Inclusive Education as a Lived Experience: School Career Studies of Students with Mild, Moderate, and Severe Disabilities

By Seth Harkins.

Published by The International Journal of Diversity in Education

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Many nations have developed national policies regarding the education of students with disabilities. In the latter half of the twentieth century, advocacy on behalf of persons with disabilities resulted in the movement to educate such students with non-disabled peers. In the United States, the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act erected a policy of inclusive education buttressed by rights and responsibilities by local education agencies. In this process education in the least restrictive environment was sustained by the individual education program (IEP) and due process rights. Rarely is national educational policy regarding these students examined in terms of the lived experience of the impact of policy and professional practice. This qualitative research examines the school careers of students with disabilities (severe cerebral palsy, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression, and autism) who were integrated (included) into general education with nondisabled peers from elementary through secondary school. The study analyses the politics of advocacy necessary to include students with challenging learning needs, as well as the educational practices to facilitate successful inclusion. The study further examines leadership necessary to create and sustain inclusive educational environments. Finally, the study examines the successful transition of students with disabilities to adulthood, as students reflect back on their school as adults.”

Keywords: Inclusion, Persons with Disabilities, Inclusive Education, Integration of Persons with Disabilities in General, Education, Advocacy for Students with Disabilities, Transition of Students with Disabilities, Elementary School Through High School and Beyond

The International Journal of Diversity in Education, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp.43-52. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 332.843KB).

Dr. Seth Harkins

Assistant Professor, Department of Diversity in Learning and Teaching, National Louis University, Wheeling, Illinois, USA

Dr. Harkins is assistant professor of special education. He has spent forty-two years in child welfare, public and private education, and mental health. He is a former teacher, principal, assistant superintendent, superintendent, and Illinois Director of the Individual Care Gant Program. Dr. Harkins is also a form impartial due process hearing officer for the Illinois State Board of Education. In this capacity he resolved disputes between families and school districts regarding the education of students with disabilities in the least restrictive environment. Dr. Harkins area of research is the lived experience of persons with disabilities.