Mainstreaming your child with a disability is a big decision. Are they ready? Will they succeed? Each family needs to carefully evaluate their child to determine if mainstreaming is the best option for them
Is My Child Ready for Mainstreaming?
Benefits to Mainstreaming
There are many benefits to mainstream your child with a disability. Children with disabilities get an opportunity to socialize with typically developing peers their same age. This can help encourage age-appropriate behavior which can help children with disabilities learn new skills.
Mainstreaming also provides typically developing children a great opportunity to learn how to interact with people with disabilities. This can help children learn how to be advocates and help create a world that is more inclusive for people with disabilities.
Factors to Consider When Deciding Placement
Dr. Yael Rosenbaum, a pediatric neuropsychologist at the Child Mind Institute shared four factors to keep in mind when deciding if your child is ready for mainstreaming.
What grade is your child going into?
There are some grades that introduce new academic demands. Third-grade educators often say, this is the year that kids make the transition from learning to read to reading to learn. If a child’s reading skills are still shaky, another year of skill-building could be preferable to switching. Similarly, middle school, with higher expectations and less oversight, challenges the organizational skills of many kids. It can be better to wait until the end of middle school.
Can your child meet expectations in the new class?
Whether mainstreaming will be effective also depends on how big a gap there is between your child’s current performance and what’s typical of other kids at her grade level. If the gap is too big it can be demoralizing for your child.
How resilient is your child?
In trying to gauge how a child will respond to a new, more challenging school environment, her temperament may be a deciding factor. How well does she tolerate frustration and respond to obstacles? Is she a good problem-solver? Having to struggle to fit in or keep up in a mainstream school can be hard on a child’s self-esteem. A child who is anxious or easily discouraged may do better staying in a more supportive classroom.
Is your child comfortable being an advocate for themselves?
In a mainstream setting, it can make all the difference whether your child is able and willing to speak up if he needs help. It isn’t always apparent to teachers when kids fall behind or feel lost, and a child who’s comfortable asking for help is likely to get more support, and not only do better but feel better about himself.”
A Parent’s Experience with Mainstreaming
“We have a son who has Down syndrome. We felt the pressure to mainstream our son and after he completed a small group kindergarten, we decided to try a mainstream kindergarten class. We worked with his teacher, special educator, and the principal to make sure it would work. A few months in, we realized that it was not a good fit for us. There were so many other kids, and as they progressed further academically, he could not keep up.
This caused him to get bored which created several behavior issues that made it impossible for the teacher and anyone in the classroom to have a good experience. We made the tough decision to pull him and transfer him to a self-contained classroom. It was hand-down the best decision we could have made for him.
He soared and was able to thrive in school. We learned that mainstreaming might be a good option for some, but for our child it was truly in his best interest to be in a self-contained classroom.”
Mainstreaming is a Personal Decision
Parents really need to evaluate their child to figure out if mainstreaming is the best option for them. Placement for your child needs to be the learning environment that fosters and nurtures their personal growth.
Don’t let societal pressures sway you either way, you are the parent and know what is best for your child. Don’t be afraid to try something and then switch it up. You will never regret trying or fighting for your child.