According to the 2000 U.S. Census, 19.4% of all Americans are affected by some form of disability. Among the population with disability, people over 65 years old, African Americans, single parent families, and low-income families are more likely to become victims of disability. As a reflection in school settings, 12% of school-aged children have been diagnosed with some type of disability.
“Inclusion” means that students with disabilities have a right to be integrated into general education classes regardless of their ability to meet “traditional” academic standards. Although not required by the Federal special education law (IDEA), “inclusion” has been frequently discussed by educators and parents of disabled children. Inclusion has its roots in the belief that segregating students with disability from general education classes, is same as segregating African American students from “white” schools, thus is morally and ethically wrong.
However, there are some issues and concerns related to full inclusion, such as “Are all children with disabilities feasible for inclusion, regardless of the types and degrees of their disabilities?” “What impact will inclusion have on nondisabled children?” “Are general classroom teachers prepared to provide appropriate instructional services to those children with special needs?”
I sometimes listen to “The Long Lost Love” at FM103.7, in which a detective would help people find out where their long lost love ended up today. One morning, a lady called in, instead of a “long lost love”, she wanted to find out a “long lost bully” who had been harassed her from 1st grade to high school. This lady was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, which made her the laughing stock of the bully. The trauma was so intense both in degree and length, that years after graduating from high school, the lady would had nightmares of being bullied again and woke up in panic in the midnight. The bully was found ended up in jail, which was not a surprise. But one question hovering in my mind was, why the girl (and her parents) didn’t try to avoid the bully by going to a different school, or special education school/program? Maybe back then, children like her did not have other choices except for going to a public school and put up with the possible side effects of “inclusion”, which could sarcastically turned into a trend 20 years later. I wonder how this lady would comment on "inclusion".
Should children with disability be included or excluded? First, it depends on the types and degrees of their disabilities. Second, it depends on the children’s needs and parents' choices. While some parents of disabled children consider “inclusion” as desirable, others may rather choose being excluded from normal school settings and turn to special education, where the children with disability could be better protected from harm, get full attention from their teachers, who are also supposed to have received special trainings on teaching these children. What education agencies, administrators and educators should do, is to make sure all children with disability have the right and freedom to make their own choices based on their own needs.