This article focuses on inclusive education practices provides an introduction to the available information on the history, philosophy, basic principles and methods, and approaches employed in inclusive education in U.S. public schools. A working definition of inclusive education based on literature review is included. In order to successfully implement inclusive education, students, families, teachers, and administrators need diversity training, access to inclusive education strategies or activities, and support systems. Perspectives, for and against the methods and approaches discussed, are presented.
Keywords Collaboration; Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE); Inclusive education; Inclusion practices; Learning Centers; Research Effectiveness; Special Education Consultation; Team Teaching
Special Education: Inclusive Education
Inclusive education is a philosophy that allows for a range of strategies and methods. Direct, classroom-based, community-based, and consultative programming are a few of the available educational options. The goal of inclusive practices is to plan and devise an intervention option that is unique in meeting the disabled individual's educational needs. Factors such as the individual's type of disability, age, academic performance, family concerns, and social skills assist personnel in determining the types of support and modifications that are necessary for the individual to be successful in the school and community environment. The shift to inclusive education has been general and remains a hot topic of debate among educators and researchers. To understand the model of inclusive education, one needs to be familiar with the historical progression of inclusion.
In the 1950s and 1960s, most children with special needs attended segregated educational programs. In the history of inclusive education, parent groups, the civil rights movement, and educational reform movements of the late 1960s and early 1970s are often collectively associated (Kauffman & Hallahan, 1995; Thompkins & Deloney, 1995). Together these social and political groups influenced the design of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 (P.L. 94-142) which ensures all children, regardless of ability, the right to a free appropriate public education (FAPE). Over the years the law has been reauthorized by Congress and currently is referred to as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA 2004).
Hallahan & Kauffman (1995) state that approximately four decades ago, professionals and families began to question the practice and lack of research to support the provision of instruction primarily in self-contained or segregated classrooms. This practice did not allow interaction and socialization with "normal" peers. As a result, the resource room was implemented to allow the individual with a disability to spend part of the day in the resource room with special educators and the other part of the day in the regular classroom engaged in classroom activities. In the 1980s, advocates proposed that all instruction for individuals with disabilities should be in the general classroom (Hallahan & Kauffman, 1995). Professionals and families often cite FAPE as the legal requirement that allows inclusive education.
However, families and professionals often misinterpret FAPE as implying inclusive education is mandated by public law. FAPE prescribes that individuals with disabilities are educated in the least restrictive environment (LRE). LRE states that an individual's first placement option should be in the regular classroom in the school the individual would attend if no disability existed. LRE should be determined on an individual basis. In fact, the term inclusive education is not defined by public law and can have many different meanings contingent upon a group or individual's point of view (Price, Mayfield, McFadden, & Marsh, 2000). Thus, inclusive education is a philosophy of educating and providing support services to students with disabilities in regular education classrooms, extracurricular activities, and communities.
Inclusive education philosophically proposes to include versus exclude individuals with disabilities. Proponents of inclusive education suggest that research indicates that children with disabilities perform better when included in regular education activities with non-disabled peers (Baker, Wang, & Walberg, 1994; King & Youngs, 2003). Schools employing inclusive practices report an increase in educational outcomes when all children are viewed as capable of learning. Therefore the belief exists that public schools can simultaneously expand education for all students by improving educational opportunities for individuals with disabilities (Johnson, 1999). However, the key principle of inclusive education should be that the education of individuals with disabilities should not be synonymous with a place but a practice of providing individualized instruction.
Defining Inclusive Education
As stated earlier, a specific definition of inclusive practice does not currently exist. The available definitions in the literature are dependent on the theoretical perspective of the group using the term.
Sebba & Ainscow (1996) proposed a functional definition for inclusive education to include the philosophical belief that students who share a community should be educated together. According to Feiler & Gibson (1999), a definition of inclusion should view inclusion as a dynamic versus static state; use systems that support flexible classrooms in terms of teaching methods and learner groupings; and advance a relationship between inclusion and exclusion. For the purposes of this paper, inclusive education simply means allowing individuals, with or without disabilities, to learn in any environment with the proper support systems.
Overview of Basic Principles
From an economic standpoint, inclusive education is proposed as an avenue to control the cost for special education programs by decreasing the need for redundant services and staff. Controlling costs allows schools to increase accountability to taxpayers for the special education services provided to individuals. Proponents argue individuals with special needs can increase their quality of life, self-esteem, and interactions with normal peer groups when permitted to participate in inclusive educational schools. Additionally, peer groups can benefit by learning how to interact with individuals who are diverse (Kauffman & Hallahan, 1995).
Proponents of inclusion, advocate for the principles and practices of:
• "Educating all children with disabilities in regular classrooms in the neighborhood school.
• Providing age-appropriate academic classes and extracurricular activities.
• Providing essential services in the regular classroom without 'pulling out' students" (Price, Mayfield, McFadden, & Marsh, 2000 p. 2).
Inclusion should be viewed as an ever-changing process that assists all stakeholders in the provision and identification of appropriate educational services to diverse students. Adopting inclusive education as a philosophy does not guarantee good outcomes. In order to successfully implement inclusive education, students, families, teachers, and administrators need diversity training, access to inclusive education strategies or activities, and support systems.
Diversity training refers to understanding the customs, beliefs, values, social systems, and languages or communication styles of specific groups of people (Paul, 2001). Bricker (2000) found that teachers, parents and children's attitudes can influence the success of inclusive education. It is imperative that all teachers are trained in managing the diverse needs of the students taught within the classroom. However, diversity training should also include recognizing "one's limitations of training and expertise" (Kauffman & Hallahan, 1995, p. 181). By recognizing the need for appropriate training, the individual can engage in learning and implementing appropriate classroom strategies. In terms of disabilities, diversity training may include recognizing strengths within the individual, the use of alternative or augmentative communication strategies/devices, developing friendships, or allowing the individual to make life choices (i.e., types of instruction, career).
Inclusive strategies should supplement what is being taught in the classroom. In order to understand these strategies one must understand that the names of the strategies are dynamic and ever changing. For instance, terms such as collaboration, push-in, pull aside, curriculum based instruction, multiskilling, pull-out, consultative, and team teaching are a few that have been used in the literature (Meyer, Crouch, & Clapper, 2007; Meyer, 1997). Which term to use is not as important as understanding the need to be flexible and that the strategy of choice should be the one which provides the most benefit to the child along the continuum of learning. For the purposes of this paper, the instructional strategies that will be discussed include the following: consultation models, collaboration, team teaching, and learning centers.
Consultation models are sometimes referred to as indirect models. The use of this instructional strategy allows the regular education teacher to consult with special educators or related service providers (i.e., speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, psychologists) in adjusting the learning environment or modifying instructional methods to meet the individualized needs of the student with disabilities. Ehren...
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