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December 1994/January 1995 | Volume 52 | Number 4
The Inclusive School
Debbie Staub and Charles A. Peck
Although the research is limited, the consistency with which available studies indicate that inclusion does not harm nondisabled children—and in fact may benefit them—is encouraging.
Inclusion is receiving a lot of attention, both in school districts across the country and in the popular media. Most of that attention, however, is devoted to the effects of inclusion on students with disabilities. Here we want to consider the effects of inclusion on students who do not have disabilities.
We define inclusion as the full-time placement of children with mild, moderate, or severe disabilities in regular classrooms. This definition explicitly assumes that regular class placement must be considered as a relevant option for all children, regardless of the severity of their disabilities. This definition, however, does not preclude the use of pull-out services or instruction in a self-contained setting, when appropriate.
In discussions about the effects of inclusion on nondisabled students, three fears commonly surface.
Although teachers and parents often express concerns before experiencing inclusion, those who are familiar with inclusion indicate that nondisabled students benefit from their relationships with individuals with disabilities (Biklen et al. 1987, Murray-Seegert 1989, Peck et al. 1989). From our review of the available research, we identified five positive themes.
If I had one thing to say to everybody, I would say, `Don't be scared of students with disabilities—get to know them even if it takes a long time because it really is worth it' (Peck et al. 1990).
Yeah, it's kind of rewarding if she [a student with disabilities] makes progress—you feel good about yourself because you've helped her to do it. I like that.
Some kids reach out to everybody, but I've seen a few kids who have been saved by having somebody to care for in almost an unconditional way (Staub et al. 1994).
I thought [my friends] wouldn't accept me interacting with the handicapped kids. I don't think it would have changed my mind if they wouldn't accept it because I don't care, you know—friends are friends but they are not going to stop me from doing something that I think is important (Peck et al. 1990).
Like a lot of times he'll be sitting there and I won't feel like, should I say something, should I say something? ... It's a really nice connection, not to talk but to feel comfortable.
Aaron's friendship with Cole is a caring, teaching relationship. I get the feeling that Aaron wants to let Cole experience the things he has experienced.... He gets a lot of joy from being able to do that (Staub et al. 1994).
Although the research is quite limited, we are encouraged by the consistency with which existing studies indicate that inclusion does not harm nondisabled children. Even more encouraging is the evidence of potential benefits of inclusion.
We also agree with the majority of teachers and administrators we have interviewed that realizing the benefits of inclusion for all students will require active mediation of the experience by teachers, as well as the transfer of resources from traditional special education programs to support children placed in regular classes (Peck et al. 1993).
A central assumption underlying our interpretation of the studies reviewed here is that the purposes of inclusion are highly relevant to the needs of all children. The development of all children is enhanced by the extent to which they feel a sense of belonging, caring, and community in school (Noddings 1984). The values of belonging, caring, and community that underlie the inclusive schools movement represent a substantive shift from those that have traditionally dominated American life (Bellah et al. 1985). We interpret many aspects of the current controversies about inclusion to reflect the kinds of struggles that are inherent in such a shift in values and priorities. We suggest that including children with disabilities in regular public school classrooms is stimulating exactly the kind of experience in the lives of children, and the kind of reflective dialogue among adults, that is necessary to achieve change in the values and ethics underlying public education policy.
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Authors' note: This research was supported in part by a U.S. Department of Education Grant and Cooperative Agreement. The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the U.S. Department of Education, and no official endorsement should be inferred.
Debbie Staub is Project Coordinator, Inclusive Education Research Group, University of Washington, Emily Dickinson School, 7040 - 208th Ave., N.E., Redmond, WA 98053. Charles A. Peck is Associate Professor of Special Education, Washington State University at Vancouver, 1812 E. McLoughlin Blvd., Vancouver, WA 98663.
Copyright © 1994 by
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development
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