One of the major reform initiatives in education involves the inclusion of students with disabilities in general education classrooms. While many positive results may occur from this integrated approach to education, such as increased academic achievement of special needs students (Willis, 1994), and improved acceptance and interaction between students with and without disabilities (Cole & Meyer, 1991; Sasso & Rude, 1988), concerns have surfaced.
A major challenge of inclusion relates directly to the role of teachers in this type of educational setting. They are being asked to assume the added responsibility of successfully meeting the diverse academic needs of the students with special needs through adapted curriculum and techniques, while still providing an instructional setting which is conducive to learning and achievement for all students.
Facilitating the learning process in supportive surroundings is obviously not a novel objective. However, with the inclusion of students diagnosed with learning, behavioral, emotional, and social difficulties, the teacher must now ensure a positive academic environment while regularly addressing issues which previously had fallen rather exclusively within the domain of special education.
One of these issues focuses on student behavioral management and the provision of appropriate behavioral interventions. Inclusion is requiring teachers to adjust their conceptualization of behavioral management to include a broader range of students (Kilgore & Rubin, 1995), including those with serious learning and behavioral concerns. Consequently, educators may need to extend their knowledge base beyond what they have traditionally used as classroom and behavioral management techniques, to ensure a repertoire of available options.
It is incumbent upon educators to examine alternative behavioral management strategies conducive to implementation in the inclusive setting. One such method borrows concepts from solution-focused counseling interventions. While discourse regarding the use of solution-- focused brief counseling as a therapeutic and clinical technique may be found in the professional literature (Elliott, 1985; Epstein, 1992; Hoyt, Strong, Corcoran, & Robbins, 1993; Kelly, Hall, & Miller, 1989; Loar, 1995; Mallinckrodt, 1993; Steenbarger, 1992), its movement into the school setting is relatively recent. There is some discussion of its practice by school counselors (Littrell, Malia, Nichols, Olson, Nesselhuf, Crandell, 1992; Littrell, Malia, & Vanderwood, 1995; Sklare, 1997), but there is little information on how concepts from this theory could be used by teachers. We intend to demonstrate the utility of this approach and its potential for successful implementation by teachers with students with special needs in inclusive classrooms.
Why Alternatives to Traditional Behavior Management Techniques are Needed in Inclusive Classrooms
Often, educators have relied on some type of behavior modification to encourage behavioral change in students. This has been particularly true of special education teachers who have used behavioral strategies with some degree of frequency (Bender, 1998).
Generally, behavior modification strategies can be categorized according to procedures which increase behaviors and those which decrease behaviors (Morgan & Jenson, 1988). Examples of behavior modification techniques include positive reinforcement programs (Alberto & Troutman, 1995; Lerner, 1997), time-out procedures (Mercer, 1997), and the removal of reinforcers, such as privileges, for the occurrence of unacceptable behaviors (Simpson, 1998).
Techniques of behavior modification may often be the most efficacious response to resolving particular problems or increasing appropriate behaviors in specific students with special needs (Simpson, 1998; Walker, Colvin, & Ramsey, 1995). However, as with most intervention techniques, they do have limitations. …