Mainstreaming, Integration, Inclusion:
Is There a Difference?
Our society is enriched by the diversity of its people. Individuals with disabilities can and should contribute to this richness, and inclusion is the way to make it happen.
Lots of words are bandied about to describe people with disabilities being “in,” or “part of” ordinary environments, such as school, community activities, work, etc. These words—mainstreaming, integration, and inclusion—are often used interchangeably. But do they mean the same thing? Let’s examine the issue and explore what difference it all makes . . .
In the adult arena, human service agencies across the country attempt to ensure community integration of adults with disabilities. Weekly “community outings” to the mall, bowling centers, grocery store, and other locations are the norm. Similar routines are followed in many public schools, when teachers take “special ed students” on “community outings” to grocery stores and other locations.
This practice is an unfortunate and useless relic of the institutional era of the 19th and 20th centuries when many children with disabilities were abandoned by their parents and grew up in institutions. At that time, it was believed that before an institutionalized person could successfully re-enter the community, she would need these “life-skills” experiences. But how is an outing to the grocery store relevant or meaningful to today’s students who are not growing up in institutions . . . Click here to continue.
New Ways of Thinking and Revolutionary Common Sense