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Sunday, April 1, 2007

Inclusive Education

Inclusive Education refers to placement and education of students with disabilities in general education classrooms with students of the same age who are absolutely normal. It aims at educating children with special needs in mainstream schools wherever possible. All students of the school become part of the group irrespective of their strengths and weaknesses. No individual is made to feel that he is an outsider and can identify with everyone in the group including students, teachers and other staff. The federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) with its 1997 amendments states that schools must educate children with and without disabilities in the same classrooms. It is a totally new way of looking at communities and schools.The relationship that teachers build with their students is of primary importance. Teachers must reach out to every child irrespective of his background and weaknesses. Each child must be handled with respect to a different context. Separate expectations and goals must be set for each student and this is an extremely difficult task for teachers. They must rely on intuition rather than formal methods of education to deal with disabled children. Teachers must work in close co-ordination with parents and other special education teachers to be able to gauge what is the best way of handling different situations. Each child should be treated as an opportunity for improvement rather than a problem. Teachers must be very flexible and learn to take all levels of ambiguity in their stride. All students must be encouraged to improve their self-esteem, not only the disabled ones.Initially all students should be made to learn together and gradually move onto diverse environments depending on specific needs. When the surroundings are adjusted to the needs of students, an overall development takes place. The physical and motor skills develop along with other social abilities.Children with greater developed skills learn to develop better tolerance levels for those who are below average. It is always easier to include children in a group at an early stage rather than trying to fit them into fully formed groups with fixed mindsets later. Inclusive education aims at benefiting each student in the classroom rather than just some of them.There is a school of thought that says students with disabilities which are “cured” should be included only. But what happens to those whose disabilities that may never be cured outside the classroom? Maybe being with normal children is the cure itself. It is very likely that normal children today may have to handle disabilities in the future in terms of their relatives, neighbors and co-workers. Having spent time and grown up with disabled children goes a long way in building patience and strengthening relationships.Inclusive Education must be accepted as an integral part of general education. Regular teachers from the primary level right to the higher secondary level need to be trained in the area of integrated education. Activities and course structures need to be modified. Parents need to be suitably educated and the right level of technology needs to be used. Above all, a positive attitude towards the disability is one of the main factors that will result in successful implementation of this system.

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