This is the practice in special education of placing children with disabilities into the general classrooms of elementary and secondary schools, either all or most of the time. In his textbook, Making Inclusion Work, Frank Bowe emphasizes the difference between inclusion and “full inclusion”.
In an inclusive classroom, a handful of children or youth with disabilities learn side-by-side with age peers who have no disabilities.
In the United States, if educators are doing regular inclusion, those students who are eligible for special education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) may spend two-thirds or more of the school week in general classrooms. They need not be physically located there all of the time. Rather, they may be pulled out for occupational or physical therapy, speech/language pathology, or other related services.
Under full inclusion, by contrast, children classified under the IDEA remain in general classrooms virtually all the time. Related services are provided via “push in,” meaning that professionals enter the classroom and deliver assistance there.
Bowe claims that inclusion, but not full inclusion, is a reasonable approach for most children and youth with disabilities. He also cautions that for some children, notably those with severe autism spectrum disorders or mental retardation, as well as many who are deaf or have multiple disabilities, even regular inclusion may not offer an appropriate education.
Stainback and Stainback (1995), by contrast, suggest that placement in general classrooms is a civil right. These advocates think that K-12 schools should be restructured so that full inclusion can be provided for all children with disabilities.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, in its latest Annual Report to Congress on Implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, about 50% of children and youth who are classified are placed in general classrooms all or most of the time. The proportion varies greatly, however, when one looks at different disabilities. Among children with speech or language impairments, well over 90% are in inclusive classrooms. By contrast, of those with the autism spectrum disorder classification, just 29% are.
Those variations show the requirement of the IDEA that educational services respond, not to some ideal about where children should be placed, but rather to the unique needs of each child.