The teacher is then given this goal oriented time specific goal development document to aide in supplementing or altering instruction to meet the needs of the specialized student in inclusion and seclusion. (Filler & Xu, 2006, p. 92) This document and its development are created whenever and individual child is observed and then designated to need such assistance based on his or her inability to meet age appropriate developmental goals, in large part based on standardized developmental scales that designate age appropriate ranges for physical and cognitive skill development and though they have been around almost since the inception of IDEA and the LRE they were not always developed or used to their fullest extent for any given child. (Filler & Xu, 2006, p. 92) Filler & Xu also stress that inclusion is not successful if a child with special needs is simply placed in a classroom with average learning students in his or her age group, instead they stress that meaningful interaction is the key to success and that such interaction does not occur without care planning and implementation of these plans. The IEP goes a long way to address the planning aspect but is not all inclusive of the reality of how meaningful interaction occurs, though almost as important the IEP lays the groundwork for the development of LREs for each student. (Filler & Xu, 2006, p. 92)
In recent years much more research has been done on inclusion, regarding best practices and advocacy. One example: Odom, Wolery, et al. (1999). entitled Preschool inclusion: A review from an ecological systems perspective, is summarized and further developed in a review of works, by Odem. The summary article also utilizes a substantial list of seminal works by other researchers to develop a set of what is known about inclusion and what is yet to be learned or improved upon. (Odom, 2000, p. 20) From this a list of observations supported in empirical literature has been developed and expounded upon and fundamentally paid attention to with regard to best practices and accountability. This again is proof of the trend for IDEA serving as a catalyst for experiential change and now for change implementation. One of the most significant changes to the IDEA legislation is the manner in which IEPs have become more fluid, in other words IEPs can be amended, midterm without the time cost of convening the IEP committee and with the approval of parents, teachers and administrators when the real classroom needs of the student must be taken into consideration. (National Collaberative on Workforce and Disability, 2004, pp. 1-4) Another fundamental change that has allowed the fear of GE teachers to be set aside is the language in the law that perceptually gave GE teachers and other educators only very limited alternatives for destructive behavior interventions. Where the old law gave the special needs child almost cart blanc to act in whatever manner they felt necessary, including but not limited to physically harming others. Teachers and others now have the authority to remove these students when such event occur and then review the manner in which either the student's particular disability affected behavior or if there was some fault of the educational environment that contributed or caused such behavior. This aspect of change has allowed educators a far greater ability to both psychologically and functionally address serious harmful behavior. (National Collaberative on Workforce and Disability, 2004, p. 3)
According to Odom the outcomes of inclusive classrooms are for the most part positive as children with disabilities do as well as they might do in special education classes and some research suggests better performance on developmental skills. In addition to this the researcher claims that the research also supports the fact that disabled children tend to have better behavioral performance in LRE settings as they model the behavior of normally developing children and lastly typically developing children seem to develop better attitudes with regard to disabled children and gain greater knowledge of different types of disabilities. (Odom, 2000, p. 20) One of the most consistent findings among researchers on the subject, according to Odom is that disabled children have less social interactions than do typically developing peers in inclusive classrooms. This indication is likely in part do to fear of rejection of experiences of rejection of disabled children in inclusive classrooms.
Children with disabilities engage in social interaction with peers less often than typically developing children in inclusive classrooms. Early interventions are required as well as fundamental application of socialization programs and Odom and others stress that this outcome is the most concerning of the inclusive setting and needs further address and development. (Odom, 2000, p. 22)
Another interesting finding is that inclusion is not necessarily a universal concept as it means different things to different people and institutions which is at the heart of the LRE trend and hopefully benefits the child above all others. Coming up with a comprehensive and universal definition of inclusion is an essential next step in formulating greater universal understanding of inclusion. To some degree the variations in definitions demonstrates variations in program context and content. Quality on the other hand seems to be as good or statistically better in inclusive classrooms for both typically developing and disabled children and as good or better as traditional special education settings. In these inclusive classrooms special (IEP) programs and curriculum have been employed successfully and have been successfully blended with traditional curriculum. (Odom, 2000, p. 23) Odem has done well here in once again establishing the benefits of inclusion in a very substantive and evidentiary manner. The question now is how has the face of inclusion and the LRE changed over the last nearly 10 years. What has honestly changed is the fluidity of the process and the incorporation of real checks and balances within the process of IEP development and implementation.
….schools are being monitored based on the percentage of time students with disabilities are spending with their general education peers. If schools report that students with IEPs spend significant time out-side of the general education classroom, they are mandated to take corrective action with the support and supervision of the state. There are many involved in the process who see this as a pivotal and potentially transformative moment in the history of educational inclusion in K-12 education. (Skilton-Sylvester & Slesaransky-Poe, 2009)
This change, though it does not come without discomfort forces schools to look at both the individual needs of the child and the way in which the school environment does or does not meet the needs of the child. Without taking the ideology out of the mix the new legislation forces accountability. This may bee seen by some members of a team as invasive but should be seen by all as a fundamentally important opportunity for making the ideologies of inclusion, which have been established for decades, meet the reality of inclusive school environments. If such changes really prove transformative, which we are likely to know very soon then their goal of accountability will be met and educators and learners will be better equipped to respond to the real needs of special needs students. As a special education administrator the most important delineation is to continue to see the changes as a fundamentally positive opportunity to make the ideologies meet the realities and to support the fluidity of accountability processes and the continued development of experiential best practices for students and schools.
Filler, J., & Xu, Y. (2006). Including Children with Disabilities in Early Childhood Education Programs: Individualizing Developmentally Appropriate Practices. Childhood Education, 83 (2), 93-102.
Kavale, K., & Forness, S. (2000). History, Rhetoric and Reality. Remedial Special Education, 21 (5), 279-291.
National Collaberative on Workforce and Disability. (2004, December). Special Education Law Enacted. Retrieved March 12, 2010, from ERIC: http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICDocs/data/ericdocs2sql/content_storage_01/0000019b/80/1b/ac/d8.pdf
Odom, S. (2000). Preschool Inclusion: What We Know and Where We Go from Here. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 20 (1), 20-25.
Paulsen, K.J. (2008). School-Based Collaboration: An Introduction to the Collaboration Column. Intervention in School and Clinic, 43 (5), 313-315.
Russoa, C.J., Osborneb, a.G., & Borreca, E. (2005). The 2004 re-authorization of the Individuals…