In the United States, inclusion began with the integration of Black and White students according to the Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka (1954) case and progressed to inclusion of students with disabilities as a response to PJ et al. vs. State of Connecticut Board of Education et al. (2002). Without venturing into the legality of the transition, let us clarify the terms below.
Inclusion evolved from the practice of integration, which emerged with the idea of integrating students with special education needs in mainstream classrooms. Lindsay (1995) described locational, social and functional integration as the three types of integration.
Locational integration. Locational integration allows a student with special education needs to attend school at his or her neighborhood campus. The student is placed at a special unit or building within the same compound as a mainstream school, however that student does not attend mainstream classes. Students do not have the opportunity to integrate during the lunch and break sessions, so they are not able to observe each other and learn from each other.
Social integration. This involves organized games and activities for all students to participate and socialize. This allows students to learn from each other, about each other. Social integration does not necessarily mean that students will be in the same classrooms during official academic sessions. In fact, it is more likely that they are in separate classrooms or even separate buildings.
Functional integration. In functional integration, students spend part or all day in mainstream classes, depending on the disability and severity of the students’ special education needs. These students are offered the support they need to be successful in the classrooms. This mostly means that they will be removed from the classroom at some point in the day for remedial work.
In all of these situations, students notice a marked difference of treatment between the mainstream students and those with special education needs. This practice perpetuates difference and therefore is seen as unfair to students with special education needs.
In its white paper on inclusion, Florida State University (2002) defines inclusion as “the full acceptance of all students and leads to a sense of belonging within the classroom community” (Para. 1). According to Salend (2001), “Inclusion seeks to establish collaborative, supportive, and nurturing communities of learners that are based on giving all students the services and accommodations they need to learn, as well as respecting and learning from each other’s individual differences” (p. 5). He gives four principles necessary for effective inclusion. These are diversity, individual needs, reflective practice and collaboration.
The first principle, diversity, allows all children of appropriate age to learn in the same classroom, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion and culture; physical, learning and linguistic ability; gender, sexual orientation, family structure and economic status. Every student is accepted as an equal and works collaboratively with peers.
The second principle, individual needs, celebrates individuality and encourages students to accept the value of each other’s similarities and differences and learn from them.
Reflective practice, the third principle, focuses on the teachers’ practice of modifying their attitudes first, and their classroom practices to accommodate all students. In the inclusive classroom, the teacher must be aware of each student’s needs and be flexible and responsive to these needs. This means that the teacher can expect to make changes to the physical arrangement of the classroom, the methods of delivery, student assessment techniques, and anything to ensure that all students learn.
The fourth principle calls for collaboration among all stakeholders, from students and their families, teachers and school administrators, to other professionals, community groups and district administrators.
These four principles that Salend (2001) describes are similar to the five principles Uditsky (1993) defines. Uditsky’s five principles are, full membership in the classroom/school community, one curriculum modifiable as needed, best teaching practices, friendship, and teacher/student supports.
Inclusion is a process and not an end. It is a process that ensures all students an equal place, equal opportunities and positive development of the Social, Physical, Intellectual, Creative, Emotional and Spiritual person (SPICES). Students with special education needs therefore should be educated in mainstream classrooms to interact with non-disabled peers to develop their social and emotional skills. They need to participate in physical education like all children to develop their physical abilities. When they socialize and exchange ideas with non-disabled children, they develop their intellect. Their creativity will bloom with the expansion of their world and greater exposure to everything. Their spiritual or moral values also develop with the increased interactions with others. In order for all of these to be fulfilled, students with special education needs are given accommodations in the classroom and modifications are made to the curriculum.
Accommodations and Modifications. Special education needs may be satisfied to some extent with the use of adult support in the classroom, accommodations in the classroom settings, and modifications to the delivery of lessons and to assessments being used in the classroom. Every student’s special education needs are different and should be catered to by all teachers in inclusion classes (Henderson, 1993; Marzano, 2003; Sebba, Byers & Rose, 1995; Tomlinson & Imbeau, 2010). In the past, the content teacher focused on students without special education needs while the special education teacher worked with those students with special education needs. In an inclusion class, both teachers take responsibility for all students. They work together to plan and co-teach all students in the classroom, ensuring that those who need accommodations and modifications receive them appropriately.
For students with visual or hearing impairments, accommodations may come in large print books, magazines and hand-outs, classroom lighting, the color used for writing on whiteboards or chalkboards and the position of the teacher in the room. For these students, the glare from sunlight may silhouette the view of a teacher standing in front of a window. The visually impaired student would not be able to see the teacher’s gestures, facial expressions or direction the teacher may be pointing. The hearing impaired student may not be able to see the teacher’s hand gestures/sign language, facial expressions and lip movement (necessary for lip reading in complete communication).
Teachers cater to students with specific learning needs by making the necessary modifications to the delivery of the lessons, the use of manipulatives, visual prompts to support the verbal, graphic organizers, to name a few. This is done with the whole class so no student feels singled out. Students are praised for work done well and some are given extended time for assessments. Since students need different levels of support, teachers deliver their lessons with these in mind. However, not all teachers are comfortable with this fairly new arrangement.
Change is difficult for most people and even more difficult when people with disabilities are involved. Part 4 of the series The Psychological and Social Effects of Special Education Inclusion examines the physical, social and psychological barriers to inclusion.
Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954).
FSU Center for Prevention & Early Intervention Policy (2002). Inclusion white paper. Tallahassee: Florida State University. Retrieved from http://www.cpeip.fsu.edu
Henderson, R. (1993). What is this ‘Least Restrictive Environment’ in the United States? In R. Slee (Ed.), Is there a desk with my name on it? (pp. 93-105) Washington DC: The Falmer Press.
Lindsay, G. (1995). Integration. In Department of Education (Ed.), The foundation module-difference and difficulty. Sheffield: University of Sheffield.
Marzano, R.J., Marzano, J.S., & Pickering, D.J. (2003). Classroom management that works: research-based strategies for every teacher. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
P.J. et al. v. State of Connecticut Board of Education et al., Civil Action No. 291 CV00180 U.S. D.C. Settlement Agreement, March 29, 2002.
Salend, J. (2001). Creating inclusive classrooms: Effective and reflective classrooms. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
Sebba, J., Byers, R. & Rose, R. (1995). Redefining the whole curriculum for pupils with learning disabilities. London: David Fulton.
Tomlinson, C.A., & Imbeau, M.B. (2010). Leading and managing a differentiated classroom. Alexandria, VA. ASCD.
Uditsky, B. (1993). From integration to inclusion. In R. Slee (Ed.), Is there a desk with my name on it? The politics of integration (pp. 79-92). London: The Falmer Press.