Children with learning disabilities face barriers in education. Various approaches have been developed to support their learning. The focus is on how to best educate children with learning disabilities. These disabilities may be obvious problems like blindness or less apparent difficulties such as moderate mental retardation. However, some of the approaches remain controversial. Mainstreaming is one of the controversial approaches. Despite the many advantages it seems to offer, mainstreaming has not proven to be the simple solution that some hoped it would be. Mainstreaming is met with various challenges in ensuring effective support for the learning needs of children with disabilities. It is essential to implement steps to maximize the benefits to the children involved, while minimizing their exposure to the risks or disadvantages of mainstreaming.
In implementing mainstreaming, administrators and educators must account for its advantages and disadvantages to determine the most suitable approach. This approach varies, depending on the conditions of the educational setting involved, as well as the specific special needs of children with disabilities. Thus, the implementation should be specific to the organization and the characteristics of the children.
What is mainstreaming?
The education of children with disabilities has gone a long way from the traditional exclusion or pullout methods in regular classes to inclusion and mainstreaming. Mainstreaming is the inclusion of children with slight to moderate disability in regular classrooms together with children without disability. The purpose of this integration is to create a realistic learning environment where children with disability can meaningfully interact with other children, and vice versa. This approach prepares children, with or without disability, for challenges in the real world, where people with disability are not purposefully separated from the rest of the population.
Mainstreaming is controversial, and its success and efficacy are frequently questioned. These questions are usually on effectiveness in supporting learning among children with disabilities. There are also criticisms on the success of mainstreaming compared to other approaches.
Mainstreaming helps children with disabilities and special needs cope up with the real world. Through mainstreaming, children with disability develop academic and social skills without having to be excluded from peers. Mainstreaming was developed based on an understanding of children with special needs. Many children suffer from certain health conditions and challenges in developing their abilities and potentials. These abilities and potentials include social skills and academic skills. While these conditions affect a person’s health, they also affect personal development. Some children with these conditions develop special needs. Children with disabilities frequently have special needs in education or learning. Mainstreaming aims to help address these special needs without exclusion.
One of the concerns of mainstreaming is to integrate children with special needs into the general population of students. Children with disabilities often find themselves isolated from peers because of their condition. Children with unusual physical or behavioral characteristics are often made fun of. They also frequently become the topic of malicious conversations. Children with disabilities have difficulties making friends because of discrimination. This condition makes children with disabilities have a smaller world. The situation also leads to feelings of low self-esteem and depression. Mainstreaming helps address these issues to support personal development.
Thus, the advantages of mainstreaming are as follows:
- Inclusive support for learning
- Support for social skills development
- Equitable treatment of children
Mainstreaming programs have disadvantages that make them not the simple solution that many hoped it would be. Mainstreaming classrooms in such programs frequently suffer from insufficient resources. In addition, critics say that the inclusion of students with disabilities has led to poorer overall performance. Also, mainstreaming often withholds special programs made for students with disabilities until signs of these students’ failure are noticeable. This condition makes mainstreaming a rather risky method, sometimes unable to prevent failure among students with disabilities.
Thus, the disadvantages of mainstreaming are as follows:
- Insufficient resources to ensure complete implementation
- Poorer performance in some areas
- Delayed use of special programs for children with disabilities
- Allen, E., & Cowdery, G. (2014). The exceptional child: Inclusion in early childhood education. Cengage Learning.
- Bridger, K., & Shaw, J. (2012). Beyond Inclusion: Mainstreaming Equality Within the Curriculum. Educational Diversity, 120.
- Hewett, F., & Forness, S. (1977). Education of Exceptional Learners, 2nd ed.
- Hoeger, W., & Hoeger, S. (2014). Lifetime physical fitness and wellness. Cengage Learning.
- National Council on Disability (1989). The Education of Students with Disabilities: Where Do We Stand?