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Inclusive Education Assignment 1

Inclusive education involves the inclusion of all students, including the disabled students, within the

school and classroom environment. This involves no students being segregated from other peers

their own age, with classroom learnings providing a variety of different approaches and tasks in

order to allow for the inclusion of all students learning needs (Farrell, 2000). This paper will discuss

the changing views and policies associated with inclusive education within Australian history,

focusing specifically on the impact of the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act 1992 and the

Disability Standards for Education 2005. Next the paper will address the issues related to

incorporating inclusive education with Australian classrooms along with the research supporting the

inclusion of inclusive education within Australian schools. Finally this paper will address a common

disability within Australian schools, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and outline various approaches

teachers can incorporate in order to address the learning needs of students experiencing ASD and

other disabilities.

Inclusive approaches to education for children with disabilities in Australian schools began to

emerge around the early 1970’s (Forlin, 2006). Prior to this student with disabilities would be

required to attend separated special schools aimed at catering for their needs, with the public school

system purely providing learning for those students who the education system deemed capable

(Loreman, Deppeler, & Harvey, 2005). Chaves (1977) states that these separated special schools

were not designed in order to assist in the education of disabled student’s based on their needs, but

purely due to the fact that they were not wanted in the normal public schools. The change towards

including disabled students within regular school in the early 1970’s came about thanks to policies

introduced by the Australian government aimed at increasing student’s access and equity within the

Australian education system. These policies and reforms were implemented based on findings

stated in the Karmel Report, 1973 and the Disadvantaged School Program, 1975 (McInerney, 2003).

The Karmel Report recommended the Australian Government provide support and funding for
schools within Australian in order to allow for the integration of students with disabilities into the

general education system (Forlin, 2006). Areas addressing the need for these changes recommended

within the reports, focused on the social justice issues related to separating students with disabilities

from other students, along with the effectiveness of these separate schools in providing adequate

education for students with disabilities (Konza, 2008; Lingard, 2000).

Although polices were being implemented within the education system, it wasn’t until the Australian

Government created legislations such as the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act 1992 and

later the Disability Standards for Education 2005, that schools could no longer legally discriminate

against students with disabilities (Forlin, 2006). The Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act,

1992, created laws against the unfair treatment and discrimination against any person due to a

disability, including within the education system. The Disability Standards for Education, 2005, were

constructed from the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act, 1992, identifying standards

aimed at eliminating discrimination towards people with disabilities in a range of different

educational areas. These standards outline a number of educational criteria which must be available

to all students who experience disabilities including factors such as; equal opportunities for

enrolment into educational institutions, equal chance of participate in all courses and activities,

adequate support services, and an environment free of harassment and victimisation for all students

with disabilities (Australian Government Department of Education and Training, 2015; Australian

Government Department of Education and Training, 2012).

The effect such policies have had on the attendance of disabled children within regular schools can

be observed from statistics provided by Vinson (2002). Vinson (2002) reports that in 1988, only 7.8%

of the Australian disabled student population were attending regular schools within the Australian

education system. However with the introduction of specific polices such as the Commonwealth

Disability Discrimination Act 1992 along with increased government funding, by 2002, this number

had increased to 47% of the disabled student population attending regular schools within the
Australian education system. This increase in disabled students attending regular school has resulted

in a decrease in the number of special school, along with an increase in responsibility for regular

schools and teachers in order for these schools to be able to accommodate for these disabled

students learning needs and inclusion.

Although polices and legislations state that education institutes must provide equal opportunities for

students with disabilities, the integration of these students within schools and classroom activities

can be very different. It is not uncommon for disabled students to be accepted into a regular school,

however never actually spend time learning in the same classroom as their peers (Farrell, 2000).

Farrell (2000) states that in order for a disabled student to be truly included within the education

system they must be provided with a complete and active role within the mainstream school. The

reason for this lack of true inclusion within schools and classrooms can be attributed to a number of

different reasons. One reason can be associated with teachers work load being increased, with

beliefs being proposed that in order to adequately address disabled students learning needs, other

areas and students learning will suffer (Artilies, 2003). Burge (2017) also reports the concerns of

teachers and parents relating to the inclusion of certain disabled students due to potential effect

they may have on other students learning. Artilies (2003) believes that due to school and

government based performance indicators and goals, teachers and schools have increased pressure

to focus on the learning of the majority of students, placing less emphasis on the students that are

struggling or need additional assistance such as disabled students. Therefore the need for a change

in views regarding the inclusion of disabled students within the regular education system is required.

In order to change the views of teachers, schools and parents many research articles have been

published outlining the benefits of inclusive education. While most research recognises the fact that

certain disabled students will not achieve the same educational results as other peers, they still

experience academic and social benefits (Downing & Peckingham-Hardin, 2007). The academic

benefits for disabled students that have been found through inclusive education include an increase
in engagement towards learning, leading to an improvement in academic related skills such as

decision making (Hunt, Farron-Davis, Beckstead, Curtis, & Goetz, 1994; Salend & Garrick Duhaney,

1999). Social benefits due to the inclusion of disabled students within regular schools include an

increased ability to interact and collaboration with peers along with an increased chance to form

play behaviours with students their own age (Foreman, Arthur-Kelly, Pascoe, & Smyth King, 2004).

These academic and social skills obtained due to inclusive education have also been found to have

future life benefits for these disabled students with research finding that these students are more

likely to actively participate in an adult life, with a greater chance of finding employment, living

independently and being able to financially support themselves (Shogren, et al., 2007). Hunt, Soto,

Maier and Doering (2003) state that it is not only the disabled students that receive benefits from

inclusive education, that all students within the education system receive a greater understanding

and awareness towards people with disabilities within their classroom, school and society as a

whole.

Another reason behind the limited inclusion that can be witnessed within schools is due to teachers

not being sure of when or how to adapt or change the curriculum content in order to assist disabled

students learning (Artilies, 2003). Farrell (2000) states that in order for schools to become more

inclusive of disable student’s needs, it is important that teachers are confident and capable in

providing inclusive education for these students within their classroom. Therefore the majority of

pre service teachers are now being introduced to inclusive pedagogical approaches throughout their

university education, in order to provide them with the knowledge required to provide equal

learning opportunities for their disabled students (Forlin, Loreman, Sharma, & Earle, 2007). Research

has shown that including inclusive education courses within pre service teacher’s training can have a

positive effect not only on a teacher’s confidence and ability to accommodate for disabled student’s

learning needs, but it also has an encouraging effect on pre service teachers attitude towards the

need for inclusive education (Loreman & Earle, 2007; Stella, Forlin & Lan, 2007).
It is important for teachers to understand how to provide inclusive education for all students

including those with disabilities. One disability common within an Australian school environment is

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Autism spectrum disorder is a lifelong condition which affects how

a person relates to their environment and other people. The Australian Institute of Health and

Welfare (2017) reports that there was an estimated 83,700 students with autism attending

Australian schools during 2015, with 85% of those students reporting difficulty at school. Common

symptom associated with people that experience ASD includes a difficulty in social situations,

restricted or repetitive behaviour patterns and reduced communication skills. Therefore as expected

the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2017) reports that the three major difficulties

experienced by students with ASD were; social acceptance, communication difficulties and learning

complications. In order for a class to provide inclusive education these are areas of concern which

schools and teachers must address.

When planning for inclusive education, Villa et al., (2016) states that the first thing that teachers

must do in order to address disabled students learning needs is to identify the strengths and skills

each student possesses. This enables teachers to plan learning activities and apply different

pedagogical approaches, allowing for the use and implementation of these different skills and

strengths that have been identified. Griffin, Woods, Coles-Janess and Roberts (2010) agree with this

approach stating that rather than assessing how far behind disabled students are to the rest of the

class, teachers should be focusing on what the student’s strengths are and then scaffolding their

learning around these strengths. In terms of students with ASD, it has been found through research

and observation that these students have a natural strength in visual learning styles (Althaus, de

Sonneville, Minderaa, Hensen & Til, 1996). Shane and Albert (2008) support this use of visual

learning, however also recommending the use of technology to provide this visual learning,

reporting an increased interest of learning content by ASD students on when the content was

delivered using an electronic screen. Therefore based on these strengths of ASD students teachers
should look to incorporate or provide an alternate visual learning and technology activity into their

lesson plans in order to address the learning needs of their ASD students.

In order to address the social difficulties experienced by ASD and other disabled students it is

important to incorporate group task and paired activities. Boutot and Bryant (2005) state that by

simply placing students with disabilities into regular classrooms, does not ensure that social

interactions will occur. Therefore by including group tasks and activities within the lesson plan

disabled student are provided with an opportunity to socially interact with other peers, which has

been found to provide long term benefits in their ability to be accepted socially (Foreman, Arthur-

Kelly, Pascoe, & Smyth King, 2004). Boutot (2007) states a number of different guidelines that can be

utilised in order to successfully achieve this positive social interaction which include; select

appropriate students to be placed in the disabled students group, prepare the disable student for

these social interactions and ensure that the group work contains areas where the disabled student

can contribute towards the completion of the group task.

Another strategy that teachers can use in order to address ASD and other disabled students

communication difficulties includes providing clear precise instructions for each activity. Marks et al

(2003) states that students with learning disabilities such as ASD, are often confused regarding what

is required of them in order to complete each activity. Therefore when providing these students with

activities is important to ensure that that the students understand exactly how and what the teacher

wants them to achieve, in order to provide them with the greatest chance of correctly completing

that task. Marks et al (2003) recommends a number of approaches that assist in the communication

towards ASD students regarding completing activities and questions. These approaches include;

providing step by step instructions which are easy to follow, highlighting critical information,

ensuring that provided instructions are clear and concise and if possible providing a visual

explanation.
In conclusion the incorporation of inclusive education within the Australian education system is an

important focus that teachers, schools and the government must continue to support in order to

successfully address the learning needs of students who experience disabilities. The education of

teachers and their planning of lessons and activities in order to address all students learning needs

are of vital importance in order for schools to successfully create an inclusive environment.
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