This just in from Disability Scoop:
Inclusion is often believed to be the best option for students with disabilities, but a new study calls into question whether or not the practice truly leads to better outcomes long term.
Researchers found that students with autism who spent 75 to 100 percent of their time in general education classrooms were no more likely to complete high school, go to college or see improvements in cognitive functioning than those who spent more time in segregated environments.
The results published Thursday in a special supplement to the journal Pediatrics come from a study of nearly 500 young adults with autism who received special education services at public schools nationwide. Researchers assessed data on the students collected in the federal government’s National Longitudinal Transition Study-2.
“We find no systematic indication that the level of inclusivity improves key future outcomes,” researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Johns Hopkins University wrote.
Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, students who qualify for special education are supposed to be served in the least restrictive environment. However, the study authors said their results call into question whether or not that requirement is associated with achieving the best long-term outcomes.
I am reporting on a report here without having read the actual article (I cant access it as I’m not subscribed to the journal it was published in). As far as I can tell from the report in Disability Scoop, the researchers seem to have concentrated on the outcomes of completing high school, going to college and improvements in cognitive functioning. I wonder what they would have found if they had looked at other key outcomes that contribute to a good quality of life, such as friendships and relationships, level of independence, self-esteem and self-confidence, and maybe even, experiences of bullying.
In 2006, the NAS ran the ‘Make Schools Make Sense’ campaign. Their report (2006) showed:
- Over 50% of children are not in the kind of school their parents believe would best support them.
- 45% of parents say it took over a year for their child to receive any support.
- There are more appeals to the Special Educational Needs (SEN) and Disability Tribunal in England about autism than any other type of SEN. 79% of parents who appealed to the Tribunal in this survey won their case.
- Parents say the biggest gap in provision is social skills programmes.
- 1 in 5 children with autism has been excluded from school, and 67% of these have been excluded more than once.
The above statistics are not from exclusively mainstream placements – they include special schools as well as resourced units and mixed placements.
For those of you considering educational placements for your children with autism, in 2011 the UK’s Centre for Research into Autism Education (CRAE) surveyed a diverse range of schools educating pupils from right across the autism spectrum, finding several consistent themes despite the diversity of placement and whereabouts on the spectrum. Good practice schools:
- Had high expectations for their pupils with autism
- Used multiple assessments to monitor progress beyond those statutorily required in order to monitor children’s progress in terms of academic skills but also social and behavioural outcomes
- Were well versed in individualising and adapting the curriculum for each pupil acknowledging that pupils with autism have additional and unique needs and unique approaches to learning and the broad ‘autism curriculum’ reflected these needs
- Encouraged effective and sustainable relationships with specialist health and social care practitioners, in particular SALTs, OTs and CAMHS
- Nurtured expert, highly motivated staff for whom training was a priority both inside and outside the school gates
- Had very high levels of communication with parents and carers, both about approaches to learning and on strategies to promoting positive social and behavioural outcomes and well-being
- Were characterised by strong leadership and vision, which saw their school as fully inclusive and deeply embedded within the local community, taking on an ambassadorial role to raise awareness about autism
- Worked hard at developing fully reciprocal relationships with families – parents and carers and children and young people.
The full report is available here.
I would be interested to read others' views on inclusion - please post comments!