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Imagine you have a child with Autism. You have had a hard time with toileting, feeding, self-help skills, behavior, and communication with your child. By the time your child is old enough for school, you have mastered all your child's issues with help from physical therapists, speech pathologists, occupational therapists, pediatric neurologists, and pediatric psychologists. To you, your child is no different than any other child, kind, funny, loving, and bright. The school where you are enrolling your child decides to test his abilities because of his diagnosis and determines he would be best placed in a special education classroom. You have worked hard to help your child develop for school, so why is he being placed in special education instead of regular classes? Special education classes are not the same as inclusion classes, and this essay will discuss some of these differences.
First, what is special education? The definition from Webster's New World College Dictionary ( 2009, 4th Edition) states "educational programs and practices designed for students, as handicapped or gifted students, whose mental ability, physical ability, emotional functioning, etc. requires special teaching approaches, equipment, or care within or outside a regular classroom." Inclusion classes are regular classes with normal developing peers working alongside children with disabilities.
Also, special education classes were established specifically for disabled children in school, but the focus of these classes are usually geared toward behavior modification. Inclusion classes are more focused on academic learning. Special education classes are only for children with disabilities, but not all the children in one class have the same disability. The classes are also arranged by age instead of capabilities. Inclusion classes cater to regular developing children as well as disabled children. These classes are arranged by both age and capability.
Although special education classes were introduced as a way for children with disabilities to get their education in the least restrictive environment possible, the classes are segregated from mainstream classes. Often, special education classes are not exposed to, or are exposed very little, to regular developing peers. In an inclusion classroom, the children with disabilities are involved in every aspect of the school environment. Regular developing peers who work alongside disabled children show more compassion for the disabled than those who have little or no contact. In an interview on The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer ( 1998, March 24), Betty Ann Bowser quoted Judi Neumann, the Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitation Services in the Department of Education ( VA, 1998) as saying " government studies show when disabled kids are placed in mainstream classes, with the right supports, they do better than in separate programs"( PBS, 1998, Interview with Betty Ann Bowser, The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer). Special education classes are available in all public schools. On the contrary, inclusion classes are not offered in all public schools.
Also, not all children need to be placed in special education classrooms. Some of the children in these classes are much higher functioning than the rest of the class. Because special education classes are arranged by age, the higher functioning child or children are forced to remain in that particular class if inclusion classes are not offered. Some schools do not offer inclusion classes because the regular classroom teacher's are not trained to work with children with special needs.
To be a special education teacher, you must have full state certification or pass the state special education licensing examination and hold a license to teach in the state. Your certification or license can not be waived on an emergency, temporary, or provisional basis. You have to hold at least a bachelors degree and you must demonstrate subject matter competence in the academic subjects that you teach. There are no state laws that are specific to teachers in inclusion classrooms other than being licensed to teach in that state, hold at least a bachelors degree, and show competence in subject matter. There are also no laws for substitute teachers or paraprofessional that state they must be licensed in special education. Few students who obtain teaching certification go on to complete special education certification. This leaves a shortage of special education teachers.
To conclude, special education classes are not the same as inclusion classes. Special education classes are segregated while inclusion classes are mainstream. Special education classes focus on behavior modification as opposed to inclusion classes where the focus is on academic learning. Special education classrooms are not exposed to regular developing peers; inclusion classrooms have regular developing peers working with children with disabilities which enables tolerance and understanding of differences. Special education classes prevent a higher functioning child from developing academically because of age requirements while inclusion classes promote growth. There is a shortage of certified special education teachers which can lead to overcrowded classrooms. In his interview with Betty Ann Bowser, Jim Lehrer ( The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, 1998, March 24) stated " perhaps special education isn't so special." ( PBS, 1998).