What is Mainstreaming in Education? Does It Work?

As are all public school students, young people with disabilities are entitled to a free education - a law laid down by a section of the Individuals with Disabilities Act in America. IDEA - the acronym for the widespread scheme - has faced a mixed reception, and aims to offer students diagnosed with specific disabilities access to mainstream schools at certain times. It is not a standardized method, however, and there are a number of factors which affect how this procedure is carried out.

Of course, some young people with disabilities need one-to-one time with a trained supervisor, but this doesn't mean there isn't spare time for attending mainstream classes alongside non-disabled pupils of similar ages. Special education units have a big role to play in the development of people with difficulties in their learning and ordinary life, but evidence suggests there are indeed some benefits of mainstreaming approaches when it comes to fulfilling their potentials.

A lot of this comes down to the fact that being secluded on a day to day basis with only a personal tutor as a source of support and conversation can be a lonesome experience, which often results in the student being deprived of the resources they need to develop some of life's social skills. By allowing disabled pupils to attend typical public school lessons at certain times during their weekly schedule, they are granted with the opportunity to spend time with other young people and develop on a number of levels.

One of the great beauties of the mainstreaming approach is its flexibility. People with emotional and physical disabilities may become more disruptive to others in subjects they find tricky, and so it can easily be arranged that they are supervised in a special education room during these times. On the other hand, during subjects that they enjoy, succeed at and can concentrate reasonably on, it can be built into their time table for them to join in with the majority group.

In terms of its benefits, the approach enables higher self-esteem amongst participating pupils. If they feel that they are achieving more highly and fitting in more discreetly with the other students on the school premises, it's only natural that their confidence levels will rise in accordance with this. Statistics also show that academic achievement across the board for disabled pupils has rose significantly since the introduction of the IDEA laws and mainstreaming strategies.

Those who oppose the idea claim that it has a limited success rate, and can lead to the restriction of non-disabled pupils' progression on an academic level. Others have suggested that bringing disabled pupils into the classroom environment for a limited period of time can make them feel socially-rejected and unwanted by their peers.

Price is another concern about the mainstreaming method - especially amongst the authorities. Costs per pupil for special education can exceed US $20,000 in the most severe cases, and fostering mainstream techniques in addition to this only increases the price tally.

With the debate looking set to continue, it appears that jury is still out on mainstreaming for young students experiencing various learning difficulties and disabilities. If nothing else, however, it's clear to see the positive effect mainstream tactics have already had on numerous disabled pupils in terms of their social and academic development.