Inclusion can be viewed as a ‘place’ where a child could have access to education and participate with his/her peers in the classroom. Many primary schools restructure themselves so as to be able to support the needs of all children with disabilities in society. According to researchers, mainstreaming and inclusion are both efforts which provide educational services to students with disabilities in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). Mainstreaming means that a school is placing children with special needs into general classrooms together with their peers who have no disabilities. However, there are differences between mainstreaming and inclusion in that, they differ philosophically and conceptually.
Mainstreaming implies that a child who has a disability “belongs” in the special education classroom and must earn their way into such environment. In contrast, inclusion implies that the special needs child should always begin in the general education environment and should only be removed when suitable services cannot be provided for the child in the general classroom setting. Therefore, bringing support services to the special needs child in the general education classroom can benefit the child rather than, the child is kept away from their peers. For many years, inclusion for special needs students have been a main focus in the primary schools to ensure these students meet the requirements of being educated and accepted by others.
There are five faces of inclusion which encompasses the need for special needs students to be considered in all areas of inclusion. These faces of inclusion are: physical, social, emotional, behavioural and academic. Physical inclusion refers to the placement of all children with physical disabilities in the general education classrooms. That is why, it is important that all primary schools should be equipped with ramps to accommodate these students on their wheelchairs to be mobile around the school’s compound. Social inclusion refers to the special needs student personal interactions with their classmates. Positive interactions between the students with disabilities and other students help to develop relationships which have positive effects on the special needs student. Emotional inclusion refers to the special needs student feeling that he/she has purpose and value within the classroom. Therefore, it is important that students and teachers should ensure that the child with the disability is treated as “special” or different as little as possible. Behavioural inclusion refers to the student with the disability, should have behavioural expectations that are regular to the other students in the classroom. Academic inclusion refers to the special needs student who does not need to function on the same academic levels as their peers in order to be located in a general education classroom.
Students with special needs should be an integral part of the classroom and be accepted by others in a positive way for an overall learning environment. Inclusion in general education classrooms ensures access to the core curriculum far more effectively than special education classrooms (Browder ; Spooner, 2006). There have been many researchers who have examined the outcomes of inclusive education practices in schools. However, there are a number of benefits for students with special needs which exist in society today. This research has generated information relating to the benefits of inclusion for students with numerous disabilities to cater to their needs in the general primary school classroom.