Ask Reading Kingdom: The current trend in education is inclusion for all. As a parent of a special needs child I see some children that are very disruptive and don’t have the skills or mindset to be in an inclusion program. How do we make the distinction and keep the education of typical children from being harmed?

This question represents an important and difficult issue. At the same time, the fact that it is being asked represents the progress that has made in this area. Until only a few decades back, children with special needs were kept out of sight, isolated in what were labeled CRMD classes (Children with Retarded Mental Development). It’s painful to realize the degree to which the children were cast aside. Often the ostracism was total in that they were placed in residential institutions where little, if anything, was done to help them develop their potential or offer them a satisfying life.

Matters have changed dramatically since then and the children are being given significant opportunities to learn, to contribute and to engage fully in life. When things are working well, the benefits can be amazing—for children, for the families and for the society. In addition, the savings to the society can be considerable since the need for services in adult life can be greatly reduced.

But as you point out, the children may not have the “skills or mindset to be in an inclusion program.” At the same time, changes in the law allow parents to insist on mainstreaming. Overall these laws have been valuable  and it would be a major setback to try to reverse them. The challenge can be met, however, by expanding and modifying the services that are available. For example, there should be more aides to assist classroom teachers. There should also be well-designed, sensory controlled rooms where children can calm down and not disrupt others. The options are many, but they all require additional funding. Unfortunately, this is a time when education budgets are steadily being cut so that the likelihood of productive change in this era does not seem promising.

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