Segregation isn’t always bad – especially when it comes to Special Education. One goal of special education is to educate all children in the most inclusive environment – meaning that special needs children are to be educated in the classroom community, with his or her non-disabled peers, as much as possible and appropriate for the child. Inclusion is important for a feeling of belonging and usefulness, and; therefore, self esteem. However, we need to determine both a child’s educational and emotional needs in designing an Independent Educational Program (IEP).
If a child only learns in a small group, or one-to-one setting, and gets lost in a full classroom, is the sense of inclusion being in that larger classroom worth sacrificing a superior understanding of basic education – like reading and arithmetic? There is no single right answer.
My preference is to give the child a better education at the expense (if necessary) of being part of the larger community. I prefer to err on the side of a better understanding of the basics of reading, writing, arithmetic, science and social studies among other disciplines. A child can have many other opportunities for community, such as church or temple, camps, or family gatherings.
Many school districts stress the importance of “inclusion” over education. I believe that a large part of this is because it is easier and less expensive to teach children in a larger group. Educational expectations can be kept lower if goals and objectives are diluted with social and emotional ones. This keeps the school less accountable, which is preferable for the school from a dollars and staff availability perspective.
Different parents have different desires for their children. But the children should have a say in the matter as well. This is too important a decision without having a holistic picture of the child in question. Listen to what your child’s school has to say, but make your decisions based on the quality of education your child needs – not just whether or not he is placed in a room with non-disabled peers.