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Inclusion Education and Adhd

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Inclusion Education and ADHD: A Hit or a Miss?
Alice A. Avila-Smith
COM 22
July 15, 2012
Katherine Cox

Inclusion Education and ADHD
Brianna, a precocious seven-year-old student diagnosed with ADHD came home from school and handed her mother a report with a turned down smile on it from her teacher indicating she was disruptive in class, earning her a time-out. Her mother asked why she talked so much in class. With a wide-eyed innocent expression on her face, Brianna says, “I don’t want to but I have to! (B. Smith, personal communication, October, 2002).
For an estimated 4.5 million school-aged children diagnosed with ADHD, this same sentiment could be echoed much to the dismay of parents and teachers alike. Forty percent of these children are also diagnosed with co-morbid conditions, secondary to ADHD, such as learning, and conduct disorders or Oppositional Defiance Disorder, a condition marked with aggression, conflict-seeking, ignoring even the simplest requests, and frequent outburst (Flippin, 2005). Proponents of Inclusion Education argue integrating disabled students with their non-disabled peers into mainstream classrooms is beneficial to teaching them how to socially function in the world after high school; however, immersion does not guarantee inclusion for the ADHD student, who typically does not benefit from the one-size-fits-all classroom model. Inclusion of ADHD students in mainstream education has merit, but it has missed the mark because it leads to social stigma and academic underachievement. Both Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Individuals Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) recognizes, legitimizes, and ensures disabled students the right to be “educated in the least restrictive environment (LRE) in which educational and related needs can be satisfactorily provided” (Taylor, 2004, p. 219) but also recognizes the need for placement in a more restrictive setting rather than integrated classrooms, if necessary. Therefore, it is vital that educators consider alternative educational settings that meet the unique needs of this special segment of the school population. To simply re-package curriculum meant for non-disabled students and call it accommodation sets the ADHD student up for academic and social-emotional failure. Inclusion Education’s goal is to provide disabled students the right to humanity; the right to be treated with value and respect and equal opportunity to receive additional modifications or accommodations needed to educate them to the “maximum extent possible” (Rozalski, Stewart & Miller, 2010, p.151).
Steve, a ninth grader was asked to read Ulysses but could not comprehend the story. Rather than ask his aide for help he dropped out of the class. Had Steve been given a book that was at his skill level, he might have been more motivated to read it. Feeling overwhelmed by schoolwork beyond his skill level, any benefit he could have received through inclusion was overshadowed by his belief that no matter how hard he tried he couldn’t do the work (Bertin, 2011).
The incentive underlying the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001 was to decelerate the high school drop-out rate, especially among disabled students. A study conducted by UC Davis in 2010 revealed that one-third of the high school students diagnosed with ADHD either dropped out of school or delayed graduation, which is twice the rate of students who do not have ADHD or other disorders (Nauert, 2010). Under NCLB, high standardized tests scores translates into more government funding for school districts. Questions have been raised as to whether schools are encouraging students with disabilities and disorders to leave the public school for alternative schooling or to drop out so that the school’s aggregate test scores meet the Adequate Yearly Progress requirements in return for increased funding. For many ADHD students, this is a recipe for failure as they typically perform poorly on standardized tests and are often pushed through school inadequately educated. Despite IDEA’s best efforts at inclusion education, NCLB revealed how far behind education lagged in accommodating students with ADHD and co-morbid disorders (Tavakloian & Howell, 2012). “Some argue that effect of IDEA was cancelled out by No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001…and that the dropout rate among students with disabilities have been amplified by NCLB” (Tavaklolian & Howell, 2012, pp.71-22). In principal, students with disabilities and disorders are federally protected under Section 504 from discrimination and denial of services such as Individual Education Programs (IEP), modified curricula and accommodations, counseling and dispensation of medication (as prescribed by a physician) because of budgetary restraints. School districts are obligated under Section 504, IDEA and LRE guidelines to determine the level of services students with ADHD require using a placement continuum ladder ranging from the “most restrictive to the least restrictive environment to be educated to the maximum extent appropriate” (Rozalski, et al., 2010, p. 156). In practicality, the placement continuum is a process of exclusion; nevertheless, adherence to these guidelines is mandatory. For the ADHD student, especially with presenting behavioral issues, there is confusion as to how the educator adheres to the placement continuum because of differing definitions of LRE by school district administrators that includes positions that reject…special schools and other segregated settings” (Taylor, 2004, p. 222). Research indicates that the deck is stacked against the ADHD student in mainstream classrooms whose disability or learning disorder adversely affects the student academically. Students with cognitive and executive functioning impairments contend with difficulties in comprehending math concepts, literacy, language, communication and speech issues. Students who have Oppositional Defiance Disorder present symptoms such as impulsivity/hyperactivity, inattentiveness and disruption, conflict-seeking and difficulty interacting with teachers and peers. Students afflicted with these stigmatizing disorders are at a disadvantage both socially and emotionally among their peers. Research shows that students with ADHD and co-morbid disorders are misunderstood. Between their non-physical impairment and teachers, untrained in ADHD behavior, students are often viewed as acting out in class as an excuse to misbehave. Distraction and uncompleted homework is seen as willful laziness and defiance, rather than a legitimate disability that hinders the student from performing academically like his non-disabled peer, thus denying the child positive support. Because of budgetary restraints and school district cut-backs, “Left Behind is a now ubiquitous policy of placing every child in a single setting, a trend that fails many of our children” (Bertin, 2011, p.1). Non-disabled students have the right to protection from the influences that ADHD students bring to the classroom that affects their environment; likewise, ADHD children have the right to protection from the harsh realities of negative teachers, curriculum beyond their skill level, classroom size that hinders satisfactory education and the attitude of non-disabled peers. In every noticeable way, the “catch-all intervention inclusion does not inherently address the needs of all children… such as those with learning disabilities and ADHD…” (Bertin, 2011, p. 2).
Evidence indicates that educators who teach to the ADHD student often communicates through word and gesture an attitude of disapproval and dissatisfaction of the child rather than approval and unconditional acceptance of the child and not the behavior. This message stigmatizes the child. Although social, ADHD students in fully segregated classes are not in the perfect setting; rather, “several studies showed that children with special needs in regular schools are less accepted by their peers, have fewer friendships and are less often part of a network in class” (De Boer, 2011, p. 332) and are more socially isolated. A new sort of placement continuum that “provide an array of options, some ... more restrictive and less integrated than others” (Taylor, 2004, p.225), could help the ADHD student. Contained settings with a supportive, structured, environment designed to teach to the student’s skill level with like peers, is a short-term solution for long term success. “Reduced stress and gains in self-esteem lead not only to academic growth, but to social and emotional benefits outside of the school setting” (Bertin, 2011, p.2).
Research indicates most teachers believe every child is entitled to the opportunity of equal education like their non-disabled peers, yet their opinions and attitudes regarding inclusion education differ according to disability. Research showed that most teachers held negative attitudes of disabled students inside mainstream classrooms who had mild or moderate learning disabilities or emotional disorders that caused disturbances with their non-disabled peers (De Boer, 2011).
Brianna, now age 18, triumphed through struggle to graduate from school. From eighth to tenth grade she went to a private school, but after she was invited to leave because her GPA of 2.0 was too low to meet the rigorous academic requirements. She enrolled in public school in 11th grade but she fell through the cracks of the system. Brianna was prescribed Adderall, a psycho-stimulant medication, and it changed her life. It was as if a vice was removed from her brain and, instantly, everything made sense. She developed a greater sense of self-esteem and confidence, and her GPA soared to a 3.5. However, still lacking an academic foundation, the pressure to keep up the good grades made her anxious. In 12th grade, she decided to test for a General Education Diploma (GED), which she easily passed. Living on her own, she is working full time and attending a community college taking classes at a pace that works for her. For children like Brianna, the definition of success is subjective and hard to measure. For many students with ADHD, success could mean choosing an alternative educational setting that is geared toward teaching life skills that prepares them for life after school. New Way Academy (2010) in Scottsdale, Arizona, is recognized as a leader in offering an evidence-based program uniquely geared for students with ADHD and learning disorders. Teaching logical reasoning and problem solving, using multi-sensory techniques, students are receiving a hands-on, rigorous academic education that will arm individuals like Brianna with the tools and life skills needed to make the most of their everyday lives as young adults living with ADHD. The call for inclusive education is an invitation to restructuring how to educate the student with ADHD and secondary co-morbid conduct and learning disorders or Oppositional Defiance Disorder. Rather than just re-packaging curriculum into a one-size-fits-all box, alternative educational models outside of the mainstream classrooms could offer a potential for mastery of skill versus academic and social failure. For inclusion education to exist harmoniously within the process of least restrictive environment, it must not be viewed in terms of school district test scores and incentives, budgetary restraints and administrative barriers. Individual success for the ADHD child is as unique as the disability and disorder itself. To produce the next generation of intelligent, socially self-aware individuals who possess self-determination and good self-esteem, an uncompromisingly new design of services, in collaboration with the special education community and accompanying support system, must be considered for the ADHD student who requires an environment that nurtures their unique disabilities, capabilities and abilities that maximizes their potential for future success.

References Bertin, M., (2011). One size doesn’t fit all: practical, evidence-based information for parents and professionals. Psychology Today Child Development Central, 1-3. Retrieved from http://psychologytoday.com/blog/child-development-central/201111/one-size- doesn’t-fit-all De Boer, A., Pijl, S.J., & Minnaert, A., (2011). Regular primary schoolteachers’ attitude towards inclusive education: A review of the literature. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 15(3), 331-353. Flippin, R., (2005, June/July). ADHD and ODD: parenting your defiant child. ADDitudeMag.com, 1-3. Nauert, R., (2010). Teen ADHD linked to delayed high school graduation: Psych Central. Retrieved on July 6, 2012, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2010/07/28/teen-adhd- linked-to-delayed-high-school-graduation/16108.html New Way Academy High School, (2010). Retrieved on July 10, 2012 from http://www.newway academy.org/our-schools/high-school.html Rozalski, M., Stewart, A., & Miller, J., (2010). How to determine the least restrictive environment for students with disabilities. Exceptionality, (18), 151-163. Tavakolian, H., & Howell, N., (2012). The impact of no child left behind act. Franklin Business & Law Journal, (2012)1, 70-77. Taylor, S.J., (2004). Caught in the continuum: a critical analysis of the principle of the least restricted environment. Reprinted from The Journal of the Association for the Severely Handicapped, 13(1), Spring, 1988.…...

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