More educationists have been advocating for special needs children to be integrated with other children in mainstream schooling. This is a movement that is generally welcomed and supported by parents of children with developmental delays and disabilities.
In some ways, programs that promote inclusion of special needs children sound like an excellent idea. Both special needs children and their typically developing peers should benefit under such an arrangement. Children with developmental delays get the benefits of mainstream schooling and typically developing kids get to interact with them and learn to be more patient and accepting. Both groups of children would also have the opportunity to learn from one another.
However, we urge caution and consideration from involved and interested parties like parents, schools and the government before implementing such a plan for all special needs children.
In planning out the appropriate educational journey for these kids, we must put their long-term welfare and future as our top priority above all else.
We have to consider the fact that many children with moderate to severe developmental delays, such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), need very specialized instructions just to learn the most basic of skills. They often could not and therefore would not learn many basic skills simply by being with their typically developing peers who have those skills.
Research shows that intensive educational services would be the far better choice for these children instead. A child with significant delays need urgent, immediate and appropriate attention and intervention to help him or her reach their full potential.
Applied behavior analysis (ABA), the only treatment for ASD that is endorsed by the US Surgeon General, would be the optimal choice as it has helped many children with significant developmental delays overcome those delays, and eventually become able to learn the same academic skills as typical children.
Nonetheless, even with focused intervention, many of these children would continue to need and derive immense benefits from specialized instruction throughout their life to equip them with essential life skills.
Some people may believe including children with developmental delays into educational programs with their typically developing peers would be an effective method for them to acquire key skills. However, this is not necessarily the case.
While such an arrangement may benefit children with mild delays who can effectively communicate and attend to their typically developing peers, allowing them to interact with them, this arrangement would not be suitable at all for children with more severe delays.
Even in the case of children with mild delays, these kids often still require some degree of specialized educational services to allow them to maximize their potential.
Generally, only with intensive, individualized instruction at a very young age would many of these children pick up the skills that would help them learn from their daily learning activities.
The child with a developmental delay would need sufficient attending skills to pay attention to what other children are doing and understand what they’re saying or doing, before he or she could derive any benefit from the chance to watch and interact with typically developing peers.
We are highly encouraged to see growing support and help for children with developmental delays and disabilities. But including them with typically developing children in schools and classes may not be the best plan for them.
Instead, it is far more important for children with developmental delays to learn critical skills to give them the best chance of improvement from their condition, and allow them to care for themselves in the future.
Therefore, let us work together to secure the best future for these children by ensuring that they receive the most appropriate and optimal educational services for their condition.
Director of Autism Recovery Network