Inclusion as a Way To Learn and Grow with Others

Being different from everyone else can both be a blessing and a curse. For children with Autism and other developmental disabilities, it is mostly a burden. They may be challenged in some skills that their peers may find so easy to do that it is taken for granted. Some of these problematic skills are in the areas of communication and socialization.

Fortunately, several interventions have been designed to help these children cope with their difficulties and blend with typically-developing children. One educational intervention that many schools are already adopting is Inclusion.  The Salamanca Framework of Action defined inclusive education as “education in the mainstream of regular education regardless of race, linguistic ability, economic status, gender, age, ability, ethnicity, religious and sexual orientation”. Governments are mandated to enroll all students in regular schools regardless of their abilities or disabilities (UNESCO, 1994). Hence, inclusive programs put the child concerned within the context of a regular classroom with other children of various ability levels. This is in response to the prescription of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA, 1997) that educational institutions thoroughly consider the needs of students with disabilities.  Each child with disability will be furnished with an Individualized Education Program (IEP) that is customized to the child’s specific needs and skill deficiencies.  Inclusive programs tend to see all children as equal no matter what their abilities or backgrounds are. Equity and respect for all are upheld. If teachers are not sensitive and skilled enough to address their individual needs, and is content having the same goals for everyone, then many children will fall by the wayside and not be able to develop their potentials to the fullest.

Inclusion is deemed to be similar to a ''bandwagon that offers an attractive platform for the merging of special and general education into a seamless and supple system that will support all students adequately in general schools and general education classrooms, regardless of any student's characteristics” (Kauffman and Hallahan, 1995, p. 98).  Romantic as the idea may seem, there are some inclusive classrooms that have shown evidence that it works. Regular students helping out their peers with special needs and learning together in the process is one picture that comes to mind.  It develops a sense of responsibility in them to care for those in need of their help.  A teacher of an inclusive class’s dilemma is managing her time and lesson plan in order to serve the individual needs of all her students.  The greatest benefit goes to the children with special needs as they learn to live and grow with others despite their learning challenges.

Teachers may have different strategies in implementing inclusion. Some of these are the following:

  • Pull-outs:  The child with special needs in an inclusive class may be taken to an area within the classroom where the teacher can better supervise him in the performance of his differentiated tasks.  
  • Team-teaching: Either an assistant teacher is tasked to assist learners with their work, monitor their behavior, simplify instructions, correct assignments, observes and records critical incidents, etc. In some cases there are two teachers handling the class sharing equal responsibility.  
  • Shadow Teaching: A support person trained in behavior modification. supports the child with special needs as he helps manage behaviors, modify or simplify lessons for the child, facilitate social skills training, provide individualize instruction when necessary and collaborate with the general education teachers.
  • Peer-teaching: Teachers may appoint some students who are capable of peer-teaching the children with special needs in class. This buddy system works both ways. It boosts the self-esteem and competence of the mainstream student while making the child with special education needs feel accepted and supported by a peer.

One scientifically proven intervention for individuals with Autism and other developmental disabilities is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).   This method is a treatment and teaching approach that consists of several programs and activities using the antecedent-behavior-consequence model.  Skinner’s Behaviorist Model explains that an individual is reinforced (positively or negatively) for responses to various stimuli, hence, the external environment plays a great part in the formation of behaviors.  By administering positive reinforcement such as praising or smiling when a desired behavior occurs and administering negative reinforcement such as scolding or correcting when an undesired behavior occurs, one encourages the desired behavior and make it more likely that that behavior will reoccur (Lindfors, 1987).  In ABA, each action is considered related to a behavior and is analyzed to determine what came before it, how the behavior occurred and what happens after.  This analysis is studied in order to encourage positive behaviors to occur more often (Lovaas, 1987).  


References:

Kauffman, J.M. & Hallahan, D.P. (1995). The illusion of full inclusion: A comprehensive critique of a current special education bandwagon. Austin, TX:Pro-Ed.

Lovaas, I. (1987). Behavioral treatment and normal educational and     intellectual functioning in young autistic children. Journal of Counseling and Clinical Psychology 55, 1, 3-9.

Lindfors, J.W. (1987), Children’s Language and Learning, 2nd Ed. Prentice Hall, Inc.

United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) (1994) Salamanca statement on principles, policy and practice in special needs education. Paris: Author.

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