We as educators must begin a serious conversation and understand some basic assumptions. Simply because children with special needs are impacted by the lack of awareness of this issues. The assumptions and beliefs about inclusion and special education need to be fully understood and exposed for the benefit of all our children.
I have been teaching children with special needs and I have seen many children struggle as good intentioned people did not carefully consider their personal assumptions. Often the student's SEL or individual academic success was impeded by low expectations, poorly designed environments, untrained educators , lack of appropriate supports and more. This is a thoughtful and well written piece on the two ways people generally think about inclusion. I tend to fall in the second group.
Underlying Assumptions Surrounding Greater Versus Lesser Inclusion
1) Perhaps the strongest argument for greater inclusion, even full inclusion, comes from its philosophical/moral/ethical base. This country was founded upon the ideals of freedom and equality of opportunity. Though they have not been fully achieved, movement toward their fuller realization continues. Integration activists point to these ideals as valid for those with disabilities, too. Even opponents agree that the philosophical and moral/ethical underpinnings for full inclusion are powerful. For instance, Lieberman (1992) points out that
the selling points for full integration are emotionally powerful. They do not lend themselves to be easily challenged ... The arguments speak in ideals for all humanity. Images are presented that show friendship, loyalty, togetherness, unity, helpfulness without monetary compensation, care-giving from the heart, building a society based on mutuality of interest. As my fellow man goes, so go I. Only a cynic would take this on. (p. 13)Jay Heubert (1994) suggests that there are several points on which proponents and opponents of inclusion agree. There is general consensus that, with appropriate staff development and support, more students with mild disabilities could be served in regular classrooms. It is also generally believed that better research, improved coordination of services between special and regular education, and administrative support are crucial for serving students with disabilities.
Heubert (1994) also outlines some of the major philosophical assumptions that proponents and opponents hold relative to their attitudes about inclusion. Those who favor greater inclusion view labeling and segregation of students with disabilities as bad. They do not view those with disabilities as distinctly different from others, but rather limited in certain abilities (everyone simply has strengths and weaknesses that vary from person to person). According to these inclusion proponents, segregated special education services are too expensive, disjoint, and inefficient. They believe that many who have been identified as being disabled are actually not disabled at all. They also believe that those students who are disabled can be best served in mainstream classes because:
2) In contrast, those who prefer to maintain special education students in resource rooms, special classrooms, or other, more restrictive settings believe that labeling students is not bad if the labels are accurate and lead to providing appropriate services. They believe that students with disabilities are distinctly different from their non-disabled peers and, therefore, need different, specialized services. They fear that the reason many are "pushing" inclusion is to save money (special education services are costly). Inclusion opponents believe that special education identification services are sophisticated and generally reliable. According to Huebert (1994), they also believe many or most students with disabilities are better served outside the mainstream classroom setting because:
Training and Credentials