Early Intervention and Public Policy
nonhandicapped children. Teachers who thought mainly in terms of group ac- tivities learned, through their work with special children, to plan for individual differences among all children more effectively” (p. 40). In general, teachers’ attitudes are favorable toward inclusion once they have actually worked with children with disabilities in an inclusive setting.
Concerns about Inappropriate Behaviors
Another frequently expressed concern is that normally developing children will learn immature or inappropriate behaviors from classmates with disabilities. Again, this is an unfounded fear. This is not to imply that typically developing children do not imitate other children. They do. They should. Imitation is an important avenue for learning. But typically developing children imitate each other. Rarely (and then only briey) do they imitate the atypical behaviors of another child. The exceptions are those children who get undue attention from teachers and parents for imitating inappropriate behaviors. Data collected by a group of researchers working with autistic children and reported by Odom and McEvoy (1988) indicate that “normally developing children did not imitate the unusual and stereotypic behavior of children with autism” (p. 259).
Will Children with Special Needs Be Teased?
One of the important reasons to pursue inclusion is for the potential impact it can have on the attitudes of typically developing peers in regard to their class- mates with special needs. It is believed that non-disabled children who grow up with the opportunity to interact with children with disabilities are more likely to show greater understanding of individuals with disabilities (Daley, 2002).
Friendship and interactions do not just happen magically. Teachers must set up opportunities and model behavior for all children. Adults must an- swer children’s questions about disabilities openly and honestly. They must model accepting behavior. This encourages children with and without dis- abilities to form friendships and encourages children who are non-disabled to assist their peers with disabilities (Dale , 2002).
A FINAL WORD ABOUT INCLUSION
Much has been learned about inclusion over the years, and there is still much to learn. Some feel that because inclusion is the law, all children should therefore be enrolled in regular education regardless of their special needs. Other profes- sionals feel that inclusion is one of several possibilities for students with special needs. Simpson and Sasso (1992) take this idea one step further by stating that full inclusion should be subjected to empirical verication and that data should become the basis for making decisions about which children and youth should be integrated. Some professionals believe that children should demonstrate pre- requisite skills with prociency in a special educational setting before an inclu- sion placement begins (Johnson, Mayer & Taylor, 1996).