How Mainstreaming Betters Education of Children

Webster’s New American Handy College Dictionary, a “disability” is: “…the incapacity to do something because of a handicap – physical, mental, etc.” Meanwhile, the Random House Dictionary of the English Language goes further: “1. Lack of competent power, strength, or physical or mental ability; incapacity; 2. A permanent physical flaw, weakness or handicap.” Those dry facts do not come close to describing the genuine compassion and bond a loving parent feels for a child with disabilities. And parents too, likely are not concerned with the operative “political correctness” of not using the word “disabled” – since now, a new set of words has come into play in the professional ranks. Is the child a “challenged” child – physically challenged, emotionally challenged, and mentally challenged? For the purposes of this study, the word “disability” will be emphasized

Parents of children with learning disabilities, who have been in special education programs (there are approximately five million such children with varying disabilities currently in public and private schools in the U.S.), have options, and they very likely know those options well. First, parents have been previously informed of their rights and alternatives, because the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, IDEA, requires school districts to make that law clear to parents. That law, passed in 1975, guarantees that every child with a disability has access to a publicly supported education, be served appropriately, and be treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.

Questions to be Asked by Parents and School

Prior to Mainstreaming, and before Launching Study:

Have these students gone through the evaluation phase that IDEA provides for?

Initially an assessment must be made as to the disability itself, of course, and there are continuing assessments which must be made of the student’s progress in the original class prior to any discussions of moving the child into “regular” school classrooms. Prior to moving children, questions need to be raised regarding laws for disabled children beyond IDEA; such as, have provisions of the federal law of 1990, ADA, been addressed? (2.1of ADA: Provisions for Adults and Children. The specifications in these guidelines are based upon adult dimensions and anthropometrics. These guidelines also contain alternate specifications based on children’s dimensions and anthropometrics for drinking fountains, water closets, toilet stalls, lavatories, sinks, and fixed or built-in seating and tables.) Is the new classroom environment – and the rest room facilities and other physical services – within the federal guidelines in terms of providing human needs for each child? (3.5 of ADA: Definitions: Adaptability. The ability of certain building spaces and elements, such as kitchen counters, sinks, and grab bars, to be added or altered so as to accommodate the needs of individuals with or without disabilities or to accommodate the needs of persons with different types or degrees of disability.) And are representatives of any appropriate non-educational public agencies required to be participants in individualized educational program (IEP) meetings? In some states, some related services, such as mental health services, are in the hands of non-educational professionals.

In formal discussions between parents of disabled children and school officials, i.e., IEP planning, parents may – and in most cases should – play a lead role in determining the agenda: goals and objectives of the meeting; related services connected to programs and placement; curricula, methodology. Has the school shown good faith in considering strategies to assist the child in assessing the new conditions and realities of the mainstreaming move?

Has the appropriateness of the new “instructional setting” been fully thought out by both the school and the families of the disabled students? For example, IDEA provides that the school district offer a continuum of placement options to the parents. Is this to be a regular class? Is this to be a special “day class” environment?

Does the family understand that the law requires the child be placed in the “least restrictive” environment? This means that, to the maximum extend possible, the children with disabilities being mainstreamed are to be educated with children who are “non-disabled.” The “least restrictive environment” also means that the child has a right to be as close to home as possible: *Court outcomes when there has been litigation generally provide that the child should be mainstreamed into the school that child would normally attend if the child were not disabled. [*Gets v. Board of Education. 774 F2d 575 (3d Cir. 1985)]

Even though IDEA favors mainstreaming as a general rule – “regular classroom placement” – has the family been appraised of the fact that a child’s individual needs override the school’s desire to mainstream that child? A child, no matter the severity of the disability, is not required to be removed from his or her special education environment.

What if school officials, in the IEP session which will determine the location of the mainstreaming of the child, say they have a particular kind of class chosen, but they want to leave the location of that class up to school administrators? The parents, by law, may object. The school’s IEP team should – with the parents’ participation – not only decide the kind of class, but also the location of the class; otherwise, the child may be forced to be transported by bus many miles from home, causing stress and unnecessary weariness.

Has the parent initiated a detailed “child profile” – to give school administrators a family perspective on the child, beyond the test results and checked boxes on graphs and charts? The child profile can be a useful tool in working with schools; additionally, it indicates to the school how well the family knows the profile of their child, and that the family has taken extra steps to assist in the educational advancement of the child.

Ethical Issues

Once the school and the parents have agreed, at the conclusion of the IEP meeting to discuss the specifics of mainstreaming, the parents do not have to sign the IEP document on the spot. There must be no pressure. The parents should be told they could take the document home to carefully study, away from any potential pressure of a formal session with authorities, and return it in 24 hours.

On the IEP form, there is a box to check to indicate the parent was provided with information regarding their legal rights under IDEA. Prior to mainstreaming, the family needs to be informed of what will transpire if the move to a regular classroom does not work out. What if a bully in the art class makes fun of the child’s disability? Who handles that, if the teacher cannot always control the bully? What if the child is an African-American and the class he is moved into is largely Caucasian, with “redneck” roughnecks in the back of the room making racially inappropriate remarks? What if the child is Middle Eastern, with a name such as “Mohammed,” and rude boys in the new class re-name him “bin Laden” or another derogatory title?

All potential trouble spots relating to race, religion, gender, degree of disability, need to be thoroughly discussed prior to placement.

Definition of Subject / Participants:

WHO? The 10 participants in the proposed study will be ADD / ADHD students from middle class families – of diverse ethnicity – from upstate New York.


QUESTION: What is ADD / ADHD? ANSWER: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a neurological problem. Three-to-five percent of U.S. children suffer from some degree of ADHD; in the average classroom, up to 2 children may suffer some degree of the disorder. It comes in various forms. Today they all fall under the category of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and then the main category is subdivided into ADHD Inattentive Type, or ADHD Impulsive-Hyperactive Type, or ADHD Combined Type. In the recent past the terms attention deficit disorder “with” or “without” hyperactivity were also commonly used. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder comes in various forms, and no two ADD or ADHD kids are exactly alike.

QUESTION: Are the children sometimes resistant to a teacher’s authority? ANSWER: Yes, a child may be willfully defiant with ADHD, and teachers in classes where children with these disabilities are to be mainstreamed should have proper training.

QUESTION: What are some of the expected behaviors that would deviate from the “norm” of a classroom? ANSWER: Defiance, rebelliousness, and selfishness are “moral” issues, not neurological issues. But ADHD children from families with strong values and morals do not generally exhibit “immoral,” “selfish,” or “destructive” behaviors. QUESTION: typically, what can a teacher expect from a ADHD child? ANSWER: First, problems with Attention. Second, problems with a lack of Impulse Control. Third, problems with Over-activity or motor restlessness. Fourth, the child is easily bored.

Hypothesis: Previous studies have not always resulted in consistent results on the success or lack of success while mainstreaming. However, in 50 studies comparing the academic performance of mainstreamed and segregated students with mild handicapping conditions, the mean academic performance of the integrated group was in the 80th percentile, while the segregated students score was in the 50th percentile (Weiner, R. 1985, Carlberg, C. And Kavale, K. 1980; Baker, E.T., and Wang, M.C., and Walberg, H.J., 1994-95). Therefore, it is the hope that this study will show marked improvement in scholastic achievement by ADHD students who are chosen to participate.

Definition of Procedure:

Sampling Method – choosing participants: Special Education classes in cooperative schools (with parents’ permission) will make data available on ADHD students who have shown the ability to adapt and be reasonably successful at following directions and have clearly obvious motivation to create a better life for themselves.

Outside therapists and ADHD professionals will review sampling methods proposed for use in selecting special education students for mainstreaming; parents of students being considered for the study will be in full compliance and agreement with the methods of sampling – whether or not their child is later chosen.

Parents will be promised access to all pertinent research data on their children following the study – as they are legally entitled to under IDEA.

Data Collection Procedures:

Software to be used: LexisNexis â„¢ Research Software, Version (7/25/2001);

User-friendly questionnaires will be provided to teachers and parents to keep a daily, weekly, and monthly record of progress.

In order to assure quality control measures are adhered to in preparing the questionnaires, and that assurances of reliability and validity are met and kept throughout the study, a research consultant with the Lindamood-Bell learning group will be approached and asked to donate time (in-kind). In turn for their time and talent, Lindamood-Bell’s name will be mentioned in the final outcome of the study, and in any newspaper or other media reports at the conclusion of the study – providing those reports respect the privacy / confidentiality of parents and students. (Disclaimers must be signed by parents in order to authorize any use thereof, outside of the original intent of the study.)

Appropriate statistical methods and graphical formats: Before proposing statistical methods and graphical formats for the measurement of students’ success (or lack of success) in mainstreamed environments, the research team for this study must consult with professionals like Lindamood-Bell to receive fundamental direction and support. A review of previously done studies will also be necessary. Those studies are not available at this time.

Below, please find sample teacher form for daily & weekly progress updates; to be shared with parents; additional data to be gather by study: success by gender; success measured by involvement of parents.

A basic teacher form for daily and weekly updates on student progress]

Dates of results ____to

Weekly results for Student

Teacher’s Name

Points Awarded / Is Student Progressing Appropriately/Comments



















OVERALL POINTS TO BE ENTERED INTO DATABASE: Note: On a scale of 1-10, the teacher will award points for each day’s class work by the student in the study group. For example, if the student scored 8 points in ART on each of three days, and 7 points the other two days of the week, that student would have achieved 38 out of a possible 50 points for that week. Students will also be “graded” using the existing class grading system, AND, the teacher will be asked to provide subjective analysis as a journal of progress. The criteria for that journal of progress will be worked out between the study group, teachers, and parents.


ADD In School (2003). “What is ADD? ADD in School Presents Hundreds of Classroom Interventions

Haller, Mary Cathryn (1999). Learning Disabilities 101: A Primer for Parents. Florida: Rainbow Books.

Lindamood-Bell (2002). “The Lindamood-Bell Approach to Learning is Global, Balanced, and Interactive,

Rosner, Jerome (1993). Helping Children Overcome Learning Difficulties. New York: Walker and Company.

Seigel, Lawrence M. (1999). The Complete IEP Guide: How to Advocate for Your Special Ed Child. Berkeley: Nolo Press.

The ADD Newsletter (2002). “Attention Deficit Disorder Links Project: What is ADHD and ADD?

Unger, Harlow G. (1998). The Learning Disabilities Trap: How to Save Your Child from the Perils of Special Education. Chicago: Contemporary Books.

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