Friday, April 17, 2015

The Illusion of Full Inclusion

In some ways The Illusion of Full Inclusion: A Comprehensive Critique of a Current Special Education Bandwagon, Second Edition edited by James M. Kaufman and Daniel P. Hallahan was an easy book for me to read. I knew when I picked up this book of essays that I agreed with the major thrust- that there needs to be a continuum of services available to meet the needs of children. That any single choice program, such as inclusion, is not right for all. That parents, teachers, other professionals and sometimes even the students need to be involved in placement decisions. This book upholds those views in spades.

My difficulty with the book was its extremely repetitive nature. The first part includes 8 chapters on the historical context of inclusion. If anyone is interested in this area, select any one of the chapters and you will have a comprehensive explanation of the background. The second part focuses on policy analyses, commentaries and research. Many of these 8 chapters do a quick revisit of the history before launching into a description of the concept that full inclusion rarely means full inclusion for the most severe, especially emotional disabled, students; how there exists a dearth of research supporting full inclusion; and how teachers are not prepared to tackle the influx of special education students into their classes. The third part of the book is the least repetitive- disability specific issues. There are parent and professional writings about the need for a special classes and special schools, the gist being that special needs require special education.

If someone is looking to justify a special class placement, this book provides lots of ammo, but one need not read the whole thing to get what is needed. Cherry pick the essays based on personal interest, focusing on one per section. That takes the 449 page book down to a  rational size.

If someone is a true proponent of full inclusion, this book will be an uncomfortable read. It confronts the lack of research, the divergence of special and general education, and addresses issues of social equity. It attacks the concept that place is the determining factor in  a placement being least restrictive. These ideas will be profoundly challenging and may be discarded outright. I would challenge people to read some of the essays with an open mind to see if they can understand why parents fight to keep their special schools open such as the one told here in Tennessee and here in California. We need to recognize that one option is not right for all and that these complex decisions should not be made by politicians or school boards, but by people in the front line who are most influenced- parents and students and teachers.

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