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Inclusion and Mainstreaming

Essay on inclusion and mainstreaming of all special education students into the standard classroom.

In the field of education, the theory behind mainstreaming special education students can be useful to the majority of students that are the average slower learner, but detrimental to the student with social disorders which may hinder the learning process. The problem with mainstreaming and inclusion comes when the student to be mainstreamed is diagnosed with a pervasive developmental disorder or a disruptive behavior disorder. In these cases, the student being mainstreamed can have severe problems in the larger class setting, as well as cause severe problems for other students in the same setting. Testing and trial should be conducted to determine the source of a student’s delay, academic versus socially pervasive. Is that delay caused by academic retardation, or by social anxieties and pervasive development?

 Learning disabilities such as Autism Spectrum disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and a select few others can demonstrate extreme opposition, through social behavior, rather than academic progression or regression, to the status pro quo of the normal society. Students with these disorders have a difficult time, at best, conforming to the large classroom structure. The socially disabled student may not yet be developmentally able socially to fully understand, or perform at this level of responsibility. These students have the ability to test high on standardized tests, in some cases, making teachers and administration believe the student could perform well in a normal large classroom setting. In truth, many could handle the class load with proper guidance. The problem becomes pronounced when the socially disabled student is placed into the structured normal classroom and the normal student sitting next to the socially disabled student starts clicking a pen, tapping a pencil, or chatting or passing notes to a neighbor. At this point, the socially disabled student becomes distracted at best or frustrated beyond recovery at worst. The socially disabled student then either disrupts the classroom setting, or completely shuts down and does not complete their assigned work.  In this situation, mainstreaming can cripple the socially disabled student’s learning capability. These types of social issues can make mainstreaming these students a rigorous test in patience and creative solution development for teachers and administrative personnel.

Testing to determine social versus academic delays would help to create a more streamlined individualized education program (IEP) for these students. If the student tests to be perfectly capable of the normal class load, then a trial period should be allowed to determine the adaptability to the larger class size and social interaction. If the student begins to have problems and is failing in completion of class work and homework, then accommodations would have ot be redirected, to bring the student’s conformity about in a slower progressive manner. Forcing a student to conform, immediately, when their disorder, in and of itself, is an inability to conform easily, if at all, only ends up traumatizing the student, creating hard feelings with the teacher, and creates a conflicted environment which only adds to the frustration of all involved.

Our education system, as it stands, is far from perfect, limited in funding, and becoming more mainstreamed every day, with the No Child Left Behind Act. In the same aspect, The No Child Left Behind Act is leaving several hundred students per school district behind every day. The socially disabled student can be a challenge and a hindrance for the regular students and the teacher of the standard large class. The teacher is faced with the difficult decision of failing a student they know is capable of the work, working harder with just that student to help them to understand that social structure has to be maintained in the classroom (with little to no hope of accomplishing the socially disabled student’s conformity), or skipping over the socially disabled student and choosing to concentrate instructional attention on the regular students, further alienating the student with disabilities.

This is the ethical issue teachers have been facing for many years with the advent of psychological diagnosis of pervasive developmental disorders and disruptive behavioral disorders. In most cases, the socially disabled student’s learning disability does not even involve the inability to learn. The socially disabled student is perfectly capable of academic progression in the right environment. The disability involves the small distractions of everyday normal life the average person has the ability to ignore. The distractions irritate or frustrate the socially disabled student, causing situations that can be detrimental to the learning environment for all involved, as well as further alienating the disabled student.

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