Why Inclusion in Special Education Is Failing
Inclusion Saves Us Money in the Short-Term Because Kids Don't Get the Services They Need
Parents, Beware: Don't Buy the Inclusion Lie!
Inclusion in special education is a big fat lie that bureaucrats brazenly sell to unwitting parents and society as a whole. By foolishly buying this falsehood, moms and dads sign away a child's chance to receive the unique services needed to ensure progress at school: speech and occupational therapies, small group activities, and one-on-one direct instruction. How does the inclusion lie work? A familiar tale from childhood serves to explain.
The Inclusion Lie and The Emperor's New Clothes
Remember the tale from childhood called The Emperor's New Clothes by Hans Christian Andersen? Pretending they were gifted weavers, two swindlers arrive in town to con the emperor and his staff. They convince everyone they make fabulous clothes that everyone admires. But they cleverly add one warning: anyone who is stupid or unfit for his job cannot see these amazing clothes. To the eyes of these foolish folks, they're invisible. Person after person compliments the non-existent wardrobe, not wanting to seem dumb and incompetent. When the Emperor parades down the road, an innocent little boy finally shouts the truth: “He's naked!”
Inclusion is just like the Emperor's new clothes – there's nothing there! Special education bureaucrats, just like the two swindlers, convince parents they're getting something remarkable for their children when, in fact, they're getting nothing. While they peddle inclusion to save money, their practice is actually penny wise, pound foolish. Yes, school districts save money on early intervention services for young children, but they then need to shell out even more funds later when these youngsters struggle in elementary school, middle school, high school, and life. The lack of early intervention services leads to some of society's greatest problems: high drop-out rates, more mental illness, and an increase in homelessness.
Inclusion Is Like the Emperor's New Clothes Because There's Nothing There!
Inclusion Was Well-Intentioned But Got Corrupted by Bureaucrats
The original intent of inclusion was a noble one – to integrate children with special needs into regular classrooms instead of keeping them isolated in resource rooms. However, as is often the case when government gets involved, things got corrupted with bureaucrats taking the reigns from experienced educators. They seized the opportunity to sell inclusion to a bunch of naïve parents (part of the rapidly growing politically correct crowd) who bought it hook, line, and sinker. After all, what sounds more politically correct than inclusion – treating all children the same regardless of whether they have Down's Syndrome, autism, ADHD, dyslexia, learning differences, or no label at all.
These parents – already vulnerable and beaten up from getting a recent diagnosis for their child – are willing to accept inclusion because it minimizes the need for special help. They think: How wonderful! All children receive instruction in the same classroom. My child won't stick out as different. Let's all join hands, sing Kumbaya, and call it a day! Unfortunately, it's not that simple.
Of course, the bureaucrats are more than happy to sell the inclusion lie to unsuspecting parents. Inclusion costs absolutely nothing – just throw the child with special needs into the regular classroom and shout: "Sink or swim!" It also creates cushy jobs for other bureaucrats who visit these students in classrooms – omnipresent clipboards in hand – to document their progress. The paperwork created from one child with special needs could fill an entire file cabinet but does nothing to help the kid.
Rob Reiner Is an Advocate for Real Services to Help Children With Special Needs.
Thanks to Meathead, California Leads the Way in Providing Early Intervention Services
Unlike most states, California has made early intervention services a priority – thanks in large part to the actor/director, Rob Reiner, best known for playing Meathead on All in the Family and directing over 50 movies such as When Harry Met Sally and The Princess Bride. In 1998 Reiner led the campaign to pass Prop 10, the California Children and Families Initiative. The passage of this initiative created First 5 California, a program of early childhood development services. First 5 California is a proactive organization that offers concrete services for children 0-5 and their families through parent education, coaching for early learning professionals, health and nutrition counseling, prenatal services, and early literacy events.
If your child with special needs is born in California like my son with autism, he'll receive many explicit services such as speech and occupational therapies, small group activities, and one-on-one direct instruction. In the three years my son received early intervention services in the Napa Valley, no early education professional ever uttered the word inclusion. My son attended a regular preschool where he was fully involved in all activities. But he also attended weekly speech and occupational therapy sessions where he received the individualized one-on-one attention he needed to guarantee rapid progress. When starting kindergarten, he required minimal help.
The investment in my son's early years paid off in spades - not only for my own family but for society as a whole. According to Mental Health America, research shows that the period between prenatal development and age 14 is the time to intervene. In doing so, we can prevent conditions that plague our society: suicide, school drop-outs, involvement in the juvenile justice system, homelessness, and mental health issues.
Oregon: Putting All Their Eggs in One Basket
Make no mistake about it, those with degrees in special education know full well that inclusion is not the one-size-fits-all solution for children with special needs. But many of them go along with the inclusion lie because they're no longer acting as educators looking out for the best interest of young children but bureaucrats looking to keep costs low. This is especially true in states such as Oregon that have limited funds for early intervention services.
I experienced this for myself when we moved from California to Oregon and I began working as a preschool teacher. The early intervention services my son received in the Golden State were not here. I had a child with Down's Syndrome in my class and inherited his whole team of early intervention specialists. They visited, interrupted my class, filled out paperwork, but offered no services to this child who clearly needed one-on-one speech and occupational therapies. His parents were so thrilled that he was just “one of the guys” that they were willing to forgo the special help he desperately needed. The early intervention team did nothing to convince them otherwise. These adults squandered that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for early intervention services.
Parents need to understand that inclusion in a regular classroom – if proper – is just one feature of a child's overall program. It's not a comprehensive plan. When bureaucrats say otherwise and mislead parents, they're no longer after the best interest of the youngster. That's why it's crucial that parents read up on services that are necessary for their child's progress and become informed advocates. The services are available from the government but parents must push for them – or get them from the private sector. Ninety percent of a child's brain develops from birth to 5 so this is the time to act and not be conned. Parents beware: inclusion in special education is the biggest lie of them all.
Over-reliance on Inclusion
Why do you think states such as Oregon rely almost solely on inclusion?
This Book Helped Me Survive After Hearing My Son's Autism Diagnosis, Giving Me Hope and Peace of Mind
As a teacher and mother of an autistic son, I know firsthand inclusion is not enough. My child benefited immensely from early intervention services – weekly speech and occupational therapies. I was there every step of the way, learning how to continue the activities at home so my son made fast and efficient progress. This book details how important parental involvement is and how school and home must work together. It's a valuable resource and I highly recommend it to parents.
© 2015 McKenna Meyers