According to the Curry School of Education, approximately 80% of students with learning disabilities receive the majority of their instruction in the general classroom (“Inclusion.” http://curry.edschool.virginia.edu/curry/dept/cise/ose.html. 10 Oct. 1999). That number is expected to rise as teachers and parents become aware of the benefits of inclusion.
Because there are so many disabled students in regular schools, it is important to look at whether or not mainstreaming is necessary for their education. For parents, having their disabled children mainstreamed into regular education can be a difficult choice. Although disabled children’s education can be more challenging in regular schools, the benefits of inclusion include enhanced self-esteem, development of social skills, and exposure to regular curriculum.
Many people believe mainstreaming only helps disabled children, but there are many challenges that hurt their education rather than help. Both faculty and students can be cruel to disabled students. Because they are not used to interacting with disabled children, faculty and students may be uncomfortable with the situation and be insensitive to the disabled children. By ignoring the disabled children or treating them badly, the children will lose self-esteem and may disrupt the class in order to show their unhappiness. Some teachers are not familiar with teaching disabled children, so the education is lacking for the children. Teachers may continue to teach their classes at an accelerated level, forgetting about the slower students. The students will then fall behind and get frustrated with the situation. All these factors hurt disabled children’s education and will hurt their chances at succeeding in life.
Being in a regular school can help disabled children feel better about themselves and their accomplishments. When disabled children complete a more challenging task, they may receive praise from their teacher and fellow students. Kim Harries says that when learning disabled students are placed in classrooms with regular achieving students, higher expectations are placed on them. In turn, their desire to excel increases (“Mainstreaming.” http://www.psych.westminster.edu/medvin/psy46/inclus/mainstreaming.htm. 11 Oct. 1999). Disabled children know that they are overcoming great odds by attending a regular school. Because of that knowledge, they can be proud of their accomplishments no matter how small they may be. Because of their effort, disabled children can feel better about themselves in spite of the disability that ails them.
Inclusion in a regular school gives disabled children the social skills needed to live in the outside world. Disabled children learn important lessons to help them adapt to the real world. They learn how to interact with other people and how they are expected to act in public. According to Scott Willis, “Advocates of mainstreaming, on the other hand, claim that the mainstreaming of disabled students results in better socialization skills for the disabled children” (“Inclusion Gains Ground.” Education Update. Dec. 1995: 1-8). Disabled children gain real life experiences when dealing with regular students. They deal with the everyday ridicule and challenges that only make them stronger against those that may put them down. Dealing with and learning from everyday problems now will only help disabled children as they grow up in an unkind world.
Immersion in regular curriculum gives disabled children a chance to test their abilities. Disabled children can test their skills and see what areas they excel in. After children find something they excel in, they can use that talent in future aspirations. Disabled children are given a chance to challenge their minds and thus grow mentally. By doing so, they may increase their learning capabilities and advance in their education. Because children may only be disabled in certain areas of curriculum, immersion will give them a chance to keep up in classes they are mentally able to. By giving disabled children the chances they deserve, their mental and physical abilities are able to improve and thus improve their education.
Even though education in regular schools can be challenging for learning disabled children, including them can enhance their self-esteem, develop their social skills to help them survive in the world, and give them a chance to be exposed to regular curriculum. Everyone at some point in their lives will be exposed to people with handicaps. If they learn to look past them at a young age, it will help them succeed in a mainstreaming world. Jennifer Pinland, a speech pathologist that works with disabled children says, “Children with handicaps cannot be ignored and pushed through the school system. They must get the help they need in order to avoid ridicule and defeat for the rest of their lives.”