Behavioral issues are a burning problem in inclusion classes, because students with special needs that study in such classes require extra attention and time. For a thorough understanding of the behavioral issues that take part in such classes, it is essential to become familiar with the concept of the notion. Researchers and scientists assert that inclusion classes represent an effort to introduce students with special needs into the mainstream education. This means that all students, regardless of their unique needs, are welcomed into the school community. This was a move aimed at improving social and academic achievements of students with special needs. Research also intimates that teachers in inclusion classrooms are required to pay special attention and support, as applying of these techniques is one of strategies to deal with students in an inclusion classroom. Behavioral issues abound in inclusion classrooms because the teacher has to spend more time to address all the requirements of students with special needs. Researchers distinguish three factors as the main causes of behavioral issues in inclusion classrooms. These include internal reasons, such as ADHD, which makes a child move constantly on the chair; desire to get attention from the teacher or peers, and the need to escape from school assignments. These problems make it hard to manage a classroom because students put a lot of pressure on the teacher. However, several researchers have explored ways of dealing with this problem and provided a number of solutions. They include adaptation of teaching methods, altering the classroom structure and changing the classroom activities and homework assignment. This paper provides a brief history of inclusion classrooms, describes behavioral problems that abound in such classes, and methods of dealing with the disruptions that occur in the process of teaching.
A Brief History of Inclusion Classrooms
Research traces the history of inclusion classrooms from as early as 1950. Isenberg & Jalongo (2003) indicate that campaigns for implementation of inclusion classrooms began in 1950 when undesirable outcomes were eminent from special education public programs. One of the main arguments that resulted from the campaign against segregating of students with special needs is that it minimized their potential and future opportunities.
The 1954 case of Brown against the Board of Education also contributed to the commencement of inclusion classes. Brown argued that separating students with special needs from normal students denied the former equal educational opportunity. Thus, in 1970 a step was taken to allow all students, irrespective of their health conditions, receive free public education, and participate in all activities within their educational institutions (Isenberg, & Jalongo, 2003).
A recent federal legislation of 1997, however, provides rules and regulations, which require students with special needs to be included in regular education. The regulation stipulates that students with disabilities should be included in general education; unless the severity and nature of the disability cannot be managed, using supplementary aids services, available in regular classrooms. IDEA based its arguments on the fact that inclusion is a matter of reception and flexibility, which means that it was factoring the teacher’s concerns regarding students with disabilities.
In 2002, the No Child Left Behind Act was ratified. According to this Act, the legislation was campaigning for the transfer of students with special needs from segregated classrooms to other classrooms that were using new strategies and teaching styles. The new strategies and learning styles were among efforts to ensure that the students were able to study according to their unique learning styles and abilities. McGrath (2007) observes that this Act has professed four principles, which include; an expansion of local control and flexibility, accountability for results, the adoption of effective means for the special needs students as provided by research, and increased options for parents. Thus, the Act has ensured that students with special needs were able to take part in all school activities, including evaluation of their performance. This was an effort, which aimed at enabling all students to discover the significant right of freedom and equality, ensured by the US government and constitution.
Behavioral Problems in Inclusion Classrooms
According to Cavanaugh (2009), behavioral problems in inclusion classrooms make it difficult for teachers to control the students. Research asserts that some students with special needs have behavioral or emotional conditions that are severe; thus, they ruin the classroom atmosphere for their peers and themselves. It, however, should be noted that the special needs students are usually conscious of themselves, which places them at a higher risk of failing in their final exams. Thus, this means that children with special needs in mainstream classrooms pose a danger to themselves and to other students, because of their emotional and behavioral issues. The following represents the common behavioral issues in inclusion classrooms:
Distractibility makes a student become sidetracked by other stimuli that are not a part of the academic task or activity. A teacher can notice this behavioral problem when a student frequently has difficulties in completing tasks, demonstrates enthusiastic beginnings with poor endings, and indulges in reveries. This behavior is obvious especially when a child suffers from ADHD.
Impulsiveness forms the second behavioral issue in an inclusion classroom. This behavior is characterized by forgetfulness, disorganization, and light-mindedness. Cavanaugh (2009) indicates that students with impulsiveness usually act before they think, are frustrated, lack tolerance, and shift from one activity to another excessively. These students also demonstrate inappropriate behavior.
Hyperactivity/hypoactivity forms the last behavioral issue in inclusion classrooms. A teacher can notice hyperactivity when a student is restless, depicts a diminished need to have a rest or sleep, runs, jumps, or climbs excessively. Lethargy, daydreaming, inattention, and difficulties in learning depict another state, hypoactivity.
Besides the above-mentioned behavioral problems, teachers also need to be attentive to notice other behavioral issues, such as immaturity. A student demonstrates immaturity when he/she struggles to attract attention of either the teacher or his/her peers. Teachers should also be attentive to notice students with emotional difficulties and poor interpersonal relationships.
It should be noted that the behavioral problems, described above, make it difficult for a teacher to establish and maintain discipline in a classroom. In some cases, the healthy students mock at the children with behavioral and mental problems. This usually happens when lesson is in progress, and the student with behavioral problem cannot concentrate. This makes it hard for the teacher to control the classroom, because usually other children become excited with how the student with problems is behaving in the classroom (McGrath, 2007).
Another thing that makes it hard for the teacher to control the classroom is the fact that the student with special needs might require more attention, which means that the teacher is forced to spend more time on ensuring that the student keeps up with the rest of the class, in terms of academic success. In case of catering to the special needs of such individual, the other students take advantage of the opportunity to disrupt the common learning process. They may begin chatting in the classroom or making fun of the student with special needs.
Research also indicates that some teachers cannot manage an inclusion classroom because of their credentials. Special need students have a different curriculum from the mainstream students’ one, which means that a teacher has to be familiar with both educational programs, in order to manage an inclusion classroom effectively. This poses a problem to teachers that lack knowledge regarding special education curriculum.
Another significant point is that some teachers do not know what to do in the case when a special needs student is attacked by his/her ailment, such as autism or ADHD. Research reveals that students with special needs might become suddenly overexcited and/or cause a commotion in the classroom. This requires a special attention from the teacher. If the teacher lacks background knowledge regarding how such a student is supposed to be handled, the situation will get worse. The above reasons prompted researchers to come up with viable solutions of training teachers on how to manage such disruptions in a classroom. They are outlined below.
Firstly, a teacher should adapt a classroom structure. According to Mantooth (2007), this method is essential in facilitating inclusion, as it entails shifting of certain physical structures, such as the desks position within the classroom. This will enable students with hearing or visual impairments to sit at the front of the classroom, so that they can easily see the blackboard and hear the teacher. In addition, it provides some students with serious hearing impairments with the ability to lip-read.
Secondly, adapting of special teaching methods is also beneficial to manage an inclusion classroom. McGrath (2007) asserts that adapting of certain teaching methods depends on the type of student’s special needs. Teachers in classrooms that have students with disabilities, such as autism and ADHD, can incorporate cultural experiences in their practice. Notably, they can incorporate teaching methods that provide practical lessons regarding the experiences that these students will need in the future. This provides the healthy students with an insight into the problem that their counterpart is undergoing, and it can make them stop ridiculing the special needs student (Cavanaugh, & University, 2009).
Adapting class activities and homework assignments is another method of managing an inclusion classroom with a student with autism or ADHD. This strategy can be applied in that the teacher should group students without disabilities together with the disabled ones. The healthy students would compensate for the time that the teacher could have spent in dealing with the special need children. In addition, the teacher can reduce the amount of work that he/she gives. This will enable the students with disabilities to comprehend what the teacher is explaining, as they have short attention spans.
Lastly, adapting exams and quizzes is another way that teachers can apply to manage inclusion classrooms. Teachers can manage inclusion classrooms using this technique, as it keeps the students active throughout the lesson. Notably, some students will require more time to complete their assignments, which the teacher should allow (Mantooth, 2007).
In conclusion, despite behavioral problems topping the list of issues in an inclusion classroom, some concerned parties have continued promoting the idea of inclusion of special needs students into the mainstream classrooms. The history of inclusion classes reveals how long was the way to get students with special needs included in the mainstream classes. The 1997 and 2002 Acts on inclusion programs contributed significantly to the adoption of the system in the US. Some of the behavioral issues that appear in inclusion classes include healthy students ridiculing the special needs students, lack of attention, sudden excitement, immaturity, and disorganization. However, researchers have come up with viable solutions to these problems. They include adaptation of classroom structure, teaching methods, class activities and homework assignments, quizzes and exams. All these techniques help a teacher in maintaining discipline, and ensure effective educational process in a classroom with a student with special needs. Thus, research recommends that the inclusion method should be adopted by all schools, as it facilitates equal opportunity to students, and makes them familiar with the American ideology and lifestyle.