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Isabella Jimenez
Sherry Ayala
SED 464
16 November 2014

Inclusion of Students with Mental Disorders

As educators, we will face many challenges. One of the biggest challenges will be to give all
your students an equal education. This can be a tricky situation when all students are different in
many aspects. Students with mental disorders face just as many trials, if not more. While they are
coping with their symptoms, they are trying to get an education at the same time. So this
question comes to mind: would it be better for students with mental disorders to be in their own
classrooms with other mentally-ill students or should they be included with their fellow
classmates in a regular classroom? This topic came to mind when I was reading an article about a
mother being scared of her child that has severe bipolar disorder. She explained that he has
intense tantrums and that sometimes she even fears for her life because of how dangerous he has
become. She published her comments on her blog shortly after the Sandy Hook shooting
occurred in 2012. The mother feared that this may happen to her if her son did not get the help he
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a mental illness is a medical condition
that disrupts a persons thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning
(What is mental illness?, 2014). Some of the most common mental disorders are schizophrenia
and bipolar disorders and some children have more than one type of disorder. It has been found
that 20% of children ages thirteen to eighteen experience mental disorders, half of the children
ages eight to fifteen who have been diagnosed with mental disorders do not receive mental health
services, and half of the chronic mental illnesses begin at age fourteen (Duckworth, 2013).


Another surprising statistic states that 50% of mentally ill students ages fourteen and older who
are part of the special education system drop out of high school (Duckworth, 2013). For the most
part, many mentally illness appear during early adolescence, which is why secondary teachers
should be informed about the child and the disorder(s) that he or she has in order to educate the
child better. The pros of including mentally-ill students in a regular classroom are: (1) the
students feel like they belong despite their conditions, (2) it helps their social development, (3)
they receive an equal education, and (4) the other students learn how to work with mentally-ill
students and become more aware of the disorders that they see in their peers. The cons of
including mentally-ill students in a regular classroom are: (1) there are chances of violent
outbursts, tantrums, and other behavioral issues (2) it may become a distraction and/or a danger
(depending on the disorder and the severity of the disorder) for the other students, (3) the
cognitive abilities differ, so it can have a negative effect their learning, and (4) there is less oneon-one attention for those students.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires a school district to provide a free
appropriate public education to each qualified person with a disability who is in the school
districts jurisdiction, regardless of the nature or severity of the persons disability (U.S.
Department of Education, 2010). However, many would agree that it is important to discuss
options with the student, the parents, the teachers, nurses, special education teachers,
administration and anyone else involved with the child. Another option that I have seen in my
internship and that others have also seen is that the students with disabilities are included in some
of the regular classes and spend time in a special education classroom as well.
Every student is different, so they need to be helped in distinct ways according to their needs.
Having awareness of the students disabilities will help teachers understand what they need and


what they are going through, although we will never know what they truly feel. The best we can
do as educators is helping them be comfortable with their surrounding and giving them an
education that they can work with and that will be beneficial for them.


Duckworth, K. (2013, March). Mental Illness: Facts and Numbers. Retrieved from National
Alliance on Mental Illness:
U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights (2010). Free Appropriate Public
Education for Students with Disabilities: Requirements Under Section 504 of the
Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Retrieved from U.S. Department of Education.
What is mental illness? (2014). Retrieved from National Alliance of Mental Illness: