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Mainstreaming Students with a Physical Disability

Karen Choi, Rochelle Coleman, and Christine Lau

History of Special Education

Until about 30 40 years ago, some children were deemed to be incapable of learning. since the 1970s there has been widespread acceptance that all children can learn and therefore that all children are entitled to an appropriate publicly-funded education program. Initially, these programs were invariably provided in segregated schools, especially for those students with more severe disabilities. More recent, much education has occurred in more inclusive settings, including in regular classes. (Foreman, 2011, p10)

These changes have been driven by a social justice movement.

What is mainstreaming?
Students are mainstreamed while they are enrolled or participating in a regular class In Australia, New Zealand and other developed countries, mainstreaming is regarded as the most culturally normative school placement. (Foreman, 2011, p16) The terms mainstreaming, integration, and inclusion are sometimes substituted for each other.

What is a physical disability?

A disability is commonly referred to as a restriction due to an impairment, although its usage is often linked to a difficulty in mental or intellectual function. (Ashman and Elkins, 2012, p10)
The term physical disability usually refers to a difficulty in mobility or movement, to walking in particular, but may also refer to a difficulty in the use of the hands or arms. (Foreman, 2011, p6)

What do you think?

Should students with a physical disability be included in the mainstream classroom? Provide some reasons for and against.

Why mainstream?
Social justice

Grouping by disability is an arbitrary category

Legal requirement Physical disabilities do not always correlate with intellectual disabilities The student with a disabilities benefits socially Students with disabilities can benefit academically Other students benefit socially Teachers benefit professionally

Why mainstream?
It normalises disabilities in the classroom and makes students with a disability part of the community.
Students with disabilities also have regular peers as models of behaviour, problem solving and other cognitive skills in cooperative groupings. (Wills & Jackson, 2008) Changing attitudes towards people with disabilities requires, both, information about these disabilities and experience with people with disabilities. (Bandy & Boyer, 1994; Caroll et. al. 2003)

Arguments against mainstreaming

Students with disabilities experience greater victimization and engage in more bullying perpetration than their peers without disabilities (Rose et al, 2009).
Social issues for the student with a disability

Segregating students with a disability for their own good

Physical issues e.g. obstructions Efforts required by the school e.g. increased administration demands

Arguments against mainstreaming

Students with autism spectrum disorder reports higher levels of loneliness than students with motor and/or sensory disabilities.
Reduced teacher efficiency

Time demands; balancing the need for constant supervision, development of individualised programming and complex behaviour management with the needs of the whole class.

Facts about disability


Liannas Cerebral Palsy

Lianna Bryant on WLWT News 5

Adaptions in the Classroom

Peer Interaction
To maximise socialisation, teachers must first be comfortable with their own understandings of physical disabilities and have parental support.

Unfamiliar equipment should be introduced to all students.

Involve students with disabilities in all daily activities. Generate a consistent behavioural management program as similar as possible to other students.

Adaptions in the Classroom

Environmental/Training Considerations Modify the structure and daily routines of the classroom to accommodate students with physical disabilities As much as possible interruptions for medical intervention should be nondisruptive to peers and planned at times of minimal social interaction Consider the spatial requirements of students and minimise any mobility issues Instructional Adaptations Adapt instructional materials, methods and assessments to accommodate students Provide instruction that is as close to the grade level and/or age expectation as possible Actively participate in IEP development of students receiving special education instruction

Adaptions in the Classroom

You have just been assigned a new class. Consider what adaptations you might make to accommodate your student(s) if he or she has a physical disability:
Hearing impairment

Visual impairment
Mobility impairment

Case Study
Daryl is re-commencing Year 11 after having nearly a year off school following a car accident which left him with quadriplegia. He has some of the use of his hands and uses an electric wheelchair for mobility. He has no impairment of cognitive ability. He writes using a laptop computer. What adjustments might need to be made to: attitudes/knowledge of staff? attitudes of students? physical characteristics of the school? timetable? curriculum? available resources and equipment? teaching/learning arrangements?
Foreman, 2011


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