Students with learning disabilities and regular classrooms: current literature
In this blog, I will focus on students with learning disabilities (SLD) and what current academic literature says about placing this category of students into regular classrooms.
The notion of having all students (including those with learning disabilities) succeed and be ready for after-school life is the heart of every responsible school. This remains true no matter the geographic location or the style of leadership. However, not every student is ready for robust success, and having all students succeed in school is a perennial challenge. Millions of students have to be accommodated or given special services for them to learn.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there are close to seven million (13 percent of all public school students) students with special needs (or students with learning disabilities) across the U.S. As the Center for Public Education reported in 2009, only 50 percent of students with learning disabilities graduate with a standard diploma.
Committed to the welfare of every student, policies and better academic practices were widely advocated. That is why IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) was created, and this category of students was considered the foremost beneficiary of IDEA, for instance.
Formerly knows as EHA (Education for All Handicapped Children Act) throughout 1975 and 1990 until Congress renamed it in the end, IDEA is the primary law that deals with this type of students. IDEA defines students with learning disabilities or special education needs as children:
(i) with mental retardation, hearing impairments (including deafness), speech or language impairments, visual impairments (including blindness), serious emotional disturbance (hereinafter referred to as emotional disturbance’), orthopedic impairments, autism, traumatic brain injury, other health impairments, or specific learning disabilities; and (ii) who, by reason thereof, needs special education and related services
In fact, the effort to provide students with learning disabilities the opportunity to learn became a worldwide phenomenon. Ireland, for instance, passed laws similar to IDEA in order to deal with the educational needs of disaster-hit children. One of these Irish laws is the “Education for Persons with Disabilities Act, 2004.”
Literature review on this topic shows two schools of thought regarding accommodating students with learning disabilities. One camp argues for the inclusion of students with disabilities in regular classrooms, while the other camp advocates for special accommodation outside regular classrooms.
However, strong empirical research supports the inclusion of students with special needs in regular classrooms and the benefits for both education communities and the society at large (Giangreco, 2017; Lynch, 2016; Malle, Pirttimaa, & Saloviita, 2015; Olson, Leko, & Roberts, 2016; O’Rourke & Houghton, 2006; Strosnider, Lyon, & Gartland, 1997).
Nevertheless, some researchers argued that including students with disabilities in regular classrooms requires a huge transformation of curriculum and teaching methods.