Lately, I have noticed Voices letters, in particular “Inclusive classrooms may help kids to learn from one another” (June 18), advocating mainstream schooling for children with developmental delays and disabilities.
There are some wonderful aspects of programmes that promote inclusion of children with special needs. By interacting with these children, typically developing children can often learn to be more patient and appreciate the unique qualities of others.
They also learn from children with developmental delays, while at the same time helping them learn skills.
I would caution, however, that many of the individuals with significant developmental delays, such as autism spectrum disorders, require specialised instruction to learn even the most basic skills. These individuals often do not learn many basic skills by simply being with other children who have those skills.
The research is clear that to help children with significant delays reach their maximum potential, it is important that they receive intensive educational services.
Educational services, such as Applied Behaviour Analysis, that emphasise teaching specific language skills have helped many children overcome those delays and learn the same academic skills as typical children.
Even with such focused intervention, however, many will need and benefit from specialised instruction throughout their life in order to learn many important life skills.
Many people view the inclusion of children with disabilities in educational programmes and activities with typical children as an effective way of helping them acquire skills.
Clearly, some children with mild delays and who can effectively communicate and attend to their peers would often benefit from interacting with their typically developing peers.
Still, these children often continue to need some specialised educational services.
When provided with intensive, individualised instruction at a very young age, many children would acquire the skills that allow them to learn from their daily learning activities.
Only when a child has sufficient skills to pay attention to what other children are doing and to understand what they are saying would the child benefit from the opportunity to learn by watching and interacting with individuals with typical development.
I am encouraged that some individuals want to help children with disabilities by including them with typical children.
However, children with developmental delays must learn many critical skills to be able to care for themselves, now and in future.
We must therefore ensure that they receive appropriate educational services that help them to not only be included with their typically developing peers but to develop actual friendships and learn from those interactions.
ABOUT THE WRITER:
The writer has worked with and helped children with developmental delays and disabilities in his 40 years of experience as a psychologist with doctoral training in behaviour analysis.
For original article, read here: TODAYonline - Not all special needs children can join the mainstream straight away