Shocking and demeaning words such as idiot, moron, and retard were once used as actual labels for disabled children in special education. “Prior to 1975, schools were not mandated to educate students with disabilities . . . . [Those with disabilities] were deemed to be uneducable and were barred from entering schools” (“Exceptional Students”).
Federal and state laws, as well as mandates, now require schools to educate all children with disabilities in the least restrictive environment, to the maximum extent possible. The least restrictive environment is considered to be the general or the “regular” education classroom. The preferred language of today is the term “general education classroom”, because using the word “regular” implies that special education rooms would then be considered ‘irregular”. Schools are also bound by law to provide “a full continuum of services” which simply means they need to be able to provide all placement options, from the least restrictive to the most restrictive environment, such as an institution. Each special needs student also has an individualized education plan to meet their unique needs.
Inclusion is a controversial subject which has been debated for decades. Susan Crowell in her article, Inclusion in the Classroom: Has it Gone Too Far?, explains that “inclusion is the idea that all children, including those with disabilities, should and can learn in a regular classroom.” In theory, the idea of all students being included and educated together is a philosophy which sounds morally correct, especially when considering that the disabled were not always treated with compassion. Often the disabled were institutionalized and banished from society, even in recent history. Marsha Keefer reports in, The Beaver County Times, that those with “physical deformities and mental maladies” were often housed as inmates in what was known as poorhouses. Surprisingly, poorhouse operations only ceased to exist in Potter Township, in 1959. As late as 1970, “schools educated only one in five children with disabilities, and many states had laws excluding certain students, including children who were deaf, blind, emotionally disturbed, or mentally retarded” (United States). Society has struggled and still continues to struggle with how the disabled fit into communities, how they are cared for, and how they are educated.
In recent years, there have been state budget cuts and underfunded federal mandates which have affected education. These cuts to education also raise the issue of being able to support the move towards an inclusion model correctly, when considering all the extra supports and specialized training that is required for teachers and staff to successfully teach all children in inclusion classrooms.
Those who embrace full-inclusion believe that all children should be educated together in the general education environment. Supporters of inclusion think that it is best to educate...