What is Mainstreaming in Special Education?

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The term “mainstreaming” was first used in 1975 by Richard E. Mayer, an American educator who helped bring special education into the mainstream of society. Nowadays, this refers to any strategy that aims to make autism a normal part of life for all people with disabilities.

Mainstreaming is a process of integrating students with disabilities into general education settings. It allows students to have more access to the curriculum and teachers in order to fully participate in school life. This process can be difficult for both students and teachers because it requires a shift in mindset and expectations.

Every youngster should have an equal opportunity to get an education. In certain nations, this isn’t always a privilege or even a right. Every kid in the US is legally entitled to a free suitable public education (FAPE):

  • regardless of academic standing
  • financial standing
  • cultural context

More precisely, a student’s impairment cannot be used as a reason for exclusion by a school or instructor. Thank goodness, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) guarantees that all kids who meet the requirements for special education may benefit from teaching of the same caliber. In the least restricted setting possible, they have access to the same educational resources as their classmates who are not impaired. According to the IDEA, “Children with disabilities, including those in public or private institutions or other care facilities, are educated with children who are not disabled, to the maximum extent appropriate; and Special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only if the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementa

The voluminous language and acronyms used in the area of special education (SPED) are all too familiar to those who work in it or whose children attend special education classes. In the field of special education, the phrases mainstreaming and inclusion are often employed. Despite the frequent interchangeability of these names, they do not historically refer to the same movements or have the same meaning. 

What Does Education Mainstreaming Mean?

Some individuals think the phrase “mainstreaming” has a bad ring to it. Others utterly miss the point and misrepresent what it implies. What does mainstreaming mean in the context of special education? Instead of putting children with disabilities in separate classes and providing them with entirely different curriculum, the term “mainstreaming” refers to integrating them into the “mainstream” of education (BrightHubEd).

For pupils whose impairments are so severe that they hinder both their own and other students’ ability to study, the majority of public schools still provide self-contained classes. A student with a disability is integrated into a general education class with a special education teacher as a co-teacher or with an assistant who is familiar with the kid and can make sure the student has access to the same educational resources. 

The basic goal of mainstreaming is to provide kids with disabilities the same opportunity as other students in the normal classroom to:

  • access guidance
  • acquire knowledge
  • develop personally
  • take part in the academic and social opportunities that a school offers.

Making all the adjustments a student needs to succeed is another aspect of mainstreaming. How does this appear?

  • In order for a student with vision impairment to have access to the same reading material as their classmates, big print textbooks or audiobooks may be provided.
  • A student with a physical impairment may utilize a modified desk in the classroom to fit their body type.
  • If a kid has sensory issues, their classroom may need to be free of bright, harsh fluorescent lighting or other visual stimulation.

The individual education plan (IEP) for the student details these modifications (IEP). The multidisciplinary team that creates these specialized plans is acquainted with the student. They explain each specific need for accommodations a student has. The special education teacher and support personnel are responsible for ensuring that an IEP is followed.

Describe inclusion.

Inclusion and mainstreaming are distinct in that, in the opinion of the professionals at Bright Hub Education:

“The premise behind inclusion is that pupils with disabilities shouldn’t be placed in a separate classroom from their classmates who are usually developing. Even if she is not necessarily making any major advances, a student in an inclusion classroom often simply has to demonstrate that she is not losing out by being included in the class. Although this generalization may not true to all inclusion settings, inclusion advocates sometimes place more of an emphasis on social and life skills than on the development of academic abilities that are acceptable for their level. 

Regardless of mainstreaming or inclusion, the fundamental objective is to provide a student-centered educational environment. No two pupils with the same disability are precisely same, just as no two thumbprints are the same. 

Making All Classrooms Child-Friendly

When it comes to classroom décor, some instructors love to follow the hottest trends on Pinterest. Others have an overarching theme that they tweak for each holiday. The lavish decorations, glam, and sparkle aren’t the only things that go into making a classroom that is kid-focused and kid-friendly. It entails making certain that every student can fully engage in the activities in the classroom regardless of their:

  • academic standing
  • physical impairment
  • obscurity of disability

The impact of classroom design on students’ learning is shown through a research titled “The Impact of Classroom Design on Pupils’ Learning.” According to the author, these three design tenets should be taken into account:

  • Light, music, temperature, air quality, and connections to nature are all natural;
  • ownership, adaptability, and connectedness via individualization;
  • Complexity and color are stimuli (at a suitable level).

When planning their classrooms, special education instructors should specifically consider the following issues: 

  • Does the seating configuration accommodate each student’s physical capabilities or does it prevent certain students from seeing certain portions of the room?
  • Do I offer differentiated activities that allow students of all skill levels to access the same curriculum?
  • Are there any objects in the space that some kids could find too visually appealing and that might distract them?
  • Is the space well-lit, and are the reading materials big enough for my kid or students who have vision problems?
  • Do I have sufficient opportunities for practicing specific abilities including social, life, and emotion regulating skills?

There are a variety of tools available for special education instructors, as well as several approaches to design a welcoming and student-focused classroom. 

The Many Benefits and Drawbacks of Education Mainstreaming

It is in compliance with state and federal regulations for a kid to be taught in what is known as the “least restrictive environment,” thus mainstreaming special education pupils is not an option. This does not, however, imply that the idea has no critics. 

The ‘cons of mainstreaming’ listed below are taken from a variety of sources. Many are based on the subjective views of parents and instructors.

  • The expense of having special education kids switch classes with regular students is an issue from an economic perspective. A school district may not be able to afford the additional staff and specialized equipment that are needed in each classroom. The process of managing an IEP requires a lot of time. Special education instructors are being forced to deviate from their area of expertise to co-teach other subjects as a result of the nation’s teacher shortage. Only when there are sufficient funds and teachers to maintain the necessary staff levels to adequately execute an IEP can mainstreaming be done successfully.  
  • Every adult who interacts with a special education student has to get extensive training on their IEP, BIP, 504, safety plan, and/or anything else is required, according to the teacher training issue. Things must be carried out and done with consistency, correctness, and faithfulness if the pupil is to make development. Just one person doing their duties improperly is all it takes to ruin a cog in the machine. People who are worried about training also claim that it takes a lot of time away from the classroom and that new hires will constantly require training. 
  • The student’s more intimate worry is that, as a result of their impairment, they could be more prone to experience bullying and exclusion in a general school setting. Teachers and parents worry about the possibility of pupils being excluded or made fun of. There are also worries that the student could not comprehend the coursework completely. These problems may lead to:
    • a poor sense of self
    • depression and/or anxiety
    • a lot of absences
  • One issue with behavior is that it could interfere with other students’ ability to study if the student with the disability has a tendency to act out or exhibit certain improper behaviors in a general education setting. Some pupils would be eager to imitate such unfavorable actions, adding to the mayhem. Special education mainstreaming is not a one-size-fits-all strategy. It is not always suitable. The ideal educational environment for each kid has to be carefully considered.

There are benefits when there are drawbacks. Examples of some advantages of mainstreaming include the following: 

  • All kids may become a part of their neighborhood and cultivate a feeling of community. Both children and adults are better equipped to live in the community.
  • The traditional classroom offers superior learning chances. When they study in classrooms alongside other kids, kids of all levels are often more motivated to learn.
  • All of the children have greater aspirations. Successful inclusion aims to enhance a person’s talents and skills.
  • Students receiving special education may pursue personal objectives while interacting with peers their own age when they are mainstreamed.
  • A mainstreamed classroom strategy promotes parents’ participation in their kids’ education and in the goings-on at their neighborhood schools.
  • It promotes a sense of respect and community. Additionally, it offers the chance to become aware of and accepting of individual diversity.
  • It gives all kids the chance to get along with one another and form friendships. Friendships provide opportunity for development and role models.

Regardless of personal preference, every student is entitled by law to the opportunity to study in the setting with the fewest restrictions. For many kids, doing so entails leaving resource and self-contained classes and entering a co-taught or aided normal classroom environment. Every item of technology, equipment, and supplies that a student with a disability requires and that is specified in their IEP must be acquired by school systems. Even though there may be barriers to mainstream education, it normally has a beneficial impact on both the student and others. 

Taylor Wilson

Northeastern State University offers the Master of Education degree.

Disorders of Behavior and Learning | Georgia State University

April 2020

More Interesting Articles

Mainstreaming is a process that can be used to help students with autism transition into regular classrooms. This practice has been shown to increase social-emotional skills, communication skills and academic achievement. Examples of mainstreaming in education include inclusion classrooms and resource rooms. Reference: examples of mainstreaming in education.

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