School inclusion and mental deficiency

August 20, 2011

The concept of integration is a fundamental principle of the consequences of standardisation. So, it is the key to the whole educational process. Taking the positive results achieved by the practice of educational inclusion in developed countries in the last two decades as its starting point, the Brazilian educational system has experienced a moment of transition in the care of pupils with special educational needs.

Leaving a model of special education it embraced the idea of special classes and building a model for integration of special children in regular education classrooms as it is deduced from studies that the process of inclusion/integration of children with disabilities in regular education allows them to interact spontaneously in different situations, while helping them gain knowledge and develop.

This integration, however, should not be easily solved from a resolution of a nature legal or theoretical, since variables related to group processes and reactions of prejudice can influence it, either facilitating or hindering the integration of people with those called 'normal.'

The proposed school inclusion of children with special educational needs seeks to avoid the deleterious effects of social isolation these children face, create opportunities for interaction among children and reducing prejudice.

By the end of 80 years of the 20th century, the term integration began to wane, being replaced by the idea of inclusion, as the goal is to include, without distinction, all children, regardless of their abilities.

In addition, it favours the integration of special needs students while sharing their responsibility, while inclusion tries to advance, also requiring the society in general to do so. Inclusion in practice, however, realises that even those students who are included in the regular school system are still isolated from their classmates who are not disabled. There is physical inclusion, but not social and emotional.

The result is that students with severe disabilities have little opportunity to practice, refine and expand their repertoire of cognitive and social skills that will be useful in the course of their lives. These skills, if not learned in time, may cause social maladjustment, thus reaffirming the poor condition, while maintaining reduced likelihood of developing friendships. The rejection is closely linked to the perception that students will special needs have behaviors considered inadequate by their colleagues.

Students with special needs also have difficulty with their peers. According to Turner (1984), a failure to meet these students with their peers are both in acceptance and identification with the group. It's not just proximity that makes one think that he belongs to a group. He has to identify with the group because it is the basic process of group formation. Having a partner in development and acceptance in a group reduces prejudice and raises self-esteem. 

Another aspect that may explain lack of relationship with colleagues is the time factor of exposure of special needs students to broader social situations; their low frequency ends up making them act stereotypically and reinforces the differences between them.

It was evident to all that there is a need for curriculum changes, an approximation of the parents to this 'new' school environment and then help children to adapt to this new reality in a healthy way where they have to learn and teach, in addition to a special student to student contact since the early school years to avoid a clash of reality, thoughts, and prejudiced attitude.

Laura Do Vale is a trained clinical psychologist as well as a neuro-psychologist with over ten years of practice. She is currently doing her PhD from the University of Estremadura, Spain. She has practiced at the trauma unit of the Central Hospital of S. Jose; at the oncology unit at Capuchos Hospital, the Children’s Hospital at Dona Estefânia and as the pneumologist at the Hospital of Sta Marta, Lisboa – Portugal. She now works at Muscat Private Hospital.