Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Putting Inclusion into Practice: Perspectives of Teachers and Parents

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Putting Inclusion into Practice: Perspectives of Teachers and Parents

Article excerpt

Placing students with disabilities in general education classrooms with out-of-class special instruction is the latest practice in a trend of approaches to meeting the requirement of "least restrictive environment" mandated by the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 (now the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). The term inclusion, used for this practice, has been defined as "serving students with a full range of abilities and disabilities in the general education classroom, with appropriate in-class support" (Roach, 1995, p. 295). In such settings, children with disabilities are "considered as full members of the classroom learning community, with their special needs met there" (Friend & Bursuck, 1996, p. 4).

Numerous professional organizations have commented on and endorsed the practice of inclusion. For example, the Division for Early Childhood of The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) published a Position Statement on Inclusion in April 1993, endorsed by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. It clearly supported the ideals not only of inclusive classrooms but also of strong parent involvement within such settings. Indeed, these are two important trends in the education of children with disabilities that have become accepted as best practice (Hilton & Henderson, 1993; Ryndak Downing, Jacqueline, & Morrison, 1995 ).

A body of research now exists on the consequences of educating children with disabilities in classrooms alongside children without disabilities This research has shown positive effects for children with disabilities in areas such as reaching individualized education program (IEP) goal (Hunt, Goetz, & Anderson, 1986), improving communication and social skills (Jenkins, Odom, & Speltz, 1989), increasing positive peer interactions (Lord & Hopkins, 1986), many educational outcomes (Slavin, 1990), and postschool adjustment (Piuma, 1989). Positive effects on children without disabilities include the development of positive attitudes and perceptions of persons with disabilities (Voeltz, 1982) and the enhancement of social status with nondisabled peers (Sasso & Rude, 1988).

Strong parent involvement was first given serious consideration in Bronfenbrenner's (1974) review of early childhood programs. He concluded that strategies for early intervention that included parents were more effective in improving the child's performance than those that did not include parent involvement. Bronfenbrenner's later writings emphasized the ecologies in which young children live, a perspective that eventually led to his theory of viewing families as systems within other systems (1977, 1979). Bronfenbrenner viewed the microsystem as "a complex of interrelations within the [child's] immediate setting," which includes not only the child's interactions with his or her parents, peers, and teachers, but also the "connections between other persons present in the setting, the nature of these links, and their indirect influence on the developing person through their effect on those who deal with him firsthand" (1979, p. 7). Bronfenbrenner's ecological perspective influenced the way in which early intervention programs viewed families, sparking the development of models of effective relationships and interactions between families and service providers (Bailey & Simeonsson, 1988; Dunst, 1985).

Putting the Theory of Inclusion Into Practice

Bricker (1995) describes three factors that influence the practice of inclusion: attitudes (e.g., views about inclusion), resources (e.g., access to specialists; collaborative planning), and curricula (e.g., activity-based; promoting interaction). However, Bricker notes that inclusion too often is addressed "exclusively at the conceptual level" (p. 192). She quotes a personal communication from Rick Brinker (February 26, 1993): "Of particular concern is the fact that little empirical effort is invested in describing what is actually happening in the integrated environment and how to support efforts so better things happen" (Bricker, 1995, p. …

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