When children have special needs and require some form of special education, they may or may not need to learn in an environment that is separate from many of their peers. Each special needs student is entitled by law to learn in the least restrictive environment possible under the circumstances. However, what constitutes the least restrictive environment possible may be defined differently for each special needs child.
For example, a student with severe behavioral disorders who is prone to violence may not learn best in a classroom full of other children. In addition, special needs kids who may be prone to potentially hazardous wandering may need to be kept in an environment where teachers can keep a close eye on them. However, other special needs students may learn beautifully in a classroom full of students who do not have special educational needs.
These students may require some time out of the mainstream classroom to achieve their educational goals and ensure that their educational needs are met. However, they may be able to learn primarily in a room full of their peers who do not have special educational needs.
Parents and educators have experienced that not only does integrating special needs and mainstream students in classrooms benefit many special needs students, this approach often benefits kids who do not have special educational needs. The presence of special needs students often helps their mainstream peers to learn empathy, compassion and a whole host of other critical social skills. When thinking about what an integrated classroom experience may do to benefit your child, understand that this approach might benefit his or her peers as well.
Source: The Wall Street Journal, “How ‘Special Education’ Can Help Children Who Don’t Need It,” Catherine Pearlman, Feb. 18, 2014