ERIC Identifier: ED321501
Publication Date: 1990-00-00
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Handicapped and Gifted Children
Integrating Students with Severe Disabilities. ERIC
Students with severe handicaps are those "having physical, mental, or
emotional problems to a degree requiring educational, social, psychological,
and/or medical services beyond those traditionally offered by regular and
special education" (Kelly & Vergason, 1985, p. 156). These students
in the past may have been placed in segregated special schools and/or large
state institutions. They were excluded from regular neighborhood schools
and classrooms because they typically lacked skills such as ambulation;
the ability to communicate their needs easily; and/or self-care skills,
particularly dressing, toileting, and independent eating. Other reasons
for exclusion included the unusual medical problems of some and the deviant
behavior exhibited by others. In addition, many professionals and parents
felt that the specialized services needed by these students could be delivered
most efficiently in settings other than regular neighborhood schools and
WHAT ARE SOME BENEFITS OF INTEGRATING STUDENTS WITH SEVERE DISABILITIES
INTO REGULAR CLASSROOMS?
Students with severe disabilities can benefit from well-planned and
-organized integration experiences. In integrated school environments,
regular class students are provided unique opportunities to learn first-hand
about human differences and similarities and how to approach and interact
with members of society who have severe disabilities. Researchers have
found that, generally speaking, nondisabled students who have had opportunities
to interact with students with severe disabilities hold more positive and
accepting attitudes toward them than do students who have not had such
opportunities (e.g., Voeltz, 1982). Such interactions can also reduce nondisabled
students' fear of students with severe disabilities and promote understanding
(McHale & Simeonsson, 1980).
WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE TO FACILITATE INTEGRATION?
When students with disabilities are placed in regular public schools
and classrooms, teachers generally find an abundance of opportunities for
positive interactions. Opportunities exist from the beginning of the day,
when students are entering the halls, interacting with each other, and
using lockers; throughout the day, in regular education classes, at recess,
lunch, library, and special activities; to the end of the day, when waiting
for buses or participating in extracurricular activities.
Teachers who have been involved in integrating students with severe
disabilities have found that careful planning is required to take full
advantage of the available interaction opportunities. In other words, positive
interactions between students with severe disabilities and others in a
regular school environment will rarely happen spontaneously at first; they
must be planned for and encouraged in a systematic fashion until the students
get to know and feel comfortable with one another.
HOW CAN PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH ACCESS AND SCHEDULING BE OVERCOME?
Special and regular education staff should discuss issues such as the
role of special educators in regular education classes (Can the special
education teacher co-teach with the regular class teacher?); school transportation
(Will the students with severe disabilities be able to ride on the same
buses as their nondisabled peers?); and position of students with disabilities
in the lunchroom (Will they sit with lunchroom partners who have disabilities
or at tables with nondisabled students?). Many modifications in typical
school routines (e.g., early lunchroom arrival or departure, entering school
at a separate door, sitting at a separate lunch table), made initially
to minimize difficulties for students with severe disabilities, either
are unnecessary or soon become unnecessary. Modifications of building usage,
scheduling, or program access should be minimized or avoided if at all
WHERE CAN EXTRA HELP BEST BE USED?
Areas in which additional support might be needed could include getting
on and off the bus; using correct entrances and exits; locating classrooms,
bathrooms, offices, and other school facilities; using lockers and locks;
following lunchroom procedures; and using recess time in appropriate ways.
This extra support can be of great assistance to regular education teachers
and to students with severe disabilities, as well as other school staff
and building principals, all of whom might feel overwhelmed by the typical
beginning-of-the-school-year hassles. It is important to plan to gradually
fade out the additional support as students begin to acquire necessary
skills and learn new school routines.
HOW CAN AN "OPEN DOOR" POLICY HELP BREAK DOWN BARRIERS?
Teachers can make other staff members feel welcome in their classrooms
by announcing an "open door policy," a willingness to have visitors. Parents
might be curious about what happens in the classroom and could spend time
there. Whenever appropriate, visitors could observe ongoing instruction,
look at the room and its materials, and interact with the students with
disabilities. This willingness to be observed and have visitors might serve
to remove some of the mystery that often surrounds a classroom that includes
students with severe disabilities. Eventually, this could lead to having
observers, either nondisabled students or staff members, become more involved
with students with disabilities.
HOW CAN STUDENTS LEARN MORE ABOUT HANDICAPPING CONDITIONS AND THE
PROBLEMS FACED BY PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES?
Information about people with disabilities can be incorporated into
the regular education curriculum. If students with severe disabilities
are to become truly integrated into regular schools and classrooms, sensitization
to individual differences among peers should become an established part
of ongoing curricula for all students. For example, sensitization/information
sessions might be presented to social studies classes in a middle school
during an ongoing unit on similarities and differences among people.
HOW CAN NONDISABLED STUDENTS HELP SUPPORT INTEGRATION EFFORTS?
Initially, interested students could be given a general orientation
to individual differences among students, as well as specific information
about the new students with severe disabilities attending their school.
These students could then assist in both planning and conducting sensitization
and information sessions. They could also provide input about activities
they believe their peers might find interesting.
The use of nondisabled student tutors or partners to work with students
who have disabilities is an effective technique (Almond, Rodgers, &
Krug, 1979; Donder & Nietupski, 1981; Kohl, Moses, & Stettner-Eaton,
1984; Poorman, 1980; Stainback, Stainback, & Jaben, 1981). More recently,
enlisting the assistance of students with disabilities to tutor or help
other students has also been found to be useful (Gartner & Lipsky,
1990). Once students are given accurate information about the individual
differences among their peers and taught to interact with them appropriately,
they can serve as tutors or partners for a variety of tasks both in the
classroom (e.g., teaching individualized programs) and outside the classroom
(e.g., using lockers, navigating hallways, eating in the lunchroom, and
using recess time appropriately). Tutors might work with students on self-care,
communication, or functional academic tasks. They could also assist new
students and/or students with severe disabilities by being friends and
helping out when they experience difficulties.
However, it should be noted that students with disabilities should not
always be targeted as only recipients of assistance from others. All students,
including students with severe disabilities, should be given opportunities
to be providers as well as recipients of assistance (Stainback & Stainback,
HOW CAN EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES STRENGTHEN THE INTEGRATION OF
STUDENTS WITH SEVERE DISABILITIES?
Most schools have co-curricular activities including clubs, sports,
newspaper, student council, and social events such as dances. Many students
with severe disabilities can acquire the skills necessary to participate,
at least partially, in some of these activities. For example, students
with severe disabilities could participate in the production of the school
newspaper by collating, stapling, and delivering the newspapers to each
classroom. They could also participate in student council meetings. Participation
in any of these activities can provide both students with severe disabilities
and nondisabled students opportunities to work together in a positive manner.
HOW MIGHT A SCHOOL COMMIT ITSELF TO INTEGRATION?
School staff could encourage students to make successful integration
a school-wide objective. In many groups such as student council or human
relations groups, objectives or priorities for the school year are selected
by students. Helping to involve students with severe disabilities as important
members of the regular school could be established as an objective. Teachers
could provide students with information on several ways in which their
assistance on integration efforts could be beneficial, and they could then
work to accomplish the necessary steps toward the objective.
Students could be encouraged to write articles on integration activities
involving students with severe disabilities. For school newspapers, the
student writers could report on sensitization/information sessions and
other integration activities. Reporters could interview students with disabilities
who previously had been in self-contained schools or classrooms and ask
them to talk about both the positive and negative aspects of attending
a regular school.
Almond, P., Rodgers, S., & Krug, D. (1979). Mainstreaming: A model
for including elementary students in the severely handicapped classroom.
TEACHING EXCEPTIONAL CHILDREN, 11, 135-139. EC 114 943.
Donder, D., & Nietupski, J. (1981). Nonhandicapped adolescents teaching
playground skills to their mentally retarded peers: Toward a less restrictive
middle school environment. EDUCATION AND TRAINING OF THE MENTALLY RETARDED,
16(4), 270-276. EJ 259563.
Gartner, A., & Lipsky, D. (1990). Students as instructional agents.
In W. Stainback & S. Stainback (Eds.), Support Networking for Inclusive
Schools (pp. 81-93). Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes.
Kelly, L., & Vergason, G. (1985). Dictionary of Special Education
and Rehabilitation (2nd ed.). Denver: Love Publishing. EC 172 769.
Kohl, F., Moses, L., & Stettner-Eaton, B. (1984). A systematic training
program for teaching nonhandicapped students to be instructional trainees
of severely handicapped schoolmates. In N. Certo, N. Haring, & R. York
(Eds.), Public School Integration of Severely Handicapped Students: Rational
Issues and Progressive Alternatives (pp. 185-195). Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes.
EC 160 303.
McHale, S., & Simeonsson, R. (1980). Effects of interaction on nonhandicapped
children's attitudes toward autistic children. AMERICAN JOURNAL OF MENTAL
DEFICIENCY, 85, 18-24. EJ 232238.
Poorman, S. (1980). Mainstreaming in reverse with a special friend.
TEACHING EXCEPTIONAL CHILDREN, 12, 136-142. EJ 232 214.
Stainback, S., & Stainback, W. (1988). Educating students with severe
disabilities in regular classes. TEACHING EXCEPTIONAL CHILDREN, 21, 16-19.
EC 210 908.
Stainback, W., Stainback, S., & Jaben, T. (1981). Providing opportunities
for interaction between severely handicapped and nonhandicapped students.
TEACHING EXCEPTIONAL CHILDREN, 13, 72- 75. EJ 240 513.
Voeltz, L. (1982). Effects of structured interactions with severely
handicapped peers on children's attitudes. AMERICAN JOURNAL OF MENTAL DEFICIENCY,
86, 380-390. EJ 259 650.
This digest is based on information presented in INTEGRATION OF STUDENTS
WITH SEVERE HANDICAPS INTO REGULAR SCHOOLS (1985) by Susan Stainback and
William Stainback (ED 255 009). The suggested activities were derived from
the chapter on "Taking Full Advantage of Interaction Opportunities" by
Susan Hamre-Nietupski and John Nietupski.