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to the maximum extent appropriate children with disabilities including children in public or private institutions or care facilities, are educated with children who are nondisabled; and special classes, separate or other removal of children with disabilities from regular educational environment occurs only if the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily. (Disabled World News, 2009)
The wording of this regulation is why there is a controversy. The word inclusion is not stated anywhere in the regulation, but is a term that educational administrators have used to describe what they feel is the best way to follow the law. The language does not explain exactly what the services should be, to what level the schools must go and what is "satisfactory". This regulation has (whether good or bad) changed the way children with learning disabilities are educated.
As schools change the way children with disabilities are handled, people (parents, teachers and administrators) seem to be either on one side of the agreement or the other. Each side has good arguments for and against inclusion. Some of the biggest arguments people have about inclusion is does it help or hurt all students? Does putting a child with disabilities in a classroom with normal kids make everyone feel better or worse and does it help or hurt socially?
People who argue it helps everyone point out that "a school with inclusion makes every student feel like they are part of the school. The children with disabilities feel accepted and part of the class like everyone else." (Wilson, Ellerbee & Chistian, 2011) Taking a look at the social part of inclusion it can be argued that children with disabilities need to be around other children who can teach them about friendships and be given the opportunity to enjoy things they would not normally if just being with their parents, a nurse or other children with disabilities. (Parent Magazine Online, 2006).
"Emily attended a preschool for students with disabilities. When she entered a regular grade 1 classroom her mother, Carol, noticed dramatic changes: "She had never shown a desire to walk, communicate or even hold her head up. . . Once she started regular classes, all those things started to happen". (Chisholm, 1995 as quoted in Barth, 1996, p. 38)
Another study "found that students in inclusion schools have friends who have a disability, whereas students from schools with special education structures do not." (Bunch & Valeo, 2004). This study also argues that not only is it positive for the children with the disability but the other students learn diversity and compassion for others as well. (Bunch & Valeo)
"When students grow up together, sharing school experiences and activities, they learn to see beyond superficial differences and disabilities and to connect as human beings. This applies to differences in race, religion, economic status, and skill and ability, as well as physical, emotional, and learning differences. It is vital that all students feel safe and welcome in the world, and inclusion provides us with an excellent way to model and insist on a set of beliefs about how people treat one another with respect and dignity." (Sapon-Shevin, 1996, p. 39)
It is easy to see from the information that there are positive reasons to have inclusion for children with disabilities, but as with any issue there is always another side to the story. The strongest argument against inclusion is the non-disabled child's rights. Is having a child with a learning disabilities hurting the normal child? When looking at the information about diversity and acceptance when disabled children are in a classroom it shows it was a good thing, but "normal students think the kids with special needs "get away" with stuff and that makes them mad and sometimes they act up." (Foust, 2012) Some of these normal kids have said they "would not like to interact with their disabled peers, especially outside of an academic setting" ( BlogSpot.com, 2007) Taking a look at how the normal kids feel about disabled kids it seems that "across the nation, students perceive their peers with disabilities as much more impaired than they truly are." (BlogSpot.com). With kids having negative feelings towards someone who has a disability, this shows it cannot be a positive for either child.
The next argument is cost of inclusion. The two sides argue about the expense. The positive side argues that inclusion is cheaper for the schools. "The National Council on Disability (1994) found that inclusion was no more expensive, perhaps often less expensive, that providing education to students with disabilities in segregated settings." (Smith, 2010) In a study done by the Centre for Special Education in 1994, it concluded that although the initial start up costs for updating building, buses, hiring appropriate staff and educating teachers was expensive, the average costs of educating a child with disabilities dropped for the school district. (McLaughlin, 1994). Combining the resources from special education schools and regular schools has been proven to save money.
"School districts report that effectively to implement inclusive education the money should follow the child; that is, funds saved from ending the separate systems are used to support an integrated system, one that benefits all of the children. There is substantial evidence that the dual system is profligate of resourcesï€in administrative duplication, in ineffective practices, and in wasteful subsidies of private school placements. Indeed, it is anticipated that over time school districts will save money and better serve all of the children, thereby spending public money more prudently and effectively." (NCERI, 1995, p.5)
With resources from special needs schools, teacher education, and adapting regular schools to take care of the disabled children Brian Lamb, chairman of the Special Educational Needs Consortium states that "Inclusion, done properly, is expensive." (Wilce, Hilary, 2006) A study conducted by the Early Childhood Research Institute on Inclusion at John Hopkins University School of Education and funded by the United States Department of Education reported that
"Additional costs of inclusion may occur in hiring more teachers, paying tuition of children with disabilities in private child care programs, providing continuing staff development opportunities and in conducting more individual planning and problem solving, but that a precise calculation of the costs of inclusion would require documentation across budget categories and would include costs of transportation and training" (Janko, Susan & Porter, Alice, 1997)
The study further states that because the costs for implementing the changes and training are being taken from Federal and State grants, sharing costs across groups and things like that make it difficult to determine the true costs of inclusion. (Janko & Porter)
The last controversial topic is the teacher's role in the inclusion classroom. Some argue that having a child with special needs takes away from the teacher's time with normal students and that the teacher's are not trained to handle the disabled kids. Kids with disabilities are lumped into the "inclusion", the teacher will struggle with teaching them because "it is unrealistic to expect that regular education teachers will always have the special training required for the population, be aware of the latest research, or be able to readily adapt the school's curriculum" (Harchik, Alan, No date) For a teacher who has not been trained medically, it will be very difficult to adapt.
"Instead, the responsibility for disabled youngsters, who may need specialized medical attention (like having catheters changed or mucous suctioned out of their lungs), falls on teachers and paraprofessionals. Most have no more than a few hours of training. And they are largely on their own when it comes to figuring out how to help the child fit in, and how to tailor lessons to his or her requirements, while keeping other students up to speed in arithmetic and reading and science" (Shanker, Albert, 1994).
The people who support inclusion also say that having two teachers in a class room ( the special education teacher and the regular teacher) is even better for the students, especially if there are a lot of kids in the class. "If you've got two teachers in the room, you could do a quick assessment, and then reteach the students who need reteaching while allowing other students to accelerate-all within the same class." (Sheehy, Kelsey (2012)
Whether you are for or against inclusion you can see that there are strong arguments on both sides of the issue. The problem with both sides is that there is not enough long term research done by either side on all issues - social issues, cost, teacher education, etc. to really determine which is the best way to interpret the meaning of Federal Regulation 2005a so that in the end all children whether disabled or normal get the best education they can get.