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Mainstreaming Students with Disabilities
Student’s Name
University of Incarnate Word
Mainstreaming Students with Disabilities
Conventionally, students with the disabilities have been separated from other students
with the aim of offering special education considered appropriate their conditions. The special
schools are deemed to be designed accordingly and special facilities provided. Nevertheless, in
the contemporary world, the students considered to be of special needs are enrolled and allowed
to study in the mainstream schools’ setup, in which is regarded as inclusion. The concept of
mainstreaming in education as a practice was prominently introduced in the 1970s (Jenkinson,
2011). The fundamental objective to the pioneering proposers of the idea was to ensure that all
children in the schooling age are brought on board to enjoy the benefits of education in spite of
their physical challenges and mental disabilities. A primary focus of this paper is the detailed
discussion of the pros and cons of mainstreaming students with disabilities. However, to provide
the background and better overview, the concept regarded as The Least Restrictive Environment
is discussed. Importantly, both the advantages and disadvantages would be summed up and a
conclusion is drawn on whether the concept should be upheld.
Majority of the people in the society are continuously supporting the connotation that
children with intellectual disabilities should be accommodated into the mainstream education
system because they are part of the society. In fact, the implementation of the concept is going
momentum as many educators and families strongly recommend mainstreaming. As a result,
children with both mental and physical disabilities are included in regular classrooms with
regular learners (Newman, 2012). Nevertheless, it is evident that the practice calls for extra
support to assist the learners with special needs to learn effectively in such an environment.
Concerns about Adoption of Total Inclusion
The full mainstreaming is driven by the connotation Least Restrictive Environment
(LRE) which was established by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (Mullings,
2011). The Least Restrictive Environment has become a highly debated subject with the
concerns raised about its ability to achieve the vision and objectives set out in the law (PowerdeFur, 2014). In fact, headlines in contemporary educational news sources have reported the
intensity of the debate regarding aspects such as the conceptualization of disability, co-teaching,
inclusive classrooms and inclusion in the mainstream school system (McLeskey, Landers,
Williamson & Hoppey, 2012). Scholars and interest groups have raised the concerned on how
educational culture would be transformed to facilitate an inclusive learning environment for both
the learners with disabilities and those considered to of regular status.
The debate is further compounded by the divergent perspectives, where the disability
community raises different opinions on how to serve educational needs of learners with
disabilities. It implies that even within the disability community there is the discourse contention
on how a given level of restrictiveness or inclusion is in the interest of the individual learners
with the special needs. However, there are those who are opposed to the Least Restrictive
Environment raising various concerns. According to Sauer and Jorgensen (2016), the concept of
least restrictive environment generates barriers which are to the disadvantage of the students with
an intellectual disability while subjected to a general education classroom setting. Besides, it also
constrains the ability of the students to enjoy the benefits of being included in these classes, thus
leading to poor outcomes. Similarly, Alquraini and Gut (2012) state that inclusion approach
assists in upholding the rights of learners with disabilities against discrimination in accessing
education within a least restrictive environment. Despite that fact that, the quality of education is
not similarly guaranteed to them compared to their non-disabled peers.
Another concern arising from the concept is the fact that the stakeholders in education do
not feel sufficiently equipped to serve the needs of the students with disabilities in the
conventional school and classroom settings. As a result, lack of adequate resources limits the
ability to offering a positive learning environment to the special needs students. Able et al.
(2015), reported that the gap in knowledge and skill among teachers prevent them from serving
the learners with disabilities in a way that they can fully benefit from the least restrictive
environment placement. It is therefore clear that there are confusion, challenges and barriers
towards the mainstreaming despite the legal backing of the least restrictive environment
enshrined in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
Pros and Cons of Mainstreaming Students with Disability
From the background discussion, it is evident that the implementation of the inclusion in
education is not an easy task. In fact, despite the legal backing and support from various quotas,
there are differences to be addressed and challenges to be faced. However, the analysis of the
pros and cons of implementation of the concept can offer the compelling background on whether
the stakeholders should struggle to face the challenges and support the full inclusion.
Pros of Mainstreaming Students with Disabilities
The pros of inclusion are the basis upon which the concept of mainstreaming of the
students with disabilities can be supported. The primary focus, in this case, is the benefits
accrued from to the learners as well as other stakeholders. The first category of the advantages is
the social benefits of the concept. Learners with the special needs due to their physical and
intellectual disabilities gets the opportunity to interact with the non-disabled peers which are not
possible under the special school and classroom setup (Able et al. 2015). The learners with
disability are known for their inability or slow acquisition of social skills; a situation worsened in
a separated schooling environment. The other benefit is that through the interaction in the
schooling environment, the learners get the opportunity to enhance their self-esteem. The
separation of the students into special and regular schools creates an impression that the disabled
learners are inferior and hence not able to learners under the same environment as the nondisabled. Efforts to address the stigma and build self-acceptance among the disabled students
have proved to be ineffective due to the stigma of the exclusive approach (Alquraini & Gut,
2012). The blending of the students into the same schooling and classroom environment created
an opportunity for the learners with different abilities to interact, learn and accept each other. In
other words, the learners can develop a friendship, mutual relationship, and collaboration which
have long-term implications on their lives.
The other social benefit associated with the integration is that the social perception about
disabilities in the society would. The students considered to be of regular capabilities get to learn
about the capabilities of the disabled peers and hence become the champions advocating for their
equal rights in the society (Feldman at al. 2016). Lastly, the other social benefit of the inclusion
is that it reduces anxiety and low–esteem among the parents. The positive attitude, the friendship
and equal opportunity given to the disabled learners is an encouragement to the parents who
might have been concerned about the condition of their children (Bebetsos, Zafeiriadis, Derri &
Kyrgiridis, 2013).
The primary objective of schooling is to assist students acquires skills and knowledge
through academic achievements. Traditionally, students with disabilities are separated and put
into special schools from whether they are offered specialized education based on the fact that
they are different from the non-disabled peers (Power-deFur, 2014). However, it has been proved
that with effective inclusion, the students with disabilities would benefit academically than when
in a segregated setting. In a strategized efficiently inclusion, the teachers come up with teachinglearning methodology to fit into the two categories of learners. Besides, the interaction of
learners through study groups and discussions creates an opportunity for peer-learning.
Besides, both the students in the two categories tend to compete among themselves hence
raising the expectation level for the student with disability compared to when in special schools.
The other academic benefit is that through inclusion, disabled learners from the low-income
families would get the opportunity to enroll in regular schools which are relatively cheaper than
the special schools. The low enrolment rate of the disabled children as a result of the economic
constraint of the parents would be addressed. Lastly, the inclusion gives the opportunity for
career development and enhancement among the teachers. The teachers get a higher
responsibility level to undertake their duties in an environment with both the disabled and nondisable learners unlike when they are in separate set-ups. In fact, the negative attitude of the
teachers towards the disabled particularly due to the assumption that they need special attention
and may not performs as the regular student would do is reduced (Sauer & Jorgensen, 2016;
Sutton & Lee, 2013). As the teachers interact and assist the special needs learners, they build on
their practical skill hence elevating their career roles.
Apart from the academic and social benefits to the disabled learners, there are some
economic benefits of the inclusion. The mainstreaming approach applies that the student with the
special needs as well as the non-disabled will share the school facilities, the administration
functions, and the teachers. Consequently, the cost per student would reduce substantially hence
reducing public expenditure on education. The other economic benefit is directly associated with
the academic empowerment of the students with disabilities. The enhanced academic
performance enables the beneficiary to compete for job and business opportunities, which is a
significant step towards their economic empowerment. Consequently, dependency level in the
society would reduce as the disabled learners get would earn income catering for their needs and
those of their families.
The benefits accrued to the students without disabilities are also imperative advantages of
the inclusive education system. To start with, the students learn to appreciate and accept
individual differences and diversity (Dimitriadi, 2014). As a result, they build meaningful
friendships which extend beyond the schooling years. In the long run, the students are prepared
for an inclusive way of life. Secondly, through the efforts to assist their fellow learners in both
academic and regular life activities, the non-disabled developed a higher level of confidence.
Subsequently, they get the better opportunity to master learning activities and greater academic
outcomes. In fact, by taking the responsibility to support the peers in need, they tend to develop
the culture of the service to humanity. Apart from experience gained, the non-disabled learners
may discover their career in social service fields.
Cons of Mainstreaming Students with Disabilities
The implementation of mainstreaming students with disabilities is not perfectly an
advantageous undertaking. Some setbacks are raised and used by the opponents in arguing
against its implementation. The cons are categorized into social, academic and tolerance. The
first social disadvantage is that some of the disabled students have some behavioral development
issues which are to be attended in the classroom and this case in the presence of other learners
(Sauer & Jorgensen, 2016; Campos, Ferreira & Block, 2014). Addressing such issues may be
disruption to other learners. For instance, a teacher has to assist a student to clear/clean running
noses, the concentration of other learners shift towards the particular issue. Such an incidence
can be traumatizing as the disabled learner would feel inferior for been unable to take attend to
such needs like the peers would do. Consequently, the embarrassment can easily lead to damage
to the student’s self-esteem. The disadvantage in this may not be experienced as the learners with
special needs would not feel inferior while in special schools where only other physically and
intellectually challenged learners are involved.
The first academic disadvantage is that the learners with special needs may not be able to
keep up with the non-disable peers. It implies that the teachers are forced to reduce the speed in
the teaching-learning process to cater for the special learning needs of the challenged students.
The overall academic implication is that the potential of the regular students is adversely
affected. The academic outcomes would, therefore, be at a lower level than expected. The
second disadvantage is that the special need learners may not be assisted and provided
specialized education as it would be in a special school (Wilson Kim & Craig, 2013). The
teachers in the mainstream schools are considered to have regular academic and professional
schools, hence not skilled and equipped with the expertise to serve the learners with special
needs. Besides, the physical features and facilities in many of the mainstream schools have been
put in place over the years in such a way that they can exclusively be appropriately be used by
non-disabled learners (Holben & Özel, 2015). The disable learners would, therefore, have some
hard time to access and utilize the facilities. The modification of the facilities to cater for the
special need learners would be an expensive affair. In other words, the inclusion of the students
with disabilities cannot be effectively undertaken unless the school and classroom environment
are renovated to meet the standards and meet the special needs. The other academic disadvantage
is the increase in the cost of the human resource, particularly regarding teaching staff. Evidently,
the disabled learners are in need of special attention and may consume more teaching-learning
process time compared to regular learners. Therefore, the training of mainstream teachers would
be required while at the same time their numbers enhanced to facilitate co-teaching (Klavina &
Block, 2013).
The other disadvantage is the implication of possible intolerance among the learners. The
fact that inclusion brings about better understanding and respect to diversity, some of the nondisable learners may not be willing to co-exist with the disabled peers. The issue would be
accelerated when the special need learners are treated exceptionally better than others. In the
attempt to ensure that the disabled peers do not get away with it, the regular learners may subject
them to bullying. The mistreatment by the peers leads to the feeling of being inferior hence
losing the self-esteem and subsequently the academic performance.
Weighing the Advantages and Disadvantages
Evidently, the mainstreaming of learners with disabilities comes with both the benefits
and setbacks. The determination of whether the approach should be implemented in schools
today is dependent on whether the stakeholders consider the benefits to outweigh the
disadvantages. The key benefits include enhanced academic performance, social skills
acquisition, economic empowerment and enhancement of overall social inclusion. The most
imperative benefit is that the inclusion boosts self-efficacy among the disabled by assisting them
realizes their academic and career potentials (Umhoefer, Beyer & Vargas, 2012). Therefore,
upholding mainstreaming would reduce discrimination and enhance social-economic prosperity
for the special needs learners at the schooling age and beyond (Theoharis & Causton, 2014). The
other important benefit is the opportunity to build friendships with peers from diverse
backgrounds and enabled differently; this enhances the quality of life as the individuals would
synergize each other.
On the other hand, there are cons discussed above, which raises the concern on whether
the inclusion by mainstreaming the learners with disabilities would be advocated. Some of the
concerns include the slowed in learning through interruption, the increased cost through facility
renovations and teaching staff enhancement, as well as the intolerance level. The most
outstanding disadvantage is that the approach would lead to disruption of learning among the
non-disable learners. Other disadvantages such as increasing cost and lack of skills among the
mainstream teachers can be addressed through long-term strategic approaches. In fact, long as
learners with special needs would be accommodated in the regular schools and classrooms, the
issues of slow in learning can be addressed through professional interventions. In other words,
the disadvantages to mainstreaming of the learners would be diluted hence no need for setting
aside the noble idea.
Strategies to Facilitate Inclusion through Mainstreaming Students with Disabilities
Evidently, the pros to mainstreaming of the student with disabilities overweight the
setbacks. The concern would be on how to address the setback through innovative classroom
approaches and teaching methods. The first strategy would be the renovation of the classroom
structure. Some students with disabilities require a modified classroom structure. For instance,
the physical structures of the classroom including desks and chairs should be renovated to
accommodate students with physical disabilities (Jones, 2015; Lucas, & Passe, 2017). Besides, in
a class with learners with auditory problems, the seating arrangement should be adjusted so that
such student would read more easily. The structuring of the classroom would not only foster the
sense of inclusion and respect to diversity but also assist the learners with special needs to be
comfortable while in class. However, it would be inappropriate to condone some sections or
structures in a discriminatory manner. Encouraging students to interact within the structured
classroom is highly recommended for optimal realization synergized social learning.
The changing the classroom structure, would not be an adequate undertaking; it requires
complementation through the adoption of innovative teaching methods. For example, the
inclusion of cultural barriers and negative perception towards the inclusion of students with
disability can be added into the curriculum. The inclusion of the concept as part of learning
would provide enrichment to students to accept their diversity and upheld the importance of
learning together irrespective of their physical or intellectuals capabilities (Jones, 2015; Lucas, &
Passe, 2017). Besides, the teachers would be required to put into consideration the different
abilities of the students and device a way to ensure that there are equal opportunities for each
category of the learners to maximize their potential. For example, instead of spending a lot of
time on the students with special needs, the teacher can seek to move at a regular teaching pace
and organize for remedial sessions for the needy learners. In such a …
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