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Integrating special and general education

A new trend is becoming more prevalent in the United States Public Education program. More and more public schools are starting to integrate their disabled population into their general education classrooms. Most of these classes are co-taught, where two teachers exist in the room at all times. One teacher is the general education teacher who teaches the lesson planned for the day while the other, the special education teacher, monitors the comprehension of the lesson among the special needs students. The special ed teacher’s main job is to ensure the comprehension of the lesson, while quelling any disruptive behavior that may affect the normal students negatively in the classroom.

This is an exciting concept, and this editorial board believes this method is an exceptional way to encourage diversity and a sense of community in the classroom.

Schools should always encourage diversity in the academic environment. Children learn from other children with different cultural, social and economic backgrounds, and the same goes for the disabled. Students will have the opportunity to help (and learn from) the disabled students, while gaining valuable experience on diversity in the real world. In the workplace, diversity exists in all different aspects, and students can benefit from early exposure to diversity. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) states that students shall be placed in the “least restrictive learning environment” possible, and for some disabled persons, normal classrooms would be a viable option for them to succeed. Obviously, those with absolutely crippling disabilities might not succeed in a “normal” environment, but this environment for this type of people would be considered restrictive. Placing these individuals in regular classrooms would impede the progress of the other students, as well as the disabled. They would distract others, and the desire to be diverse should not be prioritized above the well-being of the classroom, therefore severely disabled children should probably be placed in an environment more suitable for them.

But, if the disabled child can handle working in a regular classroom environment, they should have every opportunity to do so. This environment will give them the most opportunity to succeed, and give the child a chance to establish strong peer relationships with the non-disabled population. These connections are important to a child’s success in the classroom. According to Education.com, being a generous friend and the developing strong social skills is a crucial stepping stone towards success in school. Friends provide much needed emotional and social support, which can improve the self-esteem, motivation and willingness to learn as an individual.

Diversity is all around us, and schools acknowledge everyone’s differences. We all have different learning abilities, learning speeds and motivations when it comes to academic work. It is exciting to see schools giving disabled children a chance to mingle with the integration of the special education population into general education classrooms. If this persists, special education will change as we know it but it will change for the better.

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