Mainstreaming and Inclusion are often terms that are used interchangeably in educational settings. However, the terms have very different foundations. Mainstreaming is the concept that someone with challenging educational needs will be ‘pushed-in’ to the general education setting for some portion of time. Inclusion, on the other hand, presumes that the student is in the general education setting from the start and does not differentiate by ability or need. It presumes that everyone gets what they need and finds creative ways to ensure this occurs successfully.
- students begin together in the same general education environment and are exposed to the same material and curriculum
- students may receive related services within the general education setting
- the presence of disability is normalized as a natural part of the human experience
- students with disabilities spend the majority of their school day in special education classes
- students attend some classes with non-disabled peers
- a sense of “difference” or “otherness” is promoted instead of similarity and connectedness
In order for society to treat all human beings with dignity and respect, we must become familiar with differences and be comfortable, not just being around persons with disabilities, but fully accepting those who are differently-abled as equals and acknowledge each person for their full potential. Inclusion is one step toward this future.