socially isolated
I do not believe that total inclusion is the answer for every special child. But many could benefit from total or partial inclusion. In making a choice for each child, the family must consider several points:
- Is the classroom (regular or special ed) a frum (or at least not anti-frum) environment?
- If the regular classroom has a shorter school day than special ed, what after-school options are available for the child?
The classroom (regular and special ed) must be evaluated for the following:
- What are the chances of abuse from other classmates or staff?
- Will related services actually be given?
- Is the environment stimulating (or just a babysitting service…)?
- Can the parents pay the costs not covered by the government?
- Will the parents have the time/will/knowledge to help the child with his/her studies?
- Will the child feel happily challenged? Pressured? Bored?
- Will the child have friends?
What age child are we talking about?
I would also like to finish with a few final points of benefit of inclusion, conducted in frum schools (in at least lower-to-mid gradeschool): The resource room is also there for kids with learning disabilities. Exposure of our teachers to special ed techniques will help make them more aware of "normal" children with problems (like minor learning problems, learning disabilities), and promote the acceptance of the less-than-perfect student (bottom 1/3 of the class). Classmates will learn to accept others with disabilities and differences.
This article first appeared in issue #10 of Down Syndrome Amongst Us
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