Mainstreaming Advantages in Special Education

Benefits to students with disabilities: It is believed that educating children with disabilities alongside their non-disabled peers, facilitates access to the general curriculum for children with disabilities. Studies show that students with disabilities who are mainstreamed have:

    Higher academic achievement: Mainstreaming has shown to be more academically effective than exclusion practices. For instance, The National Research Center on Learning Disabilities found that graduation rates of all students with disabilities in the U.S. increased by 14% from 1984 to 1997, although this report does not differentiate between students enrolled in mainstreaming, inclusive, or segregated programs. Access to a resource room for direct instruction has shown to be effective in increasing students academic skills and thus increasing the abilities applied by students in a general education setting. Compared to full-time placement in a special education class or special school, both part-time and full-time placement in the regular classroom have been shown to improve academic achievement in students with mild academic disabilities, as well as to improve their long-term behavior.

    Higher self-esteem: By being included in a regular-paced education setting, students with disabilities have shown to be more confident and display qualities of raised self-efficacy. All students in California who went to a different school prior to attending a mainstreaming program were asked to fill out an assessment of their old school as compared to inclusion program. The assessments showed that out of all students with disabilities 96% felt they were more confident, 3% thought they had the same experience as an excluded student, and 1% felt they had less self-esteem. Overall, students felt that they were equal to their peers and felt that they should not be treated any differently.

    Better social skills: Any kind of inclusion practice, including mainstreaming, allows students with disabilities to learn social skills through observation, gain a better understanding of the world around them, and become a part of the “regular” community. Mainstreaming is particularly beneficial for children with autism and ADHD. By interacting with same-aged non-disabled children, children with autism were observed to be six times more likely to engage in social relations outside of the classroom. Because children with autism spectrum disorders have severely restricted interests and abnormalities in communication and social interaction, the increased interaction with typical children may be beneficial to them. The same 1999 study showed that students with Down’s syndrome were three times more likely to communicate with other people.

Mainstreaming also benefits other children. It opens the lines of communication between those students with disabilities and their peers. If they are included into classroom activities, all students become more sensitive to the fact that these students may need extra assistance.

Benefits to non-disabled students: Many people believe that educating non-disabled students and students with disabilities together creates an atmosphere of understanding and tolerance that better prepares students of all abilities to function in the world beyond school. Students without disabilities who engaged in an inclusive physical education program reported increases in self-concept, tolerance, self worth, and a better understanding of other people. The students also reported that the inclusion program was important because it prepared them to deal with disability in their own lives. Positive aspects that come from inclusion are often attributed to contact theory. Contact theory asserts that frequent, meaningful, and pleasant interactions between people with differences tend to produce changes in attitude.