Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Since day one humans have been educating themselves in order to better their lives physically, mentally and emotionally. As time goes on, the way in which people are educated has been changing drastically, especially in this day in age. With laws such as No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the pressure for each student to have equal opportunities and for each student to be at the same learning level, is at its highest. With this pressure comes the responsibility and expectations to educate individuals with disabilities at the same level as individuals without disabilities. When educators are trying to fulfill this expectation, the idea of Full Inclusion was created and implemented. According to Douglas Fuchs (1993), Full Inclusion is “the integration of regular and exceptional children in a school setting where all children share the same resources and opportunities of learning on a full-time basis” (p. 11). The question that comes with Full Inclusion is: is it beneficial or detrimental to students? Full Inclusion can help or hurt students; it all depends on their situation such as the level of training teachers have had in special education, the time in which Full Inclusion was implemented into the classrooms, and the ability of the schools to provide for their students.
During Full Inclusion, students with disabilities are in a regulareducation classroom for at least 80% of the school day. The students with disabilities are expected to learn at the same rate as the regular functioning students in their class. This situation can be beneficial or detrimental to the students. In a worst-case scenario, it doesn’t work because teachers are unable to handle the mixture of students as well as being unable to modify their work for students with disabilities. According to Karen Broomhead (2013), teachers who teach in regulareducation classrooms and are experiencing Full Inclusion for the first time are sometimes “perceived to favor exclusion as opposed to taking time to understand and address the needs of pupils with [disabilities]” (p. 4).
The attitude of the teachers is very important in a classroom. If the teachers are unhappy, then that will directly affect the students in the classroom. When Full Inclusion was first implemented in schools, most general education teachers were not trained in the field of special education. In a sense, their frustrations could be defined as understandable. In order for inclusion to benefit every student, the general education teachers would need, at least, a small background in special education. There would also need to be some collaboration with the special education teacher who would be helping in their classroomto modify the lessons for the students with disabilities or planning for any hiccups that may occur in the classroom. In a best-case scenario, Full Inclusion could work, but not every school will have the time or the funding to adapt each special case to the best of their abilities in a regulareducation classroom. Some students are just unable to learn in that type of environment, hence the reason life skills classrooms and resource classrooms were developed in the first place.
Another reason why Full Inclusion could be beneficial or detrimental depends on when the schools began the inclusion process. If the schools implemented it and required both regular education and special education in all gradelevels to begin going to a class together, this could have either a very big negative or positive effect on the classroom. If Full Inclusion was implemented from the very beginning of schoolingstarting with kindergarten, then that would be better for the students because regular education students and students with disabilities wouldbe more used to having each other around in the classrooms. In the end, both sets of students would learn how to interact with each other from being taught at a young age to do so. There are also studies that show, when mixing groups of students with different abilities, it can be very beneficial because the regular education students are helping the students with disabilitiesto the best of their ability if help is needed. When an individual teaches something to another individual they tend to retain the information better. The students with disabilities are benefitting from the help of a student in the same age group, and they are both learning how to interact with each other.
If Full Inclusion was implemented but started in the secondary level classrooms, students would not benefit as much from it, if at all. By the time students are in high school, cliquesand bullies tend to be more prevalent. According to Broomhead (2013), students with disabilities at that age “reported being different from other pupils” (p. 5). If Full Inclusion did start at the secondary level, it would be harder for both sets of students to adapt to the change. Some regular education students are ignorant and wouldn’t make the classroom setting any easier for those with disabilities. Also, students with disabilities might not make the classroom setting any easier for the regular education students. They might not be comfortable in that setting, and might act much differently than what the other students are used to. It could cause confrontation and difficulties for the teachers, and therefore not benefit anyone in that classroom. If Full Inclusion was implemented at the youngest age possible, I do believe that it would work and be more beneficial for both groups of students as well as the teachers.
Another factor that could be beneficial or detrimental for students experiencing Full Inclusion is the school’s resources or ability to provide for a mixed-abilities classroom. Even though these students are all in the same classroom, they will still need different types of support when they place the students in that specific environment. The schools will also be expected to “[teach] one’s students to respect the unique developmental paths of each individual, no matter how unusual; [provide] access to a developmentally appropriate curriculum; and [provide] related support services’ (Kearney 1996). Schools are already struggling with funding in classrooms. Although they will be moving the special education teachers from the life skills or resource classrooms into regular education classrooms with their students, they are not looking at the full picture. For example, there might be a classroom full of students with disabilities and they only have two, maybe three, teachers for those students. They will have to split the class up into different general education classes and might not have enough co-teachers to go around to every classroom. This could cause problemsin classrooms because there wouldn’t be someone constantly helping the children with disabilities, or the general education students might not get all of the one-on-one with the teachers like they were used to receiving.
Full Inclusion is very dependent on the variables that are involved in the process. It could be beneficial for some schools or just individual students, but it could also be very detrimental to schools and students. Trying to force students to learn in an environment that does not work for them is not the best decision. In the end, it will be a process of trial and error until the schools find what benefits every student and whatsituation will allow them all to learn. Hopefully, throughout the process of trial and error, they will not hold back any students or jeopardize their futures.
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