Special Education in an Inclusive Education Setting: Teacher and Advocates


Intellectual disability (ID) refers to the situation where a child, especially those below the age of 18 years, have impaired or deficits in adaptive functioning during their development (Zeldin, 2016). Individuals may fail to meet the socio-cultural developmental standards of individual freedom and social responsibility. Patients having this kind of disability may show symptoms like language delay, fine motor or adaptive delay, cognitive delay, social delays, gross motor developmental delays, behavioral disturbances, and neurologic and physical abnormalities. The condition is also characterized by deficits in general mental abilities such as planning, reasoning, judgment, problem-solving, and abstract thinking learning from experience or academic learning (Walker). People with intellectual disability have existed globally across human history in most of the cultures.

Unlike the early days when people thought that students with intellectual disabilities should be taken to special schools, the present-day notion of the people that these students should learn from a general classroom is gaining support from various international conventions such as the UN Convention. Children with intellectual disabilities are provided with inclusive education. In Switzerland for instance, inclusive practices for students with intellectual disabilities are promoted through the agreement of several provinces and by the Swiss Federal Act of 2004 on Equal Rights for disabled people (EADSNE, 2012). Studies have shown that inclusion in a general classroom with support is the best alternative to education in separate or special classrooms (Sermier, 2013).

Children with disabilities are required to be educated in the least restrictive environment (LRE). This means that children who need special education should be allowed to spend much time with their peers who do not receive special education and in the least restrictive educational program. These special children undergo an Individualized Education Program (IEP). This is a program designed to identify the child’s areas of strengths and weaknesses and to provide the least restrictive environment for the child’s education (Morin, 2016).

History of Inclusion in the United States

Special education is as old as 50 years back. About two hundred years ago, very little was done to help students with disabilities in the US, and most of them were denied adequate education. Advocacy for special education for children with disabilities begun in 1933 with the formation of advocacy groups made of parents of children who were marginalized. In the 1960s, special education saw huge support through the development of laws for granting funds to students who had disabilities (All-Star Staff, 2018).

Later on, in the 1970s, legislation was developed to ensure that children who needed special education received the education equally as those who did not require special education. Laws were made to give opportunities to these special children more than ever before. Multiple Following landmark court decisions during this year, the state was given the obligation of providing special schooling and education resources. In the present day, there are about 91% of special education funding coming from the state and local institutions. The federal funds take up the remaining 9% on meeting the federal criteria (All Star Staff, 2018).

The 1970s are known as the foundational years since it was the time significant improvements were made for the provision of special education to students with 1973, the Rehabilitation Act was developed to guarantee civil rights to all disabled persons. It also solicited for school accommodation for children with disabilities. A free and appropriate education for disabled children was then later on guaranteed by the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EHA) of 1975. The provision of peculiar opportunities to education suited to meet the needs of children with disabilities and the delivery of this unique education in the least restrictive environment possible is the foundation of the present-day US special education history (All-Star Staff, 2018). In 1997, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was developed to emphasize on individual education plans (IEPs) for all students with special needs. Also, IDEA introduced the use of individualized transition plans (ITPs) in preparation of students for success in their adulthood. Technological support and accountability for special education were later in 2001 and 2004 enhanced in schools with the introduction of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) (All-Star Staff, 2018).

Federal and State Requirements

The Brown v. Board of Education on Inclusion

One of the greatest examples in the history of the fight for inclusion in the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka verdict of 1954. This was a combination of cases relating to school segregation that had been filed in the Supreme Court in1952 ( Editors, 2009). At the beginning of the cases, the jury got into a dilemma on how to rule on the issue. Fred Vinson, who was the Chief Justice, held the opinion that the Plessy ruling should stand. However, in 1953, Vinson died and was replaced by Earl Warren who was then the California governor. The new Chief Justice then displayed great skills and determination when he successfully engineered a unanimous verdict against school segregation in 1954. According to Warren, the separate but equal doctrine of education had no place since the segregation of schools made then inherently unequal. Following this argument, the curt made a verdict stating that the plaintiffs were not given equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the 14th Amendment ( Editors, 2009). In 1955, the Supreme Court ordered that desegregation be undertaken by all schools with “all deliberate speed.” However, this decision applied only to public schools (Khan Academy, 2019). The brown v. board of education verdict is the foundation of the major federal laws regarding special education in the present-day public schools in the U.S (Rhim et al., 2017).

The law in the USA recognizes the rights of students with disability to as normal education as possible. The inclusion process and doctrine fosters the implementation of an optimally normal environment for students with a disability (McNally et al., 2001). Teachers in regular classrooms, however, have a huge responsibility to ensure the success of students with disability. They may require additional support for the children, which often include the allocation of time for the regular teacher to develop a plan for inclusion of students with special needs (McNally et al., 2001).

Categories of Disability

There are thirteen categories of disabilities identified and defined by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Autism is when a child experiences developmental disability, which affects communication, both verbal and non-verbal, and the social interactions before attaining three years (NICHCY, 2012). The effects of this kind of disability are adverse effects on the child’s education performance, engaging in stereotyped movements and repetitive activities, uncommon response to sensory experience and resistance to routine and environmental changes (NICHCY, 2012). Hearing impairment is where there is fluctuating or permanent hearing problems.

Deafness has severe hearing impairments, which hinders a child from processing information in the presence or absence of amplification. Emotional disturbance is characterized by the inability to establish and keep relationships, the persistent mood of being unhappy or depressed, fear, inappropriate behavior in normal circumstances and lack of unexplainable learning ability (NICHCY, 2012). Intellectual disability is associated with subaverage intellectual functioning that while at the same time lacking adaptive behavior. Deaf-blindness has both visual and hearing impairments, which makes it difficult to communicate.

There is orthopedic impairment includes disabilities caused by diseases like cerebral palsy, burns, fractures or amputations, and congenital anatomy. Language or speech impairment means having a communication disorder in voice or articulation. Traumatic brain injury is where there is an external physical force that damages the brain resulting in psychological or functional disability. It may result from closed or open injuries to the head, and it leads to problems in memory, motor abilities, reasoning, judgments, problem-solving, among other areas (NICHCY, 2012). This impairment excludes degenerative or congenital brain injuries. Multiple disabilities refer to simultaneous impairments that cannot be handled in a special needs school.

Visual impairment, including blindness, includes partial sight and blindness, and even when corrected, it largely affects the education performance of a child. Specific learning disability is an impairment in the basic psychological processes that involve the use and understanding of languages (NICHCY, 2012). Other health impairments refer to limited alertness, vitality, or strength ad increased alertness to the stimuli. All these disorders are said to have adverse effects on a child’s performance in education (NICHCY, 2012).

Disability under Section 504

Section 504 is a law of civil rights under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 which prohibits discrimination for people with disabilities in the private and public sectors that receive financial support; those ran by federal agencies. This section is applicable for all disabled persons regardless of their ages. It requires that the needs of the disabled students be met as those of the non-disabled students are also met (K-T Support Group). This section prohibits employees and their organizations from denying disabled individuals’ equal opportunities to services and program benefits (Fact Sheet). It thus defines the rights of the disabled in relation to participation, access, and benefits to services and different programs. It protects from discrimination the individuals who qualify to be disabled defined as people with a physical or mental impairment that limit their life’s activities (Fact Sheet).

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law that caters for the educational needs of children with special needs. It governs the education of children with disability to ensure that their needs have been met and that they are able to assess further education, employment opportunities, and independent life. It protects the children rights to access to a free appropriate public education (FAPE) (Dragoo, 2018). It also takes part in catering for the extra costs that may be incurred in educating the disabled children. This Act ensures that every child who has any form of disability in the U.S can access FAPE from the time of infancy through to when they become young adults (Lipkin and Okamoto, 2015).

IDEA was put into practice 1975 to enhance the provision of education to all children with a disability under the Education for All Handicapped Children Act P.L 94-142 (Dragoo, 2018). It was enacted after Congress realized that above half of the disabled children had no access to the appropriate educational services, and others were fully denied access to education in the public schools. Those who accessed the education had a bad experience based on the fact that they were disabled. Also, the states and local communities were not able to fund the education for the disabled; a judicial decision had realized the need to educate children with disabilities and long-term benefits could be achieved by educating them (Dragoo, 2018).

Societal Perspective on Inclusion

There are two perspectives in which the society perceive inclusion, which is the deficit perspective and the social constructivist perspective.

The Deficit Perspective

Special education is viewed from the point of either being normal or abnormal (Dudley-Marling and Burns, 2014). It is assumed that the characteristics and the abilities that human beings have stemmed from the norms focusing on them as being low intelligence and average intelligence. When people are different from the expected traits and abilities, they are viewed to be deficient in those areas. These are the people who are taken to be disabled (Dudley-Marling and Burns, 2014). The deficit results in failure to those children viewed to be in lack, and the lack is informed by the deficiency identified in different skills or abilities they may be lacking.