The contemporary world and the societies are known for one particular trait that has become more distinct over the last several decades that it used to be prior in human history. This trait is diversity. The modern world is characterized by a higher level of diversity in its population in particular geographical areas that occurred due to globalization. That the question of inclusion of all kinds of individuals has become very important.
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The focus on inclusion resulted in new approaches to policy-making, social behaviors, workplace, and service dynamics. This paper will explore the issue of inclusion in education concentrating particularly on that of the children with disabilities. It is worth mentioning that the emphasis on the accessibility of contemporary education that has occurred due to technological progress is a frequent subject. However, it is often overlooked that to be accessible for all types of learners; education needs more innovation than new devices. The modern education requires a new worldview and perspective on the diverse classrooms that include children with special needs.
This adjustment takes effort, research, and the improvement of the educational practices and views employed by educators to date. This paper provides a detailed example of an individual experience of Ro Vargo, the girl with a disability, and her inclusion path throughout the school years. Also, the paper relies on five more sources that explore the issues of inclusion of the special needs students and presents the discussion of passages from the Bible that refer to this problem.
The issue of inclusion of children with chronic conditions and disabilities in the school settings has been raised not so long ago. However, active research and work in this area have resulted in a significant change and improvement. It may be local and somewhat limited as not all schools are prepared to embrace this innovative perspective. At the same time, the educational institutions that have already created mixed classrooms exist which is supported by the example of Ro Vargo (Vargo, 2008).
In the field of religion, progress seems to move at a slower pace. As reported by Dugosh (n. d.), multiple denominations are reluctant when it comes to accepting children and adults affected by chronic conditions and disabilities. Instead, the churches’ negative reaction to the families with the special needs individuals isolates the latter and leads to alienation and hostility towards the religious communities, the discourage of faith, anger at God, the feeling of frustration, guilt, and loneliness.
Risk and Resilience
Das and Kattumuri (2010) state that the children with special needs, who do not have acceptance from the side of their peers during the school years become exposed to a multitude of risks later in life. Namely, the danger of the lack of inclusion is associated with the insufficient preparation of such individuals to the life they are likely to face once they become adults (Das & Kattumuri, 2010). One of the primary risks is connected to the idea that children with disabilities are more vulnerable compared to their peers who are not handicapped in any way.
The risks are both physical (a threat of being abused) and psychological (a threat of becoming isolated and experience hostility). In the article by Vargo (2008), Ro faced this potential risk every day going to school. There was a risk that she could be mocked, isolated, or physically abused. However, this risk exists for all the children, the students with disabilities are deemed more vulnerable and less resilient.
The concept of resilience is interesting and complex. It indicates the individuals’ ability to withstand threats, stress, and pressure. The children affected by chronic conditions and disabilities need to improve their resilience since they have additional aspects in life due to which they could be threatened in some way.
Parritz and Troy (2014) describe developmental pathways as the mechanisms that reflect the stability with which the children’s maladaptation persists throughout their lives. Besides, the authors mention that stability is not the only feature of developmental pathways. In addition to stability, they also reflect change which may come in a form of the development of new abilities or incapacities due to the initial developmental issues (Parritz & Troy, 2014).
In the story of Ro Vargo’s life, risk can be seen through her attempts to adapt to new situations and societies. Ro experienced challenges and was likely to become isolated when she entered new groups while moving to middle school, high school, and the university (Vargo, 2008). Even though isolation and alienation are the common happenings for adolescents and teenagers, Ro’s loneliness could have made her vulnerable as she admitted that the most difficult moments for her were the times when neither the students nor the teachers communicated with her. At the same time, Ro’s resilience was her openness to communication, an ability to be a good listener, and a reliable friend (Vargo, 2008).
Moreover, in a society of adolescents and teenagers that is typically quite harsh and hostile in terms of social inclusion and exclusion, Ro could provide her peers with the unconditional friendship where no one would be judged, threatened, or attacked (Vargo, 2008). This was one of the primary features that made Ro attractive as a companion in the society of school children.
The sociocultural approach to understanding development is based on the idea that the cultural and social surrounding of an individual is the determinant of their developmental patterns. That way, isolating the children with disabilities from the rest of the society and placing them within a special needs classroom would deprive them of the opportunities to adjust to life in the society the way it is and develop the skills and abilities necessary for the life as a member of the society. At the same time, letting the children with disabilities to participate in all the activities and learning experiences the other students have is the way to include them in the groups of peers and introduce them to the social life as it is forcing them to develop accordingly with its requirements.
De Boer, Pijl, Post, and Minnaert (2013) conducted a study focused on the exploration of the experiences of friendship and acceptance among students with disabilities enrolled in general education programs. This cross-sectional study involved 1050 students 8 to 11 years old (45 classes) in total, of whom 985 were without disabilities, and 65 had cognitive and behavioral disorders of various kinds. The measurement of inclusion was based on the nomination procedure. The researchers found that the students were not likely to include a handicapped classmate if they were of opposite genders.
The article by Das and Kattumuri (2010) researches the effects of the inclusion policy that was recently introduced in Indian education. The qualitative analysis conducted in the study explores the advantages and disadvantages faced by students with disabilities in private schools. Ten participants were selected from seven different schools and interviewed. The research found that the obligation of the schools to develop inclusive education plans for all kinds of learners was an advantage; however, the negative attitudes of peers and teachers persisted.
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Bebetsos, Derri, Filippou, Zetou, and Vernadakis (2014) involved 168 participants ages 10 to 12 who were surveyed about their inclusion in physical education. The questionnaires demonstrated that the schoolchildren were willing to show inclusive, friendly, and overall positive behaviors when paired with a peer with disabilities.
The study by Dessemontet, Bless and Morin (2011) researched the effect of inclusion on the cognitive development of children with learning disabilities. The research sample involved 34 children with learning disabilities enrolled in inclusive programs and a control group of 34 children with disabilities enrolled in special education classes. The study revealed no specific differences between the groups in terms of adaptive behavior or mathematical skills. However, the experimental group showed better literacy skills.
Tremblay (2013) compared two instructional models – co-teaching inclusion and solo-taught special education; in particular, the learners with disabilities were assessed in terms of class attendance and academic success. The sample of twelve inclusive classes and 13 classes for special education showed that the former was more effective in terms of reading and writing skills, as well as attendance patterns.
Pros and Cons
Most of the research articles found inclusive education to be more effective than special education. This tendency is demonstrated by the academic success and the rates of attendance among the handicapped learners enrolled in the general education classes. However, Dessemontet, Bless, and Morin (2011) and Tremblay (2013) pointed out that the difference is insignificant. Das and Kattumuri (2010) also mentioned that the official inclusion may exist without the social inclusion (meaning that the teachers and peers may be reluctant to accept the handicapped learners as a part of their community).
The pros and cons can be illustrated through Ro’s experiences with changing schools as she found it hard to fit in the new classes. Also, her experience with the PE teacher who intentionally isolated her was a good illustration of the tendency described by Das and Kattumuri. At the same time, the parents of Ro mentioned many positive experiences where they noticed the inclusion and its effects on their daughter. For example, the phone calls from friends who were asking for advice even though Ro could not speak or the children’s lack of focus on Ro’s differences that allowed them to embrace her as an equal peer and a friend.
The Bible has much to say about the treatment of individuals with special needs. The idea of inclusion runs throughout multiple biblical texts. The examples below provide some demonstrations:
“The Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?” (Exodus 4:4)
The statement above indicates the Lord’s acceptance of the people with disabilities as His children and creations which makes them equal to everyone else. That way, alienating them from a community means going against the Lord’s will of making these people a part of our world.
“Cursed is he who misleads a blind person on the road.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’” (Deuteronomy 27:18)
This passage states that excluding or abusing people with disabilities must be punished as this deed is immoral and not noble. A true believer would never purposefully attack or harm an individual with a disability. Instead, such people are to be assisted and included.
“But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (Luke 14:13-14)
Luke 14:13-14 specifies that people with disabilities are to be welcomed and helped in all possible ways. The passage mentions the vulnerability of these people and their need for help and thus recommends that everyone who can help them does so. The reward for this help is promised: “at the resurrection of the righteous”.
Biblical Rationale for Inclusion
The Bible clearly illustrates numerous occasions in which individuals with disabilities are described as a part of the society and the people who require help and assistance. Also, the Bible tells all the true believers to follow the advice and provide all the necessary help to people with special needs. The inclusion is described as a deed that should be blessed and rewarded. At the same time, the abuse and exclusion of the people with disabilities are seen as extremely negative actions that will be punished as the Lord’s will is to make the people with disabilities a part of the society and thus no one has a right to exclude them on purpose.
Inclusion is a challenge in many settings. Elements such as risk and resilience play a large role in how a child is prepared to face these challenges (Parritz & Troy, 2014). Inclusive education is put into practice with a purpose to make the children with disabilities a part of society and limit their isolation. This approach is deemed helpful in terms of social adjustment, cognitive development, support, and behavioral development.
However, there are a few limitations to the inclusive education; they are the need for the teachers to undergo training and learn to work with diverse classrooms, the need for a specifically adjusted educational plan and program, and finally the willingness of both the students and the teachers to include the children with disabilities in their community. Some schools demonstrate more readiness than others.
For instance, Ro Vargo described in the article by Vargo (2008) had mainly positive inclusion experiences while the research by Das and Kattumuri (2010) shows that in India, where the inclusive education is a young concept, the educational institutions struggle to embrace it. Many researchers find this type of education practically more effective in terms of the behavioral adaptation and academic success of children with disabilities. This is why this model is thoroughly researched and adjusted today.
Bebetsos, E., Derri, V., Filippou, F., Zetou, E., & Vernadakis, N. (2014). Elementary School Children’s Behavior towards the Inclusion of Peers with Disabilities, in Mainstream Physical Education Classes. Procedia – Social And Behavioral Sciences, 152, 819-823. Web.
Das, A., & Kattumuri, R. (2005). Children with Disabilities in Private Inclusive Schools in Mumbai: Experiences and Challenges. Asia Research Center Working Paper, 34, 1-52. Web.
De Boer, A., Pijl, S., Post, W., & Minnaert, A. (2013). Peer Acceptance and Friendships of Students with Disabilities in General Education: The Role of Child, Peer, and Classroom Variables. Social Development, 22(4), 831–844. Web.
Dessemontet, R., Bless, G., & Morin, D. (2011). Effects of inclusion on the academic achievement and adaptive behaviour of children with intellectual disabilities. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 56(6), 579-587. Web.
Dugosh, M. (n. d.). Inclusion in Church Communities. Web.
Parritz, R. & Troy, M. (2014). Disorders of childhood. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.
Tremblay, P. (2013). Comparative outcomes of two instructional models for students with learning disabilities: inclusion with co-teaching and solo-taught special education. Journal of Research In Special Educational Needs, 13(4), 251-258. Web.
Vargo, R. & Vargo, J. (2005). From my friend, Ro Vargo. In R. A. Villa & J. S. Thousand, Creating an inclusive school (pp. 27–40) (2nd ed.). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD).