Special education is an interesting term. It implies that the individual needs of a child that may be different than the norm will be met. It is not a simple task. Each child requires and evaluation and the needs will be different. It may not even be possible to meet all the needs. The goal then is for the parents and school to come to a consensus on the best plan, even though it may not be perfect.
Full inclusion is one of the options that is open for a child who is enrolled in special education. The premise of full inclusion is that all students, regardless of their condition or severity of their disability will be in a regular classroom full time. Any services and special needs that the student receives will be dealt with in the classroom as much as possible.
The rights and needs of students with disabilities are protected by civil rights laws like the American with Disabilities Act, section 504. A myriad of possibilities are laid out to help each individual student reach their true potential. It is a worthy goal.
The decision of how to orchestrate a plan to help the student be successful is created based on the circumstances of the individual student, the teacher, the school, the classroom and the family. There are times when full inclusion benefits everyone. An example, it may be that there is a student who is deaf or hearing impaired. This student may require an interpreter. Or perhaps the teacher may be required to wear an amplification device. Much of this could take place without disrupting the class, and it could be beneficial for all involved.
Another example is a student who is fixed to a reclining wheelchair. This student may have no communication skills, but does wake up, sleep and have bodily functions. This student may require breathing equipment that is loud and disrupts the ability of other students to receive instructional time. This student will have no visible changes in all the years of schooling, and has protected rights. The responsibility here is to more than one student. Will any of the students benefit with full inclusion in this case?
Schools are faced with some serious decisions. Professionals are faced with the civil liberties law. The law requires that the child experiences the “Least Restrictive Environment“. This would encourage full inclusion or at least mainstreaming the student whenever possible.
At some point the administration has to ensure the other students in the classroom are getting the best educational experience as well. It becomes a balancing act and it can become a legal matter.
Full inclusion is the best decision for some students enrolled in special education. It can also enhance the learning of the other students in the classroom. In other cases another accommodation would be better.
It is clear that each situation is different. Parents, teachers, and administrators must take the time to explore all options and come up with the best solutions.