7 Research Studies for Inclusion

To read on Inclusion Evolution website:

7 Research Studies You Can Use At Your Child’s Next IEP Meeting to Win the Fight for Inclusion

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Inclusion

“Almost 30 years of research and experience has demonstrated that the education of children with disabilities can be made more effective by having high expectations for such children and ensuring their access to the general education curriculum in the regular classroom, to the maximum extent possible.”

Most parents of students with Down syndrome have heard a variation of the quote above, especially if you’ve tried fighting for inclusion. I assumed this statement was just hyperbole. I figured there was some truth in it, but that there was probably just as much research showing self-contained classes were more beneficial than inclusion. At least that’s what most school districts and even many parents would have you believe.

Imagine my surprise then, when I read the EXACT quote above in the introduction to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (read it for yourself right here). The actual law, supported by both Democrats and Republicans, states that a regular classroom with proper supports is best for ALL students with disabilities. I was a bit taken back, and wanted to know more about this research the law touted.

What I found was even more surprising. Did you know there’s not one quantitative research study, since research began on the topic, that shows an academic advantage for students with intellectual disabilities in separate settings? None! Zip! Nada! Here’s the research study citation to prove it: Falvey, Mary A. (Spring 2004) Toward realization of the least restrictive educational environments for severely handicapped students. Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities. 29 (1), 9-10. 

Luckily, I’ve learned a lot more about the research that supports proper inclusion for students with even the most severe disabilities as part of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates Special Education Training. It’s a year-long course I’m taking to prepare for my own son’s entry into public education, as well as to fulfill my goal to help other families advocate for inclusion for their child. The information below is credited to the amazing Selene Almazan, special education lawyer who specializes in the least restrictive environment.

So, without further ado, below are 7 quantitative research studies that show the benefits of including students with even the most severe disabilities in a general education classroom:

In the area of IEP quality, time of engagement, and individual supports:

    1. In a 1992 quantitative study, Hunt and Farron-Davis found a significant increase in Individualized Education Plan (IEP) quality in measures of age appropriateness, functionality, and generalizations when students were moved from a self-contained classroom to a general education classroom. This was true even when the special educator stayed the same and moved with the child into the least restrictive environment. Experts interpret this to mean that there’s nothing going on within the four walls of a self-contained classroom that provides value and quality when stacked up against general education classroom settings.
      • Citation: Hunt, P., & Farron-Davis, F. (1992). A preliminary investigation of IEP quality and content associated with placement in general education versus special education. Journal of the Association for Persons with Severe Handicapps, 17 (4), 247-253.
    2. Two years later, the same researchers looked at engagement of students with severe disabilities within general education. They found that there was an increase in the amount of instruction for functional activities for students with severe disabilities within general education compared to self-contained classrooms. Students in self-contained classrooms were less engaged and more isolated.
      • Citation: Hunt, P., Farron-Davis, F., Beckstead, S., Curtis, D., & Goetz, L. (1994). Evaluating the effects of placement of students with severe disabilities in general education versus special education. Journal of the Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps, 19 (3), 200-214.
    3. Similar results were found in a study of a small group of students with severe disabilities. Some of the students were placed in general education and some were in a self-contained classroom. The study found the general education setting provided more instruction time, a comparable about of one-on-one time, addressed content curriculum more, and engaged in peer-modeling more.
      • Citation: Helmstetter, Curry, Brennan, & Sampson-Saul, (1998). Comparison of general and special education classrooms of students with severe disaitatebilities. Education and Training in Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, 33, 216-227.

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