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Special needs students in your classroom: What is it really like?

1 May 1998


A large body of research on inclusive classrooms already exists, including work done by Vaughn (1993), McIntosh (1993), and Blanton (1994), which examines the impact of teacher attitudes on the success of an inclusive classroom and peer reactions to their exceptional peers. This study aims to discover what the day to day realities of inclusion are in a regular fourth grade classroom. The present study took place in a small, rural K-4 elementary school in the Pacific Northwest. The participants were students in the school's only fourth grade classroom. Information was gathered in the classrooms, hallways, library, and playground using a variety of methodological approaches including observation and informal interviews with students, teachers, and specialists. In order to protect the pfu4:icipants' rights to privacy and anonymity I have used pseudonyms for all participants in this study. After collecting and organizing field notes and interview information, I began to see patterns in the interactions between the special needs students and their peers and systems of communication the teachers, aides, and specialists had established. My research revealed that in a supportive, comfortable classroom environment the general education students accept and interact with then' exceptional peers in a variety of positive and nurturing ways, though these interactions are determined by the personality of the child and the degree of the disability, The effectiveness of the classroom environment varied according to the nature of these interactions, rather than the physical space and materials provided for the students.


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