No matter how many laws have been established, school districts in the United States still struggle to take on the idea of “being inclusive”. The American education system still has a long way to go, with the lack of opportunities for disabled children happening to be one of many unaddressed dilemmas.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a law that provides personalized education and related services for children with disabilities, ensuring that they are given the appropriate assistance to fit their needs. “Disability is a natural part of the human experience and in no way diminishes the right of individuals to participate in or contribute to society” states the law. This, despite being verbalized, isn’t quite demonstrated to the same degree.
IDEA consists of several specific objectives in order to improve student achievement. To make this possible, Congress assured they would supply 40% of the necessary funds. Unfortunately, they have not been true to their word, as today, only 14.6% is being covered. This fundamental decision has caused multiple problems to arise in school communities, such as difficulties in recruiting quality teachers and providing comprehensive services that SWDs (students with disabilities) need. As a result, these children are facing the unfair consequences of irreverent principles.
While these issues stand as the inevitable outcome of governmental choices, others are consequences of IDEA itself.
Depending on the disability, each SWD is different when it comes to their educational needs and what’s most effective for them. Some may work better when surrounded by peers, while others need repetition to understand taught material; it all just depends on the individual. Luckily, there are two types of classes used in school systems in order to take this requirement into perspective: general ed and special ed. The standardized type of instruction we’re all aware of is known as general education, mostly targeting the majority of students in today’s society. Special education is quite the opposite, as it specifically focuses on assisting children with learning differences. Given these options, SWDs are now supposedly given the opportunity to participate in the class that best accommodates their social and academic levels, maximizing their learning experience.
Despite how functional this system may sound, there’s more to what meets the eye. IDEA makes it clear that most SWDs should be placed in general ed classes, making it difficult to achieve the initial goal of inclusion and understanding.
In support of IDEA, others say that children with disabilities are more likely to succeed in general ed classes, as it opens doors to unlimited opportunities such as exposure to the conventional curriculum, meeting new types of people, etc. It steps out of the child’s comfort zone and exposes them to on-level material, making it seem superior. Even though this type of teaching is definitely beneficial to some, the reasoning for it being labeled as “better”, is biased. The SWDs with fewer academic and mental challenges are more likely to progress in general education environments, yet for others, this may not always be the case.
If schools originally put in more effort to acknowledge SWDs in the first place, there would be less of an inconvenience when placing them in a class that’s suitable. Each of the complications relating to this topic just makes it harder for these students to reach a point of actual learning.
We can talk all we want about the problems related to children with disabilities, but what is really the cause for all this disharmony? Lack of communication. These students are not getting talked about enough, whether it be among peers or teachers themselves. In today’s society, most individuals are unaware of how to act around SWDs, resulting in them either getting ignored or unaddressed by their own community. General education teachers aren’t trained in this area either, reducing the chance for their disabled students to earn the same amount of attention as their other classmates do.
Unintentionally, we have caused these children to lose the privileges they deserve, and something needs to be done about it. Talking about it with everyone you know is the first step in the right direction to making this problem more renowned. Witnessing how society has evolved over time in regard to inclusion is quite saddening for me, but I know that with enough awareness of SWDs in modern-day society, we can one day reach a place of inclusion.