With the original passage of I.D.E.A. in 1990 and its subsequent reauthorizations in 1997 and 2004, the term "inclusion" has found itself in the forefront of discussions involving the placement of students with disabilities.
Although this term denotes the concept of "least restrictive environment", it does not have a legal definition, nor does it represent a legal requirement that every child should be educated in the same way. This term has been used to restate some facets of well-established educational law. This term also represents best practice in that it specifically outlines how a district meets local capacity with regards to training, support, and technical assistance.
In addition to increased positive social interaction, inclusion also promotes positive learning effects. These positive results have been well documented and supported by numerous research studies.
It is believed that inclusion promotes participation and equality. Inclusion leads to a greater sense of belonging and acceptance, in that the students identify with a particular group and eventually become a member of a community at large. Research also suggests that when these children are integrated with supplementary aids and services then the legal underpinning of "least restrictive environment" is met and the children do indeed succeed. Conversely, there exist several myths concerning the concept of inclusion.
These myths include the following:
1. Inclusion is not a new requirement. The tenets of least restrictive environment have been an integral requirement for nearly twenty years.
2. Inclusion does not mean all children with disabilities should be educated solely with the regular education students. It does mean that districts should provide a continuum of services in order to meet diverse needs.
3. Inclusion is not always cost effective. It may or may not be less expensive.
4. Inclusion is a not a unilateral placement of students in regular education classrooms with out special supportive services.
5. Inclusion is not meant to leave the regular education teacher with greater challenges without increased resources. These increased resources may be in the form of additional training, consultative and collaborative planning, and the addition of paraprofessionals. These may be needed in order fro the teacher to deliver instruction that will be beneficial to children.
6. Inclusion does not mean that the students with disabilities have the same curricular goals, or must achieve the same objectives.
7. Inclusion does not mean that the students with disabilities are held to lower expectations; in fact they must just be different.
8. Inclusion does not mean that there will be reduced need for special teachers. On the contrary, the need for consultation and collaboration will be even greater, in order to provide the necessary supports.
9. Inclusion does not mean that individual education programs are not necessary.
These documents are still required by law and are necessary to outline the specific services and supports.
10. Inclusion means that no exceptional student can ever be removed from the regular education environment. This removal can only occur when the intensity or nature of the disability does not permit for satisfactory progress to be achieved
11. Inclusion is not something that must be earned by the student. The regular education classroom must be the first consideration and must be the starting place for any decision making about the educational placement of a child.
12. Inclusion is not feasible if the child might not be able to succeed. Sometimes, services are portable and can be brought to the child, rather than removing the child to the service.
13. Inclusion only concerns students. On the contrary successful inclusion requires that teachers and administrators may have to increase their capacity to utilize effective techniques and technical assistance.
14. Inclusion means using only the general education curriculum as the basis of instruction. This is also false in that the teachers may have to use a combination of curriculums in order to adequately remediate deficit skill areas.
In conclusion, the New Castle Area School District is in total agreement with both the courts and the Department (P.D.E) with regards to the inclusionary process. Our beliefs are based on the following:
1. Individualized planning should occur using the full potential of both the multidisciplinary team process and the individualized education program process.
2. A recognition of specific educational, social, and communication needs of individuals.
3. A recognition that social interaction and effective communication make educational achievement more likely.
4. A careful analysis of needed services will determine whether these services are portable or not, and whether they must be included as a part of the regular education placement.
5. The organizational patterns of schools must provide the classroom teachers with the necessary training and support in order to ensure both teachers and students succeed.
6. Education must take place in the regular education in the regular education classroom whenever possible.
7. A full inclusion of services and alternative placements must be in place for these students who cannot succeed even when enhanced regular classes are provided.
8. Applications of best educational practices and research-based techniques will ultimately lead to increased success.
It is our hope that by adhering to the above principles that we will be better equipped to prepare children to lead productive independent lives as contributing citizens and members of an adult community.