Integration and Inclusion: Changing Meanings

By Sherrill, Claudine | Palaestra, Spring 2006 | Go to article overview

Integration and Inclusion: Changing Meanings


Sherrill, Claudine, Palaestra


Integration and inclusion are psychosocial processes of enormous complexity. Current special education literature uses both terms (e.g., Lemay, 2006; Sindelar, Shearer, Yendol-Hoppey, & Liebert, 2006), whereas most adapted physical activity literature, since the 1990s, uses inclusion. Dictionary definitions, however, note a subtle difference between integration and inclusion (e.g., Dattilo, 2002; Lemay, 2006). The current Oxford Dictionary states:

Integrate: Combine (parts) into a whole; complete (an imperfect tiring) by the addition of parts; bring or come into equal participation in or membership of society, a school, etc.

Include: Comprise or reckon in as a part of a whole.

The processes in these definitions are psychosocial in that they encompass the sociology of group composition and change, social roles, interpersonal understanding, friendship, social stratification, and the dynamics of social justice, as well as the psychology of human development and behavior, ecological interactions, attitude change, exercise adherence, motivation, traits and states, and numerous other processes. These subject matter areas form the theoretical base of integration and inclusion; yet few physical education, recreation, and sport (PERS) professionals have taken course work in or collaborated with sociology, psychology, or social psychology departments.

The purpose of this Issues article is to stimulate critical thinking about the meaning of integration and inclusion. Reviewers of literature report both absence of definitions and a "multiplicity of definitions and terminological confusion" (Lemay, 2006, p. 1). One side of this issue supports clear definitions as guides to practice. The other side apparently sees little relationship between definitions and interventions. Consider how many ways success of integration and inclusion interventions can be measured: (a) number of persons with and without disabilities in the same physical space; (b) frequency and quality of personal interactions; (c) surveys of attitudes, beliefs, intentions, and behaviors; or (d) qualitative methods like interviews. Which do you use? Why? Are your definitions consistent with your measurement approaches?

Location or Services?

According to Dattilo (2002), author of Inclusive Leisure Services, the major difference between integration and inclusion is that integration implies bringing a person who previously has been segregated into mainstream community and school life--integration, thus, is mainly about placement or location. In contrast, inclusion asserts that, everyone is born in the mainstream (i. e., a "part from the star") and thus has a right to both opportunities and responsibilities. Inclusion, therefore, extends beyond location to focus on services, supplementary aid, and supports enabling the greatest possible benefits from being a part of the whole. This explanation is consistent with recent judicial interpretations of the least restrictive environment (LRE) requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) and its amendments (Carter & LeCondy, 2004; Williamson, McLeskey, Hoppey, & Rentz, 2006).

The Issue of LRE and Continuum of Placements

LRE originally was a continuum of placements to ameliorate the problem of school districts offering only special education or general education (GE). Creators of the LRE concept believed many placement options would better meet each student's assessed needs as indicated in the individualized educational program (IEP). However, Congress favored the integration of students with and without disabilities whenever possible, and the LRE was increasingly visualized as GE. In the early 1990s, moreover, several court cases challenged segregated IEP placements and won, ruling that the LRE should be inclusion in GE with supports and supplementary aids (Block, 1996). Today this is the trend in defining LRE. Amendments to IDEA supported court decisions, and national organizations produced position statements on inclusion (e.

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