If every child has special needs, what are special needs children? Cade is a special needs child. Cade is also an energetic, loving, friendly, and helpful to his fellow students. The school that he attends has a program called “Getting Caught in the Act” whereby students are rewarded if they are caught in the act of doing something good. Cade plays with Legos, licks the frosting off of the cupcake, can beat just about any video game and regularly “gets caught in the act” at his school. He is like any other child except that Cade has Williams Syndrome (Gorton). Cade is also mainstreamed into general education classes and will someday be fully included with the rest of his peers where he belongs.
While the terms mainstreaming and inclusion have been used interchangeably to describe the educational approach to teaching students with special needs, the philosophy of the two methodologies are vastly different. Educating students whose disabilities are well-suited to a traditional classroom setting is generally thought to help those students emerge from school better prepared for life, both educationally and socially. Inclusion supporters also note that not meeting the curricular needs of students will make it difficult for the student to learn and most likely, lead to behavior problems as well. In addition, familiarizing conventional students with students with disabilities in neutral, standard classrooms has helped bridge the misunderstanding gap.
As more schools recognize the advantages of teaching special needs students in the “least restrictive environment,” the procedure of “inclusion” is becoming the preferred method to help these students reach their educational best. But that has not always been the school of thought. Overcoming long-held beliefs regarding education can become insurmountable barriers (Ferguson). In the past, students who were physically or mentally disabled were often sent to special schools or institutions and shuttered away from traditional education institutions. Students with special needs or labeled as “learning disabled” were segregated to institutions or “special education classrooms.” “The movement of disabled students from institutionalization to public school – from isolation to segregation – may be dated from about 1910 with the formation of permanent segregated classes in the public schools” (Winzer 367). Sadly, that practice had remained the standard until the late twentieth century.
There have been periods of great momentum; the 1940s may be considered a significant decade in special education. Improved conditions for all disabled individuals, for their teachers, and for their parents was a result of changing perceptions and commitment to exceptional students and their education during the war and postwar period (Winzer 372). The 1950s brought about even more sensitivities toward disabled persons. Expanded public school services for the mentally retarded were viewed as a civil right....