Children with Learning Disabilities in Chile: Strategies to Facilitate Integration
NEVA MILICIC AND MARÍA PÍA SIUS
Traditionally, regular Chilean schools have marginahzed children with special educational needs. For instance, children with moderate disabilities are segregated at all levels of the educational system. The services offered to children with mild disabilities (e.g., specific learning disabilities or mild mental retardation) are more varied, but they have always tended to be segregated. These children may be enrolled in special education schools segregated from the regular school system or, if they are served in the mainstream, their needs are not addressed. Therefore, these students are condemned to academic failure and to drop out of school.
In the case of children with specific learning disabilities, most of their schooling takes place in the regular classroom. This is, undoubtedly, a great advantage toward their integration. However, it poses a problem to general education teachers, who face many difficulties without having additional or specialized support. This situation leads to attitudinal problems, making it difficult for the teachers to accept these children, which in turn may propitiate the students' segregation in the school context. These factors place their psychological development at risk, especially for the potential impact on their self-image and self-esteem.
Although the different special alternatives outside the regular school system satisfy a real need for attention, they do not consider many other potential effects of segregation. For instance, these alternatives focus attention on the disability and ignore the person as a whole, denying children the opportunity to relate to nondisabled peers, who constitute the majority of the community to which they belong and with whom they will deal in the future.