The Inclusion of students with disabilities and special needs
Means students with disabilities and special needs integrate in mainstream classes. Australian education is one of the first to adopt full inclusion. 1. “Inclusion in an educational context describes the premise that every child should be a valued member of the school culture and community, and therefore should not be subjected to marginalization, alienation, humiliation, teasing, rejection or exclusion” (Pearce, Forlin, 2005), 2. And according to Ainscow the idea of inclusion for special needs education stemmed from the belief that education is a basic human right, and the foundation for a more just society (Ainscow, Kaplan, 2005). 3. A child with a disability or special needs is essentially a child and should be afforded the same entitlements of other children (Smith, 2006). That is why Law makers and “Educational authorities internationally have taken the view that inclusion stems from the social and moral obligation to educate all students” (Forbes, 2007), also Forbes confirms that Australia education is taking on the full inclusion.
…Poses a challenge…
First this idea poses a great challenge to apply in reality, and ever since the issue came to light researchers and professionals have always argued about the pros and cons of moving children with physical, mental, behavioural, or intellectual disabilities and/or impairments to mainstream settings where the teachers may not have the skills and trainig, nor be equipped, nor have the capabilities to deal with the particular requirements that these Student need. And so far some professionals have argued that this move will be in no one’s best interest, and some has gone as far as calling it a “disastrous legacy” (Warnock, 2005). Secondly some professionals state that special schools are schools which are tailor made for students with disability and special needs, but still like every other school its main goal is to teach the curriculum in full, and this would anyway preparing students for inclusion in the broader society (Forbes, 2007). Thirdly some writers argue that inclusion is pointing to a “place not a process” (Forbes, 2007) and that “school is where everyone (student) belongs”. This is a full inclusion view and this is what Australian took on board. The third point shows some hints about the variables that posse the challenges in executing the model of inclusion (peers, teachers, principles, the school community in general). Because in this view they are the ones at the full front of inclusion.
…to teachers and principals…
Catering for those students with special needs also became an issue back in 1992 when law makers introduced the 1992 Australian Disability Discrimination Act, which by law allowed parents to enroll their children in mainstream classes. This is the act that started inclusion and demanded teachers and the rest of the school community to boost their professional development in the portion of special needs requirements in order to take action in response and accommodate the needs of special needs learners. The practice of inclusion has produced a demand for expertise within the regular education empire for specialist knowledge that is currently not being met. Demand is placing unrealistic demands on teachers with little or no knowledge of the specific needs of these students according to Forbes (2007). To neturise the situation opportunity for teachers to further train in inclusive practices (Loreman et al, 2005), and training should be based around equipping teachers with the skills and necessary tools to be able to adapt their lessons to the needs of their students (Opertti, Belalcazar, 2008). Results from the training could be improved dramatically when there is cooperation with other teachers, principals and educational support staff. This cooperation is important and deemed essential in developing inclusive practices (Loreman et al, 2005).
Inclusion sustainability, the forward movement, and the success depend a enormous deal on the first point of contact which is the teacher, and more precisely, the teachers attitudes towards inclusion (Forlin et al, 2008), because they are the one who will be spending the majority of their time with the special needs students, unlike principals, special educators and parents. “…the best policies for accommodating students with special needs in regular classrooms will fail if teachers have negative attitudes towards inclusion.” (Sikes et al, 2007). The first part in changing the attitude is changing one’s lesson plan, so that the lesson can accommodate for both special needs and non special needs students. Keeping in mind, when adjusting the lesson plan, to keep that the effect of a special needs student’s disability or learning difficulty is minimal. This has to be done thoughtfully, considerately, and must not interrupt or compromise the learning of the other students in the class by slowing down too much (Smyth-King, 2005). Having said that, secondly if a teacher is aware of the different types of learning difficulty and impairments, and have a brief or in detail knowledge of different disabilities, this knowledge coupled with providing teachers with possibility for further preparation in inclusive practices they would believed the “subject” had prepared them adequately for teaching students’ or had the instructional background that would assist them to cater for students with a special need (Spandagou. I, Evans. D, and Little.C, 2008) which would positively increase teacher’s attitude toward inclusion. This is the second reason why the training should be based around equipping teachers with the skills and necessary tools to be able to adapt their lessons(Opertti, Belalcazar, 2008).
The law makers have their fair share of issues and implication when it comes to inclusions. For example, each Australian State and Territory has their own jurisdictions and interpretations of the Federal Law governing special needs education (Forbes, 2007). Commonwealth legislation and policy such as the NSW Disability Policy Framework 1998, the Disability Discrimination Act 1992, and the Disability Standards in Education 2005 present the groundwork and structure for special needs students to be included in mainstream schools, yet, under the Australian Constitution, the states have the responsibility for manipulating and applying programs suitable to smooth the progress of inclusion, and make the resources obtainable to do so. To meet the obligations of inclusion, schools of the future will require teachers with adequate training in disabilities and special needs at an undergraduate level (Forbes, 2007).
…Overcome the misconceptions of general education students.
According to Loreman et al (2005), the very nature of a secondary school is problematic and in direct collision course with many of the foundations required for a school to be inclusive. The first implication when executing the ideal inclusion are the other students, already there are issues that are surfacing today (peer pressure, bullying, violence, and other adolescent issues) in the news. And there are other issues which Pearce and Forlin (2005) explains perfectly, he states that secondary schools can be disabling in themselves, not only for students with disabilities, but for anyone who doesn’t fit neatly into the system such as students from low socio-economic, racial and ethnic backgrounds in settings where such students are the minority. So this is what the teachers and principals already have to deal with, they do not need to deal with the extra incidents that will most likely occur due to lack of knowledge and understanding that their peers could have towards the special needs students. This type of behavior will cause the teenagers not to interact with others which they view as not equal, Pearce and Forlin (2005).
To solve this problem there is one solution and that is what researchers have suggested so far, students with milder disabilities are more successfully in the inclusion process. Again Pearce and Forlin (2005) states that, students with physical and sensory disabilities are generally more likely to be mainstreamed than those with intellectual, multiple, behavioural or emotional disabilities (Pearce, Forlin, 2005). If a reason has to be given Flem and Keller (2000) confirmed one and that when a special needs student enters a mainstream environment, one of the most important issues that will arise is their relationships with other students. This means students with physical and sensory disabilities can overcome the issues of relationships better than those with intellectual, multiple, behavioural or emotional disabilities.
Negative peer attitude is another issue that needs to be addressed, since students, especially in secondary schools, can be particularly mean or hurtful to other students that are regarded as different for any reason. Vignes et al (2008), state that negative peer attitudes are generally considered to be one of the greatest barriers to full social inclusion of special needs students in general education classrooms. Evidence shows that social acceptance is the most difficult challenge for a special needs student to overcome in a general education school (McDougall et al, 2004). To counter such negativity, direct and structured social contact between students with special needs and general education students is a way to promoting positive attitudes. Many students behave negatively out of ignorance, so eliminating barriers and allowing students to understand the nature of disability/impairment eliminates their fear of the unknown which may make them lash out or treat others badly. It also allows general education students to feel empathy with other people, and helps to teach them about acceptance. Teaching students empathy and allowing them to experience the disability of others first hand allows students to foster a more caring attitude to other people (Klotz, 2004).
Preparing students with special needs
There was a lot of research that was done on the effect of students with special needs’ class mate but not the students with special needs themselves, but it is well known that students with special needs need a bit more attention and catering from all parties (friends, family, teachers, school community, and outside community as well).But Joe Clark has that special education policies and practices will be debated for a long time, if not forever, because every student learns different and every teacher teaches different. In order for there to be one answer we would all have to be the same, which will probably never happen. In other wards these students will most likely need more attention or even completely different way of teaching them so that outcomes can be accomplished.
Inclusion remains a very challenging philosophy in schools. The inclusion of special needs students may draw attention to insufficiency in education but build the pathway for solutions that may give an advantage to all students in the education system. This could be through flexible curriculum, assessment and structural change. And the icing for inclusion is the joint collaboration of teachers, students, parents, the wider community and general/special educators, all promote and help facilitate inclusion, not just as an model, but in practice. Pearce and Forlin (2005) argue that ‘the presence of youth with disabilities in secondary classrooms represents a gift to school restructuring’. I believe just that, dealing with students with special needs will have a positive impact on the community around them which will to a great extent improve outcomes, this can be seen in the class with teachers putting a lot more effete, administrators being a bit more lenient, students a bit more helpful and understanding. Generally people want to give that extra helping hand. Inclusion in education has come a long way, but there are debatable issues which is stopping it from reaching home, but researchers and teachers alike can see inclusion coming home and can taste some of its sweet fruits.
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