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Mainstreaming - a value-based issue.

Mainstreaming-a value-based issue

The Scandinavian countries are considered pioneers in mainstreaming handicapped children and adults in school systems and in communities. During the 1960s, civil rights movements in the U.S. cultivated background for legislation to benefit individuals with handicapping (*1) conditions. Long deprived minority groups demanded that written laws supporting individual rights in a democratic society also be seen in action. This encouraged parents of children with handicapping conditions to demand their equal rights to education, rehabilitation, and job opportunities.

Public Law 94-142, The Education for all Handicapped Children Act of 1975, mandated that handicapped children be educated in least restrictive environments. New terms appeared in the educational literature--i.e., mainstreaming, integration, and segregation. The term mainstreaming is not synonymous with connotation of least restrictive environment.

Mainstreaming is an educational placement philosophy based on the belief that a handicapped student should be educated in the least restrictive environment in which his or her needs can be met. For some children, this is integration; for others, it is partial integration or segregation. The words mainstreaming and regular class can be used interchangeably (Sherrill, 1986).

Mainstreaming refers to providing individuals with handicapping conditions opportunities for appropriate education, physical education, recreation, and sport services and activities in settings as near to traditional practice as possible (Stein, 1985).

The Academic and

Social Effects of Mainstreaming

During the last 16 years, since PL 94-142 was passed, vast amounts of research have been published dealing with effects of mainstreaming and integration of the handicapped and their non-handicapped peers. Recent research has focused on effects of least restrictive environment through physical education. This article deals with positive effects only.

Corman and Gottlieb (1978) summarized academic achievements of educable (mildly) mentally retarded children (EMR), who were partially or totally integrated in regular classes. They reported that EMRs who received intensive individualized instruction were able to be integrated completely, or at least to a certain degree, in regular classes. Integrated children registered higher gains in reading and mathematics than segregated children.

Wang and Birch (1984) reported that exceptional children in grades K-3 (including learning disabled, socially and emotionally disturbed, visually impaired, and gifted) benefitted from full-time mainstreamed programs, more than peers in resource room programs in attaining desirable classroom processes, student attitudes, and student achievement in basic skills. Early childhood mainstreaming promoted peer-related social development among handicapped children to greater extents than specialized settings (Guralnick & Groom, 1988). Academic successes of EMRs in integrated settings were due to individualized instruction, low teacher-pupil ratios, and inservice training of regular class teachers. It seemed that when modifications were made to integrate EMRs in regular classes, their academic achievements were better than peers in special classes, while nonretarded classmates suffered no adverse effects (Corman & Gottlieb, 1978).

EMRs in integrated settings thad better attitudes toward school and displayed more appropriate behavior than segregated peers. However, greater contact between retarded and non-retarded children did not result in better social acceptance. On the contrary, it seemed that with time, classmates developed negative attitudes toward their peers' handicaps. Teachers perceived EMRs as misbehaving and less capable than low achievers. It seemed that teachers' rejections of handicapped children were internalized by classmates.

Surveys of regular class teachers' attitudes toward handicapped pupils have indicated that many teachers feel they do not have necessary skills to teach children with special needs. Gickling and Theobald (1975) found that out of 326 special and regular class teachers, the majority opposed integration and supported self-contained classes for EMRs.

While the debate on mainstreaming is going on and the research findings are not decisive, one must remember that children with handicapping conditions are more similar to typical children than different from them. In fact, greater differences can probably be found within any category of handicapping condition than between a particular condition and the able-bodied population.

Mainstreaming in Physical Education

PL 94-142, final Regulations (1977) defined physical education as development of: (a) physical and motor fitness; (b) fundamental motor skills and patterns; and (c) skills in aquatics, dance, and individual and group games and sports (including intramural and lifetime sports). Some handicapped children, as defined by this law, are entitled to individualized physical education programs.

Research indicated that EMR children were not as deficient in motor skill development as in measured intelligence. EMR children had a gap of two to four years in physical and motor performances when compared to intellectually non-handicapped children of the same chronological ages (Rarick et al., 1976).

Rarick and Beuter (1985) reported that motor performances of integrated trainable (moderately mentally retarded (TMR) children generally exceeded those of nonintegrated TMRs. They suggested that "under proper teaching conditions, TMR children profit motorically when mainstreamed in physical education without adversely affecting the motor performance of their non-handicapped peers" (p.279).

Karper and Martinek (1985) summarized their research in psycho motor and affective domains of mainstreaming concluding that many integrated handicapped children did not perform motically below levels of non-handicapped peers, and their self-concepts seemed to be enhanced in mainstreamed settings. The authors suggested that handicapped children, contrary to teachers' beliefs, may be more motivated than non-handicapped peers to perform well to remain in regular classes.

Methods and Organization

of Mainstreaming

A disabled student who is involved in the mainstreaming process must be successfully integrated rather than merely included in physical education classes (Lavay & DePaepe, 1987; Winnick 1978). Placement should be done on an individual basis in terms of abilities, interests, and needs. Stein (1985) emphasized that when implementing mainstreaming principles and procedures, there is no intent to place every individual with a handicapping condition in regular school programs and community activities. "Special programs and segregated activities are not to be done away with for these populations" (p. 25). Fait and Dunn (1984) proposed the following options for physical education services:

* Regular physical education,

* Regular physical education and consultative assistance,

* Regular physical education with assistance,

* Regular physical education plus part-time special class,

* Full time special class, and

* Full time special school (p. 78).

The physical education teacher has been advised to use a para-professional (teacher-aide) or develop peer-tutor programs. Volunteers, parents, monitors, special friends, and buddies can be trained to help in the physical education classes and supplement the handicapped students' programs in school and at home (Groves, 1986; Sherman 1986; Sherrill, 1986).

Competitive Sport

Only a very few disabled athletes have succeeded in participating in national-level sport events or the Olypic Games. The majority do not have the chances to reach these levels. As a result, different sport organizations, according to categories of handicapping conditions have been formed to carry out their own international competitions. Among the best known are Paralympic Games, World Games for the Deaf, and Special Olympics Games (Summer, Winter).

Unfortunately, some of these organizations, for various reasons, do not amalgamate, but rather function as a separate entities. Recently, demonstration events were held in conjunction with both Winter and Summer Olympic Games for athletes with disabilities. These events undoubtedly encourage individuals with disabilities to become involved in sport activities. The school physical education program should prepare and encourage handicapped students to involve themselves in sport activities on recreational or competitive bases. In the future, all international sport organizations for the disabled may be unified under the umbrella of the International Olympic Committee to mainstream individual disabled athletes in international sport events.


Mainstreaming is a civil rights issue; research has nothing to do with whether integration of the handicapped continues (Blatt, 1979).

The argument for integrating black and white students is, of course, essentially the same as made here for disabled students. ...Racial disturbances, problems over busing, resistance from parents, or other developments never lead to denunciations of racial integration as a legitimate social goal. All that is questioned is how best to achieve that racial harmony. Yet when it comes to disable children, bungled attempts at integration, dumping, lack of support services, and other problems lead frequently to calls to abandoned the effort altogether. Integration itself is questioned in a way that would never be tolerated for racial issues. This is what is menat by saying that in its truest form, mainstreaming is a civil rights issue, not a matter for empirical research (Ferguson et al., 1987, p.403).

Research, however, should guide educators as to how integration of all handicapped students can be achieved most effectively, so that as adults they will be able to function in the mainstream of society.

The handicapped comprise at least 10 percent of the population in every country. They have the right to be integrated rather than separated. Until recently, they lived on the outskirts of society because they could not march on barricades. Should we continue to stay indifferent and merely weigh pros and cons of mainstreaming based on research alone? Or should we inquire about new ways, and perhaps better methods, of mainstreaming mildly and severely handicapped in society accordint to the spirit of the legislator? Every child, handicapped or non-handicapped, white, black, or brown, should have equal opportunies to develop to his/her utmost. It is the obligation of society to assure it for all.

**1) Countries around the world which maintain modern educational systems have enacted similar legislation, and thus face many of the same problems as in the U.S. with regard to mainstreaming persons with handicapping conditions.

Selected References

Blatt, B. (1979). A drastically different analysis. Mental Retardation, 17, 303-305.

Corman, L. & Gotlieb, J. (1978). Mainstreaming mentally retarded children: A review of research. In: N.R. Ellis (Ed.). International review of research in mental retardation (Vol. 9, 251-275). New York: Academic Press.

Dunn, J.M. & Croft, D.H. (1985). Mainstreaming theory and practice. Adapted Physical Activity Quarterly, 2, 273-276.

Fait, H.F. & Dunn, J.M. (1984). Special physical education--Adapted, individualized, and development (5th ed.). Philadelphia: Saunders College Publishing.

Ferguson, D.L., Ferguson, P.M. & Bogdan, R.C. (1987). If mainstreaming is the answer, what is the question? In: D.C. Berliner (Ed.) Educator's handbook-A research perspective (pp. 394-419). New York: Longman Publisher.

Gickling, E.E. & Theobald, J.T. (1975). Mainstreaming: Affect or effect? Journal of Special Education, 9, 317-328.

Groves, L. (1986). The integration of children with special needs into physical education and support - U.K. and U.S.A. In: Physical education, recreational and sport: Lifelong participation (pp. 142-145). 10th Congress of the International Association of Physical Education and Sport for Girls and Women.

Guralnick, M.J. & Groom, J.M. (1988). Peer interactions in mainstreamed and specialized classrooms: A comparative analysis. Exceptional children, 54(5), 415-425.

Karper, W.B. & Martinek, T.J. (1985). The integration of handicapped and nonhandicapped children in elementary physical education. Adapted Physical Activity Quarterly, 2, 314-319.

Lavay, B. & DePaepe, J. (1987). The harbering helper. Why mainstreaming in physical education doesn't always work. Journal of Physical Education and Recreation, 58(7), 98-103.

Rarick, G.L., Dobbins, D.A. & Broadhead, G.D. (1976). The motor domain and its correlates in educationally handicapped children. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Rarick, G.L. & Beuter, A.C. (1985). The effect of mainstreaming on the motor performance of mentally retarded and nonhandicapped students. Adapted Physical Activity Quarterly, 2, 277-282.

Sherman, A. (1986). Integration of blind and partially sighted children in regular physical education programs in elementary schools. In: Physical education, recreation and sport: Lifelong participation (pp. 153-158). 10th Congress of the International Association of Physical Education and Sport for Girls and Women.

Sherrill, C. (1986). Adapted physical education and recreation. Dubuque, IA: Wm. C. Brown.

Stein, J.U. (1985). Mainstreaming in recreation settings. It can be done. Journal of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, 25:52.

Wang, M.C. & Birch, J.W. (1984). Comparison of a full-time mainstreaming program and a resource room approach. Exceptional Children, 51(1), 33-40.

Winnick, J.P. (1978). Techniques for integration. Journal of Physical Education and Recreation, 49, 22.

Atara Sherman is assistant director and head of the Special Education Department, The Zinman College of Physical Education of Wingate Institute, Israel.
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Title Annotation:Mainstreaming & Least Restrictive Environment
Author:Sherman, Atara
Date:Jan 1, 1991
Previous Article:Summary of entry and exit criteria for adapted physical education.
Next Article:Is the mainstream always a better place to be?

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