Special education is a mandated service by the federal government which is provided in a few different settings including inclusive special education. Inclusive special education is often preferred by both parents and students as the students are less isolated from their peers than with the self-contained or resource room settings. However, inclusive special education still has both positive and negative aspects.
Special education services are required by public schools as stated in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Under this law, students with disabilities receive special education, early intervention, and related services in the least restrictive environment. Special education services can be received in a variety of settings which include general education classrooms, resource classrooms, self-contained classrooms, homes, hospitals, correctional facilities, private schools, residential facilities, and separate schools specifically for those with disabilities. Inclusive special education refers to the setting by which students with disabilities learn alongside their non-disabled peers in a general education classroom.
Inclusion classrooms require the presence of the general education classroom teacher as well as the special education teacher. All students in the classroom benefit from having two teachers as opposed to one. Two teachers can often keep a more orderly classroom, have a lightened workload, and can provide more individualized assistance for all students that only one teacher can. Additionally, all students can benefit from the special education teacher’s specialized knowledge of differentiated instruction, which is tailoring teaching methods to match a student’s learning style. Disabled students are less likely to feel isolated. They do not have to be in a classroom that all students at the school come to know as being different, which often can result in disabled students being teased by non-disabled students. In an inclusive setting, it’s difficult to distinguish who is receiving special education services as all students receive assistance from the special education teacher. Sometimes, however, students do come to know that a classmate has a disability. This provides an opportunity for students to know how to work with those who are different from them and to treat them with respect. It serves as a great opportunity for personal development for students who would otherwise not have interactions with those who have disabilities.
The biggest disadvantage of inclusive classrooms is that some students with disabilities will not properly be served. Students with disabilities receive accommodations, which are changes to how a student learns the material, to assist them in learning. However, even utilizing a variety of accommodations can still leave some students unable to properly access the material to be learned in a general education classroom setting. Another disadvantage is the possibility of disabled students receiving less one-on-one attention than they would in a more restrictive setting. Since the special education teacher is available to assist students with and without disabilities, their efforts are split which can be advantageous for those without disabilities but still puts those with disabilities at a disadvantage.
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According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there were 6.7 million students receiving special education services in the 2015-2016 school year. Many settings are available to properly serve these students. With proper planning, the inclusive special education setting can prove to be beneficial for a large number of these students.