Many challenges continue being encountered today in terms of disability support for students with disabilities in mainstream schools. This paper focuses on three problems. The first one is that educators continue to hold negative attitudes towards inclusion of students with disability in mainstream schools. The second problem is that the curriculum being used in mainstream schools tends to favor students without disabilities while at the same time alienating those who are disabled. The third problem is that students with disabilities often fail to get appropriate learning experiences in mainstream schools.
The paper adopts a problem-solution approach, meaning that potential solutions to these problems will be presented. In this regard, the aim is to identify inclusive policies and resources that can improve this disability support as well as their feasibility. The thesis of this paper is that a viable inclusive policy should entail a change of attitudes, change of curriculum, and efforts to improve learning experiences by embracing the tenets of diversity and exceptionality.
Educatorsâ€™ negative attitudes towards inclusion of students with disability in mainstream schools
In recent years, many efforts have been made to promote the inclusion of students with disability in mainstream schools. Those who support this move argue that the every student should be free to access the mainstream classroom regardless of his disabilities. For such an inclusive policy to succeed, educators must be positive about it. One of the main problems is that many teachers are opposed to this inclusion ((Avramidis, Bayliss, & Burden 2000, p. 281). Although teachers ordinarily express positive attitudes towards inclusion, they quickly switch to a negative attitude whenever the needs of the children with disability become severe. The teachers express concern that children with behavioral and emotional difficulties potentially cause disruption during classroom teaching, thereby impacting negatively on the learning experiences of other students.
The solution to this problem is the quality of training accorded to teachers. If teachers are given adequate training on how to deal with students with disability, their attitudes will change. According to Rieser (2008, p. 33), the attitudes can change if teachers focus on human rights thinking as opposed to â€œclarity thinkingâ€. The negative attitudes of teachers reflect a problem that has continued to persist for centuries, whereby persons with disability are subjected to negative attitudes, stigma, and stereotyping. Disabled people have traditionally been victims of inhuman treatment. Today, this negative thinking continues to be reinforced through literature, legend, and myths.
The inhuman treatment accorded to people has tended to elicit what Rieser (2008, p. 36) refers to as â€œcharitable thinkingâ€. In this way of thinking, it is assumed that a protective response should be adopted as far as address the needs of persons with disability are concerned. In educational settings, this way of thinking has led to the establishment of special education schools for students with disability. This approach is based on the patronizing attitudes of non-disabled people, who think that the students are not human enough to live ordinary lives and learn in the ordinary classroom.
By adopting a human rights approach, a shift in focus occurs, whereby teachers stop seeing the permanent impairment in the student and instead start examining the barriers posed by the educational setting, attitude, and immediate environment. In this way, focus is no longer on the student with disability and how to fit him into a society that is reluctant to accommodate him; rather, it is on how to deal with barriers that continue to disable learners with impairments (Riester 2008, p. 39).
The curriculum favors those students without disabilities
Another serious problem is that the curriculum being used in mainstream schools today tends to favor those students without disabilities. Students with disabilities require greater attention than non-disabled students. The curriculum offers few opportunities for learners with impairments to gain access to resources that will enable them overcome barriers posed by disability.Â If the curriculum does not emphasize on the importance of certain resources, the school management cannot provide such resources. A strong relationship therefore exists among choice of curriculum, learning activities, teaching materials, and funding.
Teaching becomes problematic when funding poses an obstacle. More importantly, an underlying problem tends to manifest itself in curriculum-related deficiencies, whereby the teacher is forced to go through the rigors of adapting the existing curriculum to the needs of students with different impairments (Wang 2009, p. 158). Â For this reason, proponents of inclusion of students with disability in mainstream schools advocate for radical changes in the existing curriculum (Wang, 2009, p. 158).
A major problem is that focus tends to be on the disability of the learner instead of the inadequacies of the curriculum. When focus is on the disability of the learner, educators are likely to come up with a different curriculum, thereby segregating the disabled students. This would create a situation similar to that of special education schools. the main problem tends to be inadequacies in the curriculum and the inability by the student to learn in normal classroom conditions.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â The solution to this problem is simply modifying the curriculum being used in mainstream schools to suit the learning needs of students with disability. This is indeed the same argument that is being used by those who continue to pile pressure on special schools to follow the same curriculum that is being applied in all mainstream schools. In addressing the changes, educators should address the dilemma posed by the need to adopt methods of instruction that will enable the students compensate for their disability. This problem may be cured through the introduction of special technology. The special technology may enable the disabled learners to go through the learning process in the context of an unmodified curriculum (Wang, 2009, p. 158).
Although modifying the curriculum may seem like an impractical solution, this is not necessarily the case. Claims about this approach being uneconomical and unfeasible are based on the view that it will bring an abrupt end to many resources and expertise. Once students with disability are transferred to mainstream schools, the resources that were being channeled to these students through special schools would have to be withdrawn (Wang, 2009, p. 158). Moreover, teachers should brace themselves for additional workload of catering for the special needs of students with disabilities. However, these are just a few short-term challenges, which, if properly addressed, would pave way for numerous long-term benefits for the students as well as the entire education system.
For the long-term benefits to be achieved, changes need to go beyond the modification of the curriculum. Those who oversee the implementation process should adapt to the process of moving towards inclusion. The same case applies to those who monitor the outcomes of the inclusion process. Teachers need to exercise patience to be able to address the various difficulties that different students encounter. Similarly, they need to spend more time preparing adapted curriculum materials as well as implementing special instructional techniques. In other words, for changes in curriculum to work, they should go hand in hand with changes in the practice of teaching as well as teacher evaluation.
Westwood (2013, p. 31) also supports the idea of adapting the curriculum to meet the needs of students with disability. ……