The term inclusion
does not appear in federal special education law. It is an interpretation of LRE
, the term that has been in the federal special education law since it was passed in 1975. LRE is the requirement that students with disabilities must be educated to the maximum extent appropriate with students who are not disabled. Since 1997, before general education can be considered NOT to be the LRE, educators are obligated to make ongoing and intensive efforts to find strategies to successfully support students in the general education setting. These strategies are collectively referred to as supplementary aids and services (see FAQ No. 2).
What IDEA says:
Each public agency shall ensure —
That to the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities, including children in public or private institutions or other care facilities, are educated with children who are nondisabled; and
That special classes, separate schooling or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only if the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.
Inclusion is a set of beliefs about schools, students, teachers, instruction, and learning. Inclusion is the philosophy that LRE is implemented only when all students, including those with disabilities, are welcomed members of their school learning communities, that teaching and learning are differentiated to ensure that all students can experience success, and that all the adults in schools share the responsibility for facilitating student learning. Inclusion DOES NOT mean that pullout services such as resource and self-contained classes are completely eliminated, but it does mean that these restrictive options are considered only when absolutely necessary and only until less restrictive alternatives can be found.
Mainstreaming was the first interpretation of LRE. With mainstreaming, students participate in the general education setting IF they can do most of the work at the same or similar levels as other students (for example, if their reading levels are not too different from the levels of other students). Alternatively, mainstreaming sometimes is the term for students with significant disabilities participating in general education for nonacademic activities such as lunch, recess, and assemblies, or for classes such as art, music, or physical education. Both of these mainstreaming concepts are outdated. That is, decisions about LRE should not be based primarily on a student’s reading level; supplementary aids and services should be implemented to help students learn despite their reading or other academic struggles. Further, students with significant intellectual disabilities still should access learning in academic settings; although they should participate in extracurricular activities and related arts classes, they should not be excluded automatically from general education academic classes.