INCLUSION IN REGULAR CLASSROOMS OF STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES: A LITERATURE REVIEW
Students who have behavioral and psychological problems need special treatment or intervention in education. They are the young people who experience mental, emotional, and behavioral problems that are real, painful, and costly. Their problem is often called "disorders," which are sources of stress for children and their families, schools, and communities (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Association, 2004). Also referred to as mental health disorders (SAMHA, 2004), the condition is said to be caused by biology, environment, or a combination of the two. Examples of biological factors are genetics, chemical imbalances in the body, and damage to the central nervous system, such as a head injury. Many environmental factors also can affect mental health, including exposure to violence, extreme stress, and the loss of an important person (SAMHA, 2004). Basically, children and adolescence with behavioral problems demonstrate behavior that is noticeably different from that expected in school or the community and are in need of remediation. There is still a current debate on where these students should be placed. For some, special students should be placed in a special education classroom setting along with classmates that also have disabilities. On the other hand, others suggest that such students should be allowed to attend general classes but should also have appointments with special educators outside the general classroom setting. However, for proponents of inclusion, there is no need for special students to leave the classroom when taking up special education needs. Inclusion is basically the philosophy of confining a special student only within the general classroom setting. It is believed that through this process, disability students will have more opportunity to make friends, get along with other students, and develop cognitive skills and self-esteem better. Through this, disability students will not feel they are being isolated, but instead, will feel accepted for what they are. But the concept of inclusion also has many critics that question its effectiveness. Until now, there is still a great debate on whether inclusion should be applied to all schools. This literature review will evaluate the advantages of inclusion and the different disadvantages that critics pointed out against it.
INCLUSION IN REGULAR CLASSROOMS
Traditional versus Special Education
A statement by Ralph Waldo Emerson says: "The man who can make hard things easy is the educator". Furthermore, Sims (1995) stated that "the effective instructors are those who understand the importance of involving all of their students in learning how to learn." Effective learning occurs when instructors affirm the presence and validity of diverse learning styles and maximize the climate or conditions for learning in and out of the classroom through the deliberate use of instructional design principles that take account of learning differences and increase the possibilities of success for all learners (Sims, 1995). Those statements are true especially when it comes to students who have behaviour problems. Traditional education approaches cannot be as effective as it can be, at least generally viewed, to special students such as those who have behavioural or psychological problems. That is why certain institutions find it a necessity to prevent or resolve such behaviour problems. They can be branded as special treatments to students with problem behaviour. Furthermore, certain traditional schools and universities provide psychological non-formal education to educate students on how they should act. However, according to Ritter (1995), there has been considerable discussion regarding greater accommodation of handicapped students within a mainstream setting and the integration of regular and special education since the mid-1980s. Furthermore, Ritter (1995) stated that proponents of the Regular Education Initiative believe that the integrative model is workable for behaviorally disordered and emotionally disturbed students, as well as for those students with learning or cognitive handicaps. In addition, classroom context has been identified as a critical variable in dealing with problem behavior and stands as a potential barrier to any considered merger of regular and special education. Undeniably, the classroom setting itself may contribute to elevated ratings of problem behavior on the part of regular classroom teachers (Ritter, 1995).
The SAMHA of the United States Department of health and Human Service enumerated the types of behavioural disorders that a number of children and adolescents face. The Group stated that all can have a serious impact on a child's overall health. Included in the disorders are: anxiety disorders; severe depression; bipolar disorder; Attention Deficit / Hyper-Activity Disorder; learning disorder; conduct disorder; eating disorder; autism; and schizophrenia (SAMHA, 2004).
What is Inclusion?
According to the Center for Mental Health Schools (1998) in
Unlike mainstreaming (which means moving students from separate schools and classes to regular education classes for part or all of the school day) and the LRE (which means students may receive special education and may also participate in general education setting), inclusion implies that students are needed to be taught outside the regular education classroom only when all available methods have been tried and failed to meet their needs (Bateman and Bateman, 2002). It is a movement that seeks to create schools and other social institutions based on meeting the needs of all learners as well as respecting and learning from each other's differences (Salend, 1998). This means that the special students have the right to be educated in a general setting classroom given that a specific teaching method or approach works for him or her. In a sense, inclusionary schools should seek to establish communities of learners by educating all students together in age-appropriate, general education classrooms in their neighborhood schools (Salend and Garrick Duhaney, 1999).
Rudd (2002) emphasized that inclusion is not to be called inclusions when there is no supports and services given to special students to help them cope in the general classroom setting. It does not also cut back special services and does not assume that all the children in the general classroom setting should learn in the same way (Rudd, 2002). Rudd (2002) also emphasized that inclusion or inclusive programs should not ignore the concerns of the parents. It should also provide special education services in the general classroom and not in a separate place (Rudd, 2002).
In the past, the automatic inclusion of children with disabilities in general classroom setting is not supported by any legal documents. In 1997, the Disability Education Act Amendment was passed, clearly defining a set of regulations for LRE. In a way, this act also supports the adoption of the inclusive philosophy by schools as the act states that all children are to be considered for placement in regular classroom first. If ever the school decides not to include, they should provide a clear explanation why (Rudd, 2002).
Advantages of Inclusion
The inclusion of special students in the general classroom is viewed by many researchers as advantageous in a sense that they believe special students or students with disabilities in this setting can develop better social development, better social interaction, enhanced skill acquisition and generalization, better health, more independence, greater success in meeting the objectives of their IEPs, and more normalized functioning (Burnette, 1996).
The Florida Children's Forum (2002) stated that four stakeholders can benefit from inclusion. They are: the children; the family; child care professionals; and the community. Through inclusion, children can develop friendships and learn how to play and interact with one another. They can also develop a more positive image of themselves and a healthy attitude about the uniqueness of other (The Florida Children's Forum, 2002). On the other hand, the families of the children with disabilities can also benefit from inclusion because through it, they will have the opportunity to learn more about child development. They will not only have access to child care, but they will also have the opportunity to teach their children about individual differences and diversity (The Florida Children's Forum, 2002). For child care professionals, it can also be advantageous because through inclusion, they will have the opportunity to learn about and develop partnerships with other community resources and agencies. They can also build strong relationships with parents and enhance their credibility as quality, inclusive child care providers (The Florida Children's Forum, 2002). Finally, the community can also benefit as it will teach each member to become more accepting and supportive of all people (The Florida Children's Forum, 2002).
According to the research of Lipsky and Gartner (1997), inclusion can help children with disabilities reduce their fear of human differences. This is accompanied by increased comfort and awareness, growth in social cognition, improvement in self-concepts, development of personal principles, and warm and caring attitude toward peers and friends.
In another study, Moore et al (1998) found that students with medium to severe disabilities can develop academic increases, and behavioral and social progress through inclusion. Accordingly, they found that it is not recommendable to segregate these students because in segregated sites, they do not receive a greater concentration of special education resources, degrading their traditional skills domain and social competence learning (Moore et al, 1998).
Almost similarly, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (1997) stated the following as advantages of inclusion to children with disabilities: demonstrate increased acceptance and appreciation of diversity; develop better communication and social skills; show better development in moral and ethical principles; create warm and caring friendship; and demonstrate increased self-esteem.
Odum et al (1999) also preaches the good news about inclusion as their study shows that inclusion of students in general classroom settings produces positive outcomes. Parents and teachers are supportive of such program and a wide range of curricula are being used to make sure they are really effective for students with disabilities.
It has also been reported that inclusion can be an advantage because it gives and ensures children with disabilities access to the general education curriculum, an important consideration in recent IDEA amendments (Council for Exceptional Children, 1998). Furthermore, inclusion can also provide opportunities for expanding social networks and forming new friendships (Scruggs, 2001).
Two strategies of inclusion practice – cooperative learning and peer tutoring – seem to be viewed advantageous as well. In co-operative learning, students with special needs are not pulled out of their classroom for supplemental instruction rather, the special education staff provides instruction in the regular classrooms, to increase learning time, reduce behaviour problems, give students an opportunity to participate fully in their classrooms, and teachers an opportunity to learn from each other. On the other hand peer tutoring enables students to be assigned to heterogeneous ability pairs and has been proven to be an effective strategy in increasing the academic achievement of students with and without disabilities (Kamps, Barbetta, Leonard and Delquadri, 1994; Stevens and Slavin, 1995a, 1995b) and in increasing social interactions (Kamps, Barbetta, Leonard and Delquadri, 1994).
It was emphasized that general classroom teachers may be unprepared in experiencing a special student. Ritter (1995) cited that regular classroom teachers rated behavior as more problematic than did special education teachers. Their explanation was that regular teachers experience a narrower range of deviance than special education teachers and therefore their referents for normal behavior are more restrictive. Furthermore, he mentioned that teacher judgments of behavior problem were not independent of classroom environment, but rather reflected the classroom context.
As mentioned by Ritter, various sources suggest that barriers between general and special education are problematic in a sense that it affects the attention that should be given to behavioral problems of students. For instance, findings show that general education teachers are not prepared for the inclusion of special students. The findings in Schumm and Vaughn's (1992) study about planning for mainstreamed special education students showed that general education teachers are willing to have mainstreamed students in their classrooms as long as the students do not exhibit emotional or behavioral problems. This shows that most general education teachers do not give much focus on behavioral problems contrary to special education setting. Schumm and Vaughn (1992) stated that they (general education teachers) are willing to make adaptations while the student is taking tests or working on assignments (i.e., interactive planning), but are less likely to spend much time planning or making adaptations to the curriculum or test (preplanning) or constructing new objectives based on student performance (post planning). Furthermore, another problem in general education is that numerous middle and high school teachers are unaware when they have a mainstreamed learner and rarely use the IEP or psychological reports in their planning (Schumm and Vaughn, 1992). Because of the lack of psychological planning, general classroom teachers need assistance in planning for mainstreamed learners, and they are likely to seek the help of the special education teacher, reading resource teacher, or fellow teachers (Schumm and Vaughn, 1992).
In the study conducted by Trump and Hange (1996), one of their focus group interviews that have the aim to find out the concerns of teachers about inclusion found the following concerns: discrepancy that may emerge between the academic and social development of special education students and regular education students as they progress through grade levels; special education students are endangered of becoming overly dependent to teachers and peers; special educator should also be a consultant; increasing needs of less-academically talented students who do not qualify for special education service; instructional aides may not be used appropriately; difficulty of including students with behavioral issues; and assessment issues.
The group also noted several obstacles that may prevent a successful implementation of inclusion. The barriers they identified include: resistance to change on the part of administrators, teachers and parents; role confusion; lack of administrative support; lack of planning; lack of adequate personnel; lack of training; and lack of funding (Trump and Hange, 1996). General and special educators that have years of experience may feel threatened on the implementation of inclusion because it may affect several status quos (Trump and Hange, 1996). Tension may also develop between general and special education teachers because it has been reported that the former often views that the latter serves as their assistant in handling students with disabilities (Trump and Hange, 1996).
Lambert et al (2005) stated: "Unless general education teachers are competent in modifying and adapting their curricula and instructional practices, one essential stakeholder of standards-based education, students with special needs, will continue to be at a distinct educational disadvantage" (p.4). In support to this statement, Lambert et al (2005) conducted a study to determine the attitude of general education teachers toward inclusion and found that there were least positive responses on items "feasibility of teaching a wide range of students in one classroom" and the "skill of the general educator to teach a variety of students". However, most of the other items they investigated show positive results. They concluded that general education practitioners are becoming less and less doubtful towards inclusion but recommended that there is still a need to equip them with skills on different instructions as well as adequate pre-service preparation.
The Roeher Institute (1996) revealed that one of the barriers of inclusion on postsecondary schools is the attitude of the school itself toward accepting students with disabilities. The study reported that the postsecondary schools were concerned about "watering down" their academic credentials should they accept students with intellectual disabilities. Furthermore, the study found the negative attitude of instructors toward the inclusion of children with disabilities were rooted in fear, lack of understanding of disabilities and lack of knowledge about inclusive practices.
McLaughlin et al (1996) stated that previous studies show that teachers and school staff express concern and frustration over the amount time involved in collaborative planning, developing curriculum modifications and orchestrating social interactions. School staffs are also anxious about their level of knowledge about inclusion.
McLaughlin et al (1996) also stated that another potential barrier in the implementation of inclusion policies is its cost. Increased costs are reported in areas such as personnel, professional development and renovating school buildings.
In the study conducted by Apallachia Educational Lab (1996), it was also found that there were concerns about adequate staffing of professionals needed in the implementation of inclusion.
Boundy (1996) mentioned that some states continue to segregate disabled from non-disabled children. Boundy (1996) explained that this due to several existing barriers that prevent the effective implementation and acceptance of inclusion. The barriers mentioned are the following: categorization of students by labels, classroom and curriculum limits their educational outcome; persons with severe disabilities are disproportionately placed in segregated special education programs, classrooms and facilities; poor and minority students with disabilities are disproportionately placed in more restrictive programs and settings; students placed in segregated classrooms, programs and facilities do not receive curricula comparable to that provided non-disabled students; inclusion in classroom is not linked with inclusion in the community, higher education, housing, transportation and employment; and limited role models for students with disabilities because of discrimination in employment.
Smith and Rapport (1999) similarly found the barriers mentioned above as the concerns in the implementation of inclusion in schools. Based on their in-depth literature review, they found barriers such as: the lack of both knowledge and training of educators and administrators to serve a child with disability; some programs believe in special education programs; people are still unsure with children with disabilities; the special children requires extra time with the teacher, which may affect the balance of time that should be given to typical students. Other barriers identified by Smith and Rapport (1999) include: turf guarding; personnel preparation concerns; lack of awareness; lack of communication/collaboration; and the beliefs that some children would loose out.
The City University of New York (1996) has identified several criticisms on inclusion. These include: it is a "one-size, fits all" approach; it does not have positive outcomes for non-disabled students; special education children needs specialized services that can only be provided out of the regular classroom; the minority students disproportionately placed in special education are there voluntarily; teachers are unprepared to teach in an inclusive classroom; teachers should not be required to have children with disabilities in their classroom; extra financial support for the program; special education students cannot be helped by a "broken" regular system; least restrictive environment do not apply to academic learning; only ideological professionals and few parents advocate inclusion; full inclusion may have a destructive effect on public education.
According to Evans et al (1998), the process of waiting for children to catch up before they can move forward in the system is one of attitudes that is considered a barrier in implementing inclusion in schools. This is attitude of keeping disabled students at homes or special programs until the perceived belief that they are ready for inclusion. Evans et al (1998) explained that this will cause a great delay in progress because the child will be left out in age.
Another attitude problem that Evans et al (1998) pointed out is the belief of educators that there are "some" children that cannot learn. They argued that children with disabilities, although have different mental capacities, also have things that they are able to learn. Evans et al (1998) further argued that it is the people who encounter those children who put the limitations and not the children themselves.
Another barrier identified by Evans et al (1998) is the lack of resources allocated to the development of inclusion programs. Instead of allocating funds for children with special needs, the government or the schools might as well allocate funds to general education budget. Furthermore, Evans et al (1998) also emphasized that there is a need to improve the screening and assessment techniques to improve every child's need.
Top (1996) examined the level of implementation of inclusive practice by state special education agencies and found alarming results. The findings in Top's (1996) study shows that state directors were reluctant that their state practices full inclusion. Furthermore, the study also found that state directors have differing views regarding policies on inclusion implementation. Although most reported that there has been an increase of inclusion in their state by 85%, it cannot hide the fact that most of the respondents view inclusion and LRE as synonymous. Top's (1996) study basically shows the need to educate state directors more about the policies of inclusion implementation.
Daniel and King (2003) conducted a study that aims to target four variables, namely: parent concerns about their children's school programs; teacher- and parent-reported instances of students' problem behaviors; students' academic performance; and students' self-reported self-esteem. Instead of finding positive responses, surprisingly they mostly found negative implications. First, the study found that parents of students in the inclusion classes expressed a higher degree of concern with their children's school programs. This shows that parents are more anxious in this setting on whether their children will do well with academics or get along well with classmates. Daniel and King (2003) also found that teachers and students in inclusion classes reported more instances of behavior problems. Students also experience gains in reading scores with no noteworthy differences for mathematics, language, and spelling. Finally, they found that special students in inclusion classes reported lower levels of self-esteem (Daniel and King, 2003).
The literatures reviewed above showed contradicting perceptions toward the practice of inclusion. On one side, inclusion is a practice that should be implemented on every school because of its advantages such as enhancing the self-esteem of students with disabilities as well as helping them improve their cognitive skills and helping them learn how to socialize. On the other, inclusion is problematic program to implement because of the confusions that are associated with the practice. Inclusion is seen as a program that is poorly measured in terms of its true effects to students with disabilities. It is also being criticized for the lack of capability of general teachers to handle students with disabilities in their regular classes.
While there is great contradiction on inclusion beliefs, the practice still has a potential to be proven effective considering that studies about its effectiveness with positive results will increase. Currently, inclusion is not being taken seriously mainly because of its complexity as a practice and as a philosophy. However, several studies like those cited above shows that there is a possibility for an international acceptance and legalization of inclusion practices. Also, proponents of inclusion should address quickly the issues that may ruin the credibility of its practice. Requirements for an effective practice of inclusion should be constantly monitored, tested and implemented. There should also be programs to educate stakeholders such as state special education directors, school principals, teachers, parents and students about the what inclusion really means and the means for effective practice. Proponents of inclusion should aim to conquer confusion regarding its practice and they should start by developing a comprehensive framework for an effective program.
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