Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Mainstreaming Students with Special Needs

We all know that exceptional individuals need special education. These exceptional individuals are those children whose exceptional needs necessitate an individually planned program of education. These are children who deviate from the average or normal child and they need proper educational placement for them to develop their full potentials.

It is known that special education curriculum differs from that of regular education. In special education curriculum, the needs of each individual dictate the curriculum suited for the students’ skills. Special children need special training to compensate for or reduce the handicapping effects of their disabilities.

It is imperative that students with exceptionalities need special attention and care. Thus, proper educational placement is necessary for these students to develop their potentials to its fullest.
Mainstreaming is one of the time-tested educational approaches that are given to children with special needs. Sailor (2005) defines mainstreaming as “the placement of special education students in general educational settings.” Mainstreaming is derived from the concept of retaining students with disabilities in the “mainstream” of education, rather than placing them in separate groups” (Gearheart 49). Mainstreaming is said to be important in a way that children with special needs can feel what the “normal” individuals feel. Also known as inclusion, mainstreaming has long been used by special education teachers all over the world. According to an article in the Elementary School Journal by Ellen Kavanagh (1977), mainstreaming was introduced in the 1960s and continues until today. It continues worldwide because it is believed that “all children, those with and without special needs, thrive in an environment that enables them to develop what we call the functional-emotional capacities” (Greenspan, 2005). Students with special needs should be educated with proper attention whether they are in a special education class or in a regular classroom setting. It only means - students’ abilities when it terms of cognitive, motor and affective must be congruent to the curriculum that the school is implementing. Furthermore, mainstreaming is defined as the placement of children with disabilities into educational programs whose purpose is to serve typically developing individuals.

In this trend, we cannot discount the fact that mainstreaming or inclusion has positive and negative effects to teachers and to students with disabilities. Many argue that mainstreaming may not be the accurate alternative for children with special needs. In connection with this, everyone must be knowledgeable about individual differences. Not all special children are in need of mainstreaming. Some of them could develop their potentials even they are along with their classmates with the same disability. On the other hand, mainstreaming is an effective placement if the student with special needs is already intellectually and emotionally equipped with the challenges that he or she may face during his or her mainstreamed classes.
Students with special needs may react into mainstreaming in numerous ways. Peer interaction is one of the positive effects of this kind of educational placement. Special children will be in a new surrounding where they can interact with other normal individuals. They can gain more friends and do many activities that they think they are not capable of doing. There would also be possibilities of successful teacher interaction where special children can adapt and adjust to new surroundings with the help of their teachers. Somehow, these special children could think and feel that they belong to the “norms of the society”. Eventually, they will not deviate from others. They will be able to communicate, interact, and socialize with their normal peers. They can also be given enough attention if necessary. Most especially, they will learn how to get along with different kinds of individuals which is very important to every human being. On the contrary, mainstreaming can give a lot of negative effects to children with special needs. During the process of learning, there would be big possibilities that exceptional students could not interact well with normal students. Therefore, their socialization skills will not be enhanced or developed.
More often than not, normal individuals or students would react differently to the situation of special students. They can not usually understand the capabilities and limitations of their special classmates. They usually tease and laugh at the conditions of their classmates with exceptionalities. As a result, the special students will not develop their potentials in an environment that is not suited for them. Their mental and social aspects of learning will be affected. There would also be great possibilities that teachers in the mainstreamed classes are not that effective as compared to those who teach in special schools. They are not well-informed to the challenges of teaching special students in the program of inclusion. In addition to this, teachers also have different views and opinions regarding the implementation of mainstreaming. Special education teachers and regular education teachers do not share the same views with regards to the implementation of mainstreaming. Some do not agree with this placement and they do not support mainstreaming.
Moreover, the school should also be ready with inclusion. “An inclusive school is a place where everyone belongs, is accepted, supports and is supported by his or her peers and other members of the school community in the course of having his or her educational needs met” (W. Stainback, 1990). Mainstreaming students with special needs should be done in a gradual manner. There should be enough adjustment periods both for the teachers, the normal students and those exceptional children. Both normal and special students will encounter new experiences once they enter the mainstreamed classes. Regular students will now be open with change. Normal students can learn about the special education and the people involved in the said provision. Therefore, they can eventually help special students in their process of learning and to cope with their capabilities and limitations in a very fulfilling manner. However, some schools are not familiar with mainstreaming. Therefore, the idea and the purpose of the educational placement are not met. Besides, everybody should be educated and well-informed when it comes to mainstreaming. It includes the teachers, students, and the administration as well. To achieve best results regarding mainstreaming, administrators of a particular school should educate and prepare all people involved in such educational placement. Parents too must cooperate in this program for them to know the performances of their child. If this kind of process is achieved, parents can eventually know how to create an effective learning environment even inside their respective homes. Thus, the change in curriculum must be considered in developing a successful educational placement. The curriculum must meet the needs of the special children and the normal students as well. Peer tutoring can be done in the suggested curriculum. The normal student may serve as the model or guide of the special student. Hence, they will learn more of themselves as they go along the process of learning.

As a whole, mainstreaming is beneficial to everyone if done effectively. If only teachers are knowledgeable and well-informed to teach mainstreamed classes, there will be a very successful outcome. Concerns and apprehensions on the subject of mainstreaming are always possible to be solved if everyone will have time to cooperate and participate with the said program. Though there are negative outlooks with respect to mainstreaming, it is really beneficial and appropriate if the students with special needs are ready to be in a regular classroom setting. It must be made that the child is emotionally and intellectually ready for mainstreaming purposes. They should be informed of the new environment so they can readily adapt and adjust with the setting of a regular class. Education of children with special needs must really be given enough emphasis. These individuals like regular children, need proper guidance so they can excel in their chosen fields just like the normal individuals. Mainstreaming is very important for them to learn and enjoy their lives even more beautiful. Through this kind of educational placement, the children with special needs will be more competitive if they study hard and achieve their potentials to its fullest. Indeed, teachers and other personnel play a vital role in the implementation of mainstreaming or inclusion. They must be emotionally equipped with the problems that they may encounter along the way. Thus, creating an effective and valuable learning environment to special children is also a special task to accomplish. Facilities and devices must undergo innovation to achieve better process of learning. We must always remember that these special children should involve themselves in a placement where there is special attention and guidance.

Gearheart, Carol, “The Exceptional Student in the Regular Classroom” (6th Ed.), Merrill and Prentice Hall
Greenspan, Stanley I., “Creating an Inclusive Classroom”, Scholastic Early Childhood Today 20 (2005):26-27
Kavanagh, Ellen, “A Classroom Teacher Looks at Mainstreaming” The Elementary School Journal 77 (March 1977): 318-322
Sailor, Wayne and Blair Roger, “Rethinking Inclusion: Schoolwide Applications”, Phi Delta Kappan 86 (March 2005)
Stainback, W., and Stainback S., Support Networks for Inclusive Schooling. Baltimore: Paul H., Brookes Publishing Co, 1990

No comments:

Post a Comment