Proposed Study of the Effects Inclusion and Peer Acceptance

Proponents of inclusion have addressed not only the benefit of inclusion for a child with special needs, but also for genera l education students and teachers. Moore, Gilbreath, and Maiuri (1998) noted, “Inclusion, which is a philosophy of acceptance, belonging and community, also means that general education classes are structured to meet the needs of all the students in the class” (p. 2). The authors express the necessity of meeting the needs of all students in the school system, not just those identified as having special needs.

All students must have the support they need to succeed in school.

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Results of the study revealed that inclusion of students with disabilities had a positive effect on all parties involved, including non-disabled students, disabled students, and teachers (Moore, Gilbreath, & Maiuri, 1998). As inclusive education moves forward, educators and administrators are slowly changing their philosophical beliefs about the way we educate children with disabilities.

Inclusion has promoted the need to reform the overall design of classrooms to welcome and provide a meaningful education to a range of diverse children (Shoho, Katims, & Wilks, 1997). The goal of inclusive schools is to mainstream students with exceptional needs in the general education classroom and reorganize the environment to meet the needs of all students. In order to fully understand and comprehend the impact of inclusion on peer acceptance, researchers must continue to investigate the relationship between the inclusive school environment and resultant peer relationships.

Research thus far, as will be demonstrated in the review of related literature has been inconclusive as to the overall effect of inclusion on peer acceptance, with studies providing a mixture of findings. This research proposal will address the issue of inclusion and peer acceptance via mixed-methods study that utilizes peer acceptance inventories, naturalistic observations, and behavioral surveys. The purpose of this study is to examine the effect of inclusion on peer acceptance if children with learning disabilities. Research Questions

Both qualitative and quantitative research methods to answer numerous questions will be utilized. The following questions will attempt to answer the research question, “Does the effect of inclusion on peer acceptance of children with learning disabilities have a positive effect on all parties involved, including non-disabled students, learning disabled students, and teachers.

Questions are as follows: What is inclusion? What is the difference between inclusion and mainstreaming? Who benefits from inclusion? What about non-disabled students?

What are some ways regular educators and special educators can work together effectively? What are some of the pros and cons of inclusion? What affect(s), does inclusion have on social skills of learning disabled, non-disabled students and teachers? Validity The research articles are peer-reviewed and apply to real life settings as they pertain to inclusion, inclusive education, peer acceptance, and learning disabled students, therefore the validity of the articles are high. Of course research could be generalized to other populations because research has been conducted in other countries.

Review of Literature Numerous studies exist pertaining to mainstreaming and its effect on the social interactions of disabled students and their non-disabled peers. The studies cited in this proposal contain data that either suggests negative findings of inclusion, mixed findings of inclusion, or support for inclusion. The literature reviewed for this study contains historical information relating to the success or failure of the inclusion (mainstreaming) movement.

The focus of our literature review is how inclusion impacts peers acceptance of children with learning disabilities.

Prior to Public Law 94-142, students with severe disabilities typically attended special schools or remained home. Students with mild disabilities attended general education classes without special education support. Today more than six million students with disabilities are educated in the United States according to the U. S.

Commission on Special Education. Inclusion has become a topic of much debate among educators. According to Banjeri and Dailey (1995), the concept of inclusive educational programming is based on the premise that children with exceptional abilities and backgrounds be included in the general education classroom.

Children with disabilities, when included with normally achieving students, may benefit both academically and socially from an integrated learning environment. Educators and administrators are slowly changing their philosophical beliefs regarding the way we educate children with disabilities as inclusive education moves forward.

Negative Findings of Inclusion The debate over the advantages and disadvantages of inclusion of children with disabilities has been long and does not appear to be approaching an end.

Both components and supporters of inclusion can find data to support their positions (Hines, 2001). Opponents of inclusion may argue that placing a disabled child in a regular education classroom causes further alienation and feelings of inferiority. Research based on a sixth grade student population in a full inclusion setting indicated that students classified as learning disabled rated themselves as being significantly lonelier than their non-disabled students were less likely to be included in the popular group when compared to non-disabled students.

There was no significant difference, however between how the learning disabled students and the non-disabled students perceived their social competence. Larrivee and Home (1991) found similar differences in relation to peer acceptance.

Students ranging from first grade through sixth grade were identified as mainstreamed students, low achievers, average achievers, or high achievers. Peer acceptance was measured using the Perception of Social Closeness Scales (PSCS) with each child “rating” every other child in his or her classroom.

Results of the study indicated that the most accepted students were the high achievers, average achievers, low achievers, and then mainstreamed students, respectively. There was not a significant difference in peer acceptance between the groups designated as mainstreamed and low achievers or between the groups designated as mainstreamed and low achievers, or between the high achievers and average achievers. There was, however, a significant difference in peer acceptance between the mainstreamed and low achiever groups versus the high and average achiever groups.

Guralnick and Groom (1988) lend further support to the notion that inclusion alone is not significant to bridge the social gap between disabled children and their non-disabled peers.

The research was conducted with a group of 59 children enrolled in a preschool program, of which seven were classified as having a disability. Results indicated that younger children interacted with disabled peers more often than older children.