Inclusion is the practice of pooling all students in a school together, regardless of strength or weakness, to benefit student affect and school climate. In particular, it refers to the addition of students with prominent disabilities into the regular classroom setting. The idea is that every student benefits from socialization, and that the practice of isolating disabled children from their so-called "normal" peers is as archaic as it is cruel.
With the enactment of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 1997, United States government has mandated that students who have disabilities must be educated in regular classroom settings as often as that environment is beneficial for them. Inclusive education is to be used as often as possible for all manners of disabled students, from those with mental retardation to those with behavioral disorders.
Typically, inclusive education reserves a set amount of time in the student's day for a resource class, in which they meet individually with special education teachers for one-on-one help, tutoring, specialized lessons, mentoring. etc. This way, the student benefits from personalized attention while maintaining a place in a general education class.
The major argument against inclusion is that it takes away from the experiences of the other children. A student who is violent or very low-functioning pulls away the attention of the teacher and can slow the rate of learning for everyone. There is also the question of safety when dealing with some students with severe behavior challenges. Some people are concerned that, by allowing disabled student as much inclusion as possible, we disadvantage the other students.
Many students benefit from the inclusion clause of IDEA, though their ability levels behaviors vary, as with any children. Students with disabilities may receive an adapted or modified classroom experience, including simplified tests, abridged assignments, and teacher-drafted study guides. Most of the time the other students don't even know this is taking place. Severely disabled students typically have a shadow or classroom aide who accompanies them to all "inclusive classrooms. " When the student has a relapse or loses control, they're quickly escorted from the room before the other children are disturbed. Not every student is able to benefit from inclusion, but the goal is to include as many students as possible, as often as possible.
Kids can be cruel, but they can also be more loving and caring than adults every thought about being. In my experience, students are happy to step up and help their peers who need it. Inclusion is commonly regarded as a benefit for the disabled students, but the "regular" students benefit from inclusion just as well. They get practice functioning and socializing with people different from them and they learn patience, tolerance, and understanding.
As IDEA matures, teachers and administrators are becoming better skilled at addressing inclusion needs in their schools. The future is bright.