Mainstreaming Special Education Students: The Parent Role
By Dr. Kenneth Shore
Parents play an integral role in determining the program when their child is recommended for special education. Your child’s program will be based on what is contained in a document called an Individualized Education Program (IEP), which you will be involved in developing. This IEP cannot be implemented without your written consent.
Here are some basic things you need to know about mainstreaming. The purpose of mainstreaming is to help children with disabilities adjust to being with their non-disabled peers and to help them adapt to the demands of a regular-education class. Mainstreaming also serves a secondary but no less important goal: to help children in regular classes learn to be accepting and understanding of classmates who may differ from them in some way.
Federal law as well requires that children with educational disabilities be mainstreamed as much as possible as long as their needs can be met in the regular setting. In the language of the federal law, students with disabilities must be placed in what is called the “least restrictive environment.” Determining what is the least restrictive environment for a particular student requires balancing the need for the child to learn to integrate socially with his non-disabled peers with the need for the child to receive instruction appropriate to his abilities.
The decision about which classes to mainstream a student in should be based on the child’s particular learning and behavioral characteristics. What may be appropriate for one student may not be for another, what may be restrictive for one student may not be for another. Some disabled students may be placed in a special-education program for the entire day. Others may be placed in a combination of regular- and special-education classes. And still others may be mainstreamed for the entire school day.
Research indicates that many children with disabilities, even those with severe disabilities, can have some success socially and academically in mainstream settings as long as they have support in the regular class. The kind of support needed will vary with the student. Some mainstreamed students may need an aide or even a special-education teacher with them in the regular class.
With other students, it may be sufficient for the regular teacher to make some accommodations in the classroom. For example, the teacher might seat him next to a responsible student who can assist him, allow the student extra time to take tests, give him oral tests, have him complete every other item or problem on the homework, or have another student take notes for him.