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Sally Dickie
EDP 3310 10/08/08

Inclusion: A better learning environment for one or for all? Today, when one has decided to start the journey of becoming a teaching professional, the term Inclusion is one that you are informed of early on and one that is likely to greatly affect your teaching career. For myself, going into the field of Special Education, the term or idea Inclusion, is one that is often discussed through out my course work. For this assignment, I researched the term Inclusion/Mainstreaming in regards to whether or not it is effective in the classroom. Inclusion/Mainstreaming can be defined as including students with special needs into the general education classroom throughout the day. For countless years and decades, students with disabilities were often placed in separate classrooms just for students with special needs. Recently, the idea of including students with special needs into the main general education classroom, has taken off and is starting to become practiced all over the world. Due to the fact that this is a generally new idea and practice, there is a lot to be learned and studied to determine whether or not the practice of Inclusion is effective and for whom it is effective. The research I found gave me an insight of this complex process and how it affects the students. The first study I will discuss is titled “Involvement or Isolation? The Social Networks of Children with Autism in Regular Classrooms.” By Brandt Chamberlain. The focus of this study is on children with autism and how mainstreaming in general education classrooms affects them socially. The participants studied were 398 children in regular classrooms 2nd grade through 5th grade, including 17 children with high functioning Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome. For this study, 17 children with Autism were placed in the general education classroom and all of the children studied, both general education and special education, reported outcomes on Friendship quality, loneliness, peer acceptance, and classroom social networks. To measure these outcomes, this study used the “Social Network Clustering Method” developed by Cairns and Cairns, 1994.

By observing classrooms with the participants previously mentioned above, both general education students and students with autism, and collecting the data by questioning the students themselves on key issues involved in mainstreaming, this method allows us to determine how children with autism perceive the Inclusion environment and how other children perceive the students with Autism. Often in studies of inclusion, the focus is on the educational impact on students, and not the social impact on students. I chose this study because it focuses on the social impact on students with autism in the general education classroom. It addresses the key question: Is inclusion for these students Involvement or Isolation? The results of this study indicate that the general education students tended to socially interact with children in their same gender. While children with Autism, tended to socially interact with females. One idea behind this is that, at this age level, boys tend to be more competitive and likely to tease, while girls are more socially mature and welcoming. Another result of this study indicated that children with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) tended to be less centrally involved in the social structure of the classroom. However, over all, only six of the 398 students involved were reported to be isolated in the classroom. Furthermore, compared to their peers without Autism, children with ASD reported doing fewer things with and spending less time with their friends in the classroom. In conclusion, it appears in this study, that the Inclusion of children with ASD, had a less than positive effect on the children with ASD on a social basis. While it was not considered devastating, the data indicates that children with ASD were more socially separated and developed fewer and weaker relationships than their peers without ASD. The Second study I examined is titled “Visual Impairment and Multiple Disablities: The evaluation of a ten-week programme in Cyprus to integrate children with multiple disabilities and visual impairments into a mainstream primary school.” By Your Mom. The focus of this study is how in Cyprus there are very few opportunities for children with disabilities to learn along mainstream children. I chose this study because it gives a different cultural perspective of

mainstreaming children with visual and/or multiple disabilities in the general education classroom. A ten-week pilot program was developed and implemented in a Cypriot mainstream school and specialist school to determine whether relationships can be developed between children with special needs and mainstreamed children by the co-education of both groups. The participants of this study consisted of three primary school children with multiple disabilities and visual impairment from a specialist school and 15 children with no disabilities attending a neighboring mainstream primary school. The study measured whether or not the interaction between the individual students with visual impairments and those students without visual impairments was actually beneficial for the students with visual impairments. To evaluate this program, a multi-method approach was used. Six main research methods were used. These were: emotional evaluation of the children; observation of the children in the classroom setting; one to one interviews with professionals; focus group discussions with parents; telephone discussions with professionals; and meetings with the professionals. (APA, here.) The general findings were that in the beginning of the program, the three children with visual impairments found it to be difficult to work in a group in the mainstream classroom, they gave up very easily, and often could not finish the task. The findings state that at the end of the program, the children felt more comfortable working in groups, could accomplish most of the tasks, and felt more comfortable working alongside students in the mainstream school. The most important information obtained from this study, was that for the first time students from the private specialist school, stated that they desired to attend a different school where they could learn side by side the mainstreamed children. In conclusion, contrary to the previous study, where children with Autism found the social interaction and situation of the “inclusion” classroom to be a less than positive environment, students with visual impairments in the “inclusion” classroom in Cyprus, found it to be a positive learning experience to the extent of wishing to become permanently positioned in the mainstream classroom.

The next study I examined is titled “Looking back on school, the views of adult graduates of a residential special school for children with emotional and behavioral difficulties.” By Garry Hornby and Chrystal Witte. The focus of this study was on adult graduates of a residential special school in New Zealand who had also attended mainstream schools and the comparison of the two. The participants of this study were 21 adult students who were located 10 to 14 years after they had left the residential school. The reason I chose this article is because it gives a personal view of how the students themselves viewed being in both a special program school and a mainstream classroom. The method used for this study was interview based questions. These four open-ended questions were: What were some of the difficulties you had at school?', 'What were some of your positive experiences at school?', 'What were the least and most helpful aspects of your schooling?' and 'How could your school life have been improved?' Once the interview’s had taken place, the results were grouped based on 5 key emerging themes: difficulties experienced at school; positive experiences at school; helpful aspects of schooling; unhelpful aspects of schooling; and suggested improvements to school life. The results of this study conclude that all 21 students participating in this study made negative comments about their experience in the mainstream classroom, where as 18 out of 21 of the students had positive things to say about their time at the residential school. One student quoted “My most valuable time was at Melton. It was rewarding because of the specific training and it was the longest time I ever stayed at school. I would have preferred to have been there as normal school failed me.” (…..2000) Similarly to the previous two studies, the students stated in this study that they had a less than positive experience in the mainstream classroom. However, in this study, the participants stated how both experiences, in the residential program and the mainstream program affected them, unlike in the previous two studies, where only the effects of the mainstream program were discussed.

The next study I examined is titled “Pilot for Alaska Students with Deaf-Blindness: Inclusion in Regular Classrooms.” By DiAnn Brown and Fran Mauiri. The focus of this study is on the inclusion of students with Deaf-Blindness into the general education classroom in an urban setting and a rural setting in Alaska. Four students with hearing and/or visual impairments were used in this study. Three were deaf/blind and the fourth had visual impairments. The method used to collect data were surveys given the professionals involved in the general education classroom to determine how much time the students with special needs were spending in the general education classroom and what types of objectives were taught in each setting. A second method was used to collect data from both the rural and urban school known as the “Student Activity Analysis”, which measured key outcomes of activities in the classroom such as if the activities were: age appropriate, instruction similar as indicated on the IEP, students with and without disabilities interacting and learning together…” to name a few. Two video observations were also included in the study. The results of this study led three out of the four students participating to be placed into the general education classroom. This study concludes that all of the students participating in this study, both special education and general education, had a positive experience with this pilot program. In the end, 3 out of 4 students as a result were placed permanently in a general education classroom. Unlike the previous three studies I’ve examined, in this study, the over-all outcome is that inclusion for students with deaf-blindness in Alaska was a positive experience both socially and educationally. The final study that I examined is titled “Mainstreaming Programs: Design Features and Effects.” By Margaret Wang (PhD) and Edward Baker (B.SS). This is a meta-analysis of 11 empirical studies, of the effects of mainstreaming on special education students. I chose this article because it is a meta-analysis focusing on 11 empirical studies, which provides research findings on a variety of studies. The method of this study chosen was “Meta-Analysis”, as I previously stated. The analysis was designed to address the following specific questions: What is the empirical evidence

on the academic and social outcomes for mainstreamed disabled students? Are there certain contextual variables or student demographic characteristics that tend to be more systematically related than others to positive Mainstreaming outcomes? One of the variables studied were whether or not there was sufficient and documented evidence that mainstreaming programs effectively improve the academic performance of disabled students. The procedure used to collect the desired data was a two-step analysis used in the quantitative synthesis of findings from the mainstreaming studies that comprised the final sample for the present study. The results of the studies conclude that across the studies, an overall positive effect of mainstreaming was found. Contrary to previous empirical studies conducted in the past, and even the studies I included in my examination of mainstreaming, this meta-analysis indicates that empirical studies conducted over the past decade indicate consistently positive effects of mainstreaming on disabled students. Furthermore, the data from the reviews indicates that effectiveness of mainstreaming tends to be more effective for students based on their disability level. In conclusion to the studies I examined, this final study, concluded that mainstreaming was notably effective for disabled students, similarly to the study conducted in Alaska, but contrarily to the first three studies. This study however, focused on a number of empirical studies and was a conclusion based on those findings. In conclusion to the studies I examined, three out of five of the studies indicated an overall less than positive experience for students in the mainstream/ inclusion classrooms. It is notable to mention that the first three studies were focused on the opinions and views of the special education and general education students involved in the inclusion practice and the last two studies were more focused on the educational outcomes of the special education students involved. Based on these 5 studies examined, it appears that the overall experience studied for the students involved was less than positive, while the educational outcomes studied appeared to be beneficial for the students in place.

The topic “inclusion/mainstreaming” in the field of education is one of the most relevant and important topics of our time. It is hard to believe that just within the past 100 years, children with disabilities were often institutionalized at a young age and never really seen from society again. In regards to that, we as a society have come a long way. For years, students with disabilities have been segregated in the school into their own classrooms. Recently, the idea of including children with special needs in the general education classroom has taken off around the United States and around the world. With any new process in education, research must be done to determine whether or not this new idea and trend is one that benefits all the students involved. While the idea of inclusion may seem as a big advancement in the educational process in the United States, it is important to determine if the research backs it up. As I have learned in the course of Educational Psychology, it is only “Common Sense” is the research backs it up. When studying inclusion it is important to determine if the students really are benefiting educationally and socially from being included in the general education classroom. The first three studies I examined indicated that socially, the students had a less than positive experience being mainstreamed in the general education classroom. For future reference when I am a teacher, it will be important for me to find ways to include my students with special needs in all activities in the classroom. If educationally it appears that being included in the general education classroom is beneficial for students with special needs, the area I would need to work on as a professional would be to ensure there is a appropriate balance and social interaction between students with disabilities and without. The results that I found were not what I expected to see. As a student in the field of Special Education, the idea of inclusion appears to be the biggest thing in education and I assumed it was all around beneficial for students. It is safe to say that more research needs to be done on this new practice and time will tell if all the students involved really benefit from this process. As a future Special Education professional, it will be crucial I understand this process and contribute what I have learned into my classroom.