Tag Archives: Inclusion

Education of Disabled Students: Inclusion vs. Mainstreaming

In his book, I’m Not Here to Inspire You, Rob J. Quinn published an essay on mainsreaming vs. inclusion and why inclusion has failed. He writes that, when he was mainstreamed in the 1980s, he had to somehow prove he was capable of going to regular school, whereas currently disabled students are included in regular education at all costs.

I was mainstreamed from 1999 to 2005. I, like Quinn, had to prove I was capable of being mainstreamed. Unlike Quinn, I was the only student with my disability in my school, which I until I read Quinn’s essay considered a definition of mainstreaming: the school really caters to non-disabled people but allows disabled people in who prove they’re capable.

Quinn considiers inclusion to do a disservice to disabled students because they’re given too much assistance. As an example, he writes about a girl with a similar level of cerebral palsy to himself who was given special assistance in all of her classes, while Quinn had to get by without extra assistance. Similarly, except in a few math classes, I did not get extra assistance. In these math classes, they were older students giving me assistance, not aides.

I understand Quinn’s point about overassistance. However, I see him writing from the point of view of someone who doesn’t have a cognitive disability. He points out that he heard of a girl with Down Syndrome being placed in advanced classes because “the kids are nicer there”. I can understand this erodes the meaning of advanced placements. Besides, I agree with Quinn that kids with disabilities need to be prepared for the real world and therefore as I said should not be overprotected or overassisted. However, this does not mean that students with cognitive disabilities need to be shoved away into special ed classes until they somehow prove they can get by in regular education.

Another objection Quinn has to inclusion is the lack of exporsure to other students with similar disabilities. When he was mainstreamed all kids with cerebral palsy went to the same schoool in the district. This is not what mainstreaming is like here: I was the only blind student in my school. In this sense, I’d love to have been given an education like Quinn’s, having exposure to people without disabilities as well as those with disabilities. In the Netherlands, unfortunately, at least in the 1990s, you either were the only kid with a sensory or physical disability, or you went to special education and were surrounded by students with your disability.

Quinn concludes that students with disabilities, according to him, need to somehow prove they are capable of mainstreaming if they want to be in regular education. I disagree. After all, people with significant disabilities shouldn’t have to prove they have a right to live in our society, right? I know some pro-institution people disagree, but other than in his essay on mainstreaming, Quinn doesn’t advocate exclusion. Maybe he would for those with intellectual disabilities. I for one won’t.

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Inclusion vs. Insertion or Integration

On a post on disability acceptance, someone commented that insertion is not the same as inclusion. This means that putting disabled people in mainstream classrooms, in the community, etc., does not automatically lead to them being accepted into that comunity. In this sense, there are parallels to the racial and gender equality movement, but there are also differences. The parallel involves the fact that, just because for example African-Americans were finally legally allowed to sit in the front of the bus in the 1960s, doesn’t mean they weren’t bullied into the back anymore. The difference, which to soe extent applied to certain groups of ethnic minorities too, is the need for accommodations to be made to fully include disabled people.

There is another word that is frequently used in disability situations and which is commonly used for ethnic minorites: integration. Integration involves not just insertion, but the expectation on the part of the majority that the ethnic minority or disabled person adapt to the majority. In a sense, this is somewhat opposite to inclusion, where the majority makes reasonable accommodations for the minority. It is also contrary to acceptance, because, while the majority tolerate the minority once integrated, they won’t accept them the if they don’t meet up to the cultural norms of the majority.

I have often struggled with the social model of disability, because it to some extent ignores the fact that disable dpeople aren’t just as capable as everybody else – an argument used by the women’s and African-American civil rights movements to claim equal rights. With equal rights, after all, come equal responsibilities. To draw a parallel to ethnic minorities again, immigrants to the Netherlands are themselves responsible for making sure they learn Dutch civics and language. I do not personally agree with this, but it is reasonable from a conservative, small government perspective, which is currently holding the majority here. Is it unreasonable then to insist that a person with a disability put every effort into becoming as non-disabled as possible? My heart says it’s unreasonable, but my head is having a hard tiem finding arguments for it.

Excusing or Accepting

Many of the people who commented on my previous post, most of them likely unfamiliar with disability rights, commented on a particular part of it: that in which I talked about disabled people being carelessly excused from meeting normal expectations. While it is true that a disabiity in itself should not be a reason to excuse people, in the sense that people think of the disabled as pitifu and therefre to be excused, disability equality goes far beyond equal expectations. Actually, unless a disabled person commits a crime, they are entitled to the same civil rights and inclusion that abled people are. “Normal”, that is, non-disabled standards of performance should not be relevant here.

People have a right to acceptance, and, while this means they should be expected to behave in an acceptable manner, what this means is really up for debate. Is an autistic not acceptable because they scream? An effort should of course be made to help the autistic unlearn this behavior, but if they can’t, that doesn’t make them less acceptable as a person.

We need to make the distinction here between the behavior and the person. All people have some annoying behaviors that are unacceptable to at least a number of others. We can disapprove of this behavior, but we shouldn’t be excluding the person for this. Note, please, that my comment about annoying behavior goes for disabled as well as non-disabled people. Once a person has a disability, however, accepting them in spite of inappropriate behavior is often seen as excusing.