Recently in the Readers' Forum, someone argued against the mainstreaming of "special needs" children in public schools because of "disruptive behavior." In doing so, she failed to recognize that at times all of us have special needs and that even the most "normal" children display disruptive behavior.
Her argument cited an isolated incident and listed drawbacks against mainstreaming based on personal feelings and not proven facts. In such a case, it is necessary that the facts be presented for her benefit and for the benefit of the general public.Extensive research has been conducted and published by the Developmental Center for Handicapped Persons at Utah State University. Their findings on mainstreaming special needs children are supported by literally thousands of studies that have been published by men and women who have dedicated their lives to studying and helping in the development and progress of special needs individuals. A few of the many benefits that special needs children receive as a result of mainstreaming are as follows:
1) They learn and model appropriate social behaviors from their peers.
2) Special needs children can meet and become friends with classmates who then serve as role models.
3) They are exposed to language models not available in a segregated class; as a result, communication is greatly improved.
4) Skills learned in special needs classes can be applied in real-life situations.
5) By participating in physical activities with normal children, physical skills and coordination are improved.
6) Special needs children learn how to handle the normal world, so that in adulthood they can be happy, productive members of society.
Normal children also receive many benefits from the mainstreaming of "special needs" children. They become aware of people who are "differently abled" and have special needs, thus raising self and community awareness. They have the opportunity to serve the "differently abled" and special needs individuals. They learn how to teach the special needs children to cope and adjust. They can befriend special needs individuals, learning to love and understand them, rather than fear them.
Segregating individuals from society because of their differences does not solve any problems but fosters hate and fear. The next time any one of us is faced with "disruptive behavior" from a special needs individual, let us seek to understand rather than pass judgment, and let us seek to show our love rather than our fear.
Jeremy J. Bahr