Home » News » Parenting » Special Needs Children Benefit from Mainstreaming
Special Needs Children Benefit from Mainstreaming

Special Needs Children Benefit from Mainstreaming

Researchers have found the practice of educating children with special needs in regular classes helps to improve the language skills of preschoolers with disabilities.

Researchers found that the average language skills of a child’s classmates in the fall significantly predicted the child’s language skills in the spring — especially for children with disabilities.

The results support inclusion policies in schools that aim to have students with disabilities in the same classrooms alongside their typically developing peers.

“Students with disabilities are the ones who are affected most by the language skills of the other children in their class,” said Laura Justice, co-author of the study and professor of teaching and learning at Ohio State University.

“We found that children with disabilities get a big boost in their language scores over the course of a year when they can interact with other children who have good language skills.”

In fact, after one year of preschool, children with disabilities had language skills comparable to children without disabilities when surrounded by highly skilled peers in their classroom.

“The biggest problem comes when we have a classroom of children with disabilities with no highly skilled peers among them,” Justice said. “In that case, they have limited opportunity to improve their use of language.”

The study, which will appear in the journal Psychological Science, involved 670 preschool-aged children enrolled in 83 early childhood special education classrooms in Ohio.

About half of the children had an Individualized Education Plan, signaling presence of a disability. Between 25 and 100 percent of children in each classroom had a disability.

All children’s language skills were measured in the fall and spring of the academic year with a commonly used test called the Descriptive Pragmatics Profile.

The average score of all children in an individual classroom was used to determine each child’s relative status in terms of language development, and whether their classmates were more highly skilled, less skilled, or average.

While all children’s language skills were affected somewhat by the skill levels of their classmates, the effect was strongest for those with disabilities, the study found.

For those children with disabilities who were in classrooms with the most highly skilled peers, language scores in the spring were about 40 percent better than those of children with disabilities who were placed with the lowest-ranked peers.

Students who had no disabilities showed about a 27 percent difference in scores between those with the highest-ranked peers and the lowest-ranked peers.

“This study, like others, finds that the most highly skilled students are the ones whose language improvement is least affected by the skill of their classmates,” Justice said.

“The highly skilled children aren’t hurt by being in classrooms with children who have disabilities,” she said.

“But children with disabilities are vulnerable if they aren’t placed with more highly skilled peers.”

Justice said she and her colleagues are currently doing research that directly compares the effects teachers have on language development versus the effect of peers.

Early results suggest teachers matter most, “but peers definitely have an impact on language development,” she said.

Peers help because they spend more time one-on-one with their fellow classmates than teachers can. Children with disabilities have the opportunity to observe, imitate, and model the language use of their peers who do not have disabilities.

“In a sense, the typically developing children act as experts who can help their classmates who have disabilities,” Justice said.

Statistics from the U.S. Department of Education show that more than half of preschoolers with disabilities are enrolled in early childhood classrooms with typically developing peers.

Justice said these results suggest that all preschoolers with disabilities would benefit from inclusion policies.

“We have to give serious thought to how we organize our classrooms to give students with disabilities the best chance to succeed,” she said.

Source: Ohio State University

 
Special needs child in a classroom photo by shutterstock.

Special Needs Children Benefit from Mainstreaming

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Special Needs Children Benefit from Mainstreaming. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 20, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2014/07/29/special-needs-children-benefit-from-mainstreaming/73007.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.