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Integration classes – is it worth enrolling a child in it?

Integration classes - is it worth enrolling a child in it?
Integration classes - is it worth enrolling a child in it?

Integration classes assume the joint education of students with disabilities and healthy students in an atmosphere of tolerance and respect. Check what the classes in the integration school look like and find out why it is worth enrolling your child in it. Let’s check about  the advantages and disadvantages of inclusive education?

Integrative class: what is it?

The idea of ​​inclusive education is to educate healthy children and those with special educational needs, for example:

  • Blind or visually impaired,
  • Deaf or hard of hearing,
  • With mild intellectual disability,
  • With a physical disability,
  • With multiple disabilities,
  • With autism or Asperger’s syndrome,
  • With ADHD,
  • With speech impediments,
  • With specific learning difficulties (dissection, dyscalculia, dysorthography),
  • Chronically ill.

Contrary to regular classes, which have an average of 25-35 children, the integration class is attended by 15 to 20 students, of which three or five have a certified disability. Most often these are students with various types of disabilities. To qualify a child to a group in a primary school with integration classes, instead of a special facility, requires numerous pedagogical and psychological consultations. If there are major problems with proper behavior, the child is first prepared at home to work in the classroom and then gradually introduced into the classroom.

In the case of a healthy student, the parent or legal guardian must agree to enroll him in the integration department at the school.

What are the activities in integration classes like?

Many myths have arisen about learning in integrated classes, as a result of which parents refrain from enrolling a healthy child in them, and thus deprive him of a unique opportunity for emotional and social development in an atmosphere of equality and tolerance. Below, we describe what learning in an inclusive class actually looks like.

The curriculum for integration classes

Many parents of healthy children are concerned that the curriculum in integrated classes differs from that in regular classes or that it is delayed. In fact, the only difference is in the way you teach. The integrated class follows the same core curriculum as the parallel classes, and the students use the school’s textbooks. The number of teaching hours for a given level is also identical. All students pursue the same lesson topic to a degree depending on their abilities and intellectual level. Healthy children therefore have an equal chance of achieving high academic achievement as their classmates in general, and often their grades are even better. They are also subject to the intra-school assessment system – only students with special educational needs are assessed individually.

It is also worth emphasizing that students from integration groups participate in the life of the school on the same principles, and thus take part in competitions, go on trips, attend additional classes or interest clubs. Therefore, parents should not be afraid that their children will be treated less favorably than children from general classes.

Teacher in the integration class

In the integrated class, there are usually two teachers working in it – a tutor and a supporting one, e.g. who supports the development of students with special educational needs and adjusts work methods and companies to their individual needs. In the older integration classes in primary school, the tutor is replaced by teachers of individual subjects. Parents often express their concern that children with disorders may disrupt the classroom and make learning difficult for healthy students. The role of the support teacher is to prevent such situations and react quickly when undesirable behavior occurs. It also teaches healthy children how to behave in such moments.

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Integration education – pros and cons

Integration classes have many advantages for both healthy and disabled students. It happens, however, that parents do not want to enroll their children with them because they are not sufficiently informed. Below are the advantages and disadvantages of the integration classes.

Pros of integration classes for healthy students

Integration education has many advantages not only for students with disabilities, but also for fully healthy students. First of all, children support each other while playing and learning, they solve difficulties together and, above all, learn to be accepted. Being with peers with specific disabilities on a daily basis makes the child more understanding, patient, caring and open to another person, regardless of their appearance or physical abilities. In addition to basic skills, a student from an integration class learns to provide first aid and react, for example, in the event of an epilepsy attack. He also knows how to behave when he meets a blind, deaf or intellectually disabled person on his way, and how to help him when the need arises. A child brought up in respect of difference has a chance to become a tolerant, sensitive, empathetic and open person.

A student in an integrated class follows the same program as his general classmates, which is ensured by qualified teachers. Therefore, parents do not have to worry that the presence of children with special educational needs will adversely affect the learning progress of healthy students.

The big advantage of integrated classes is also their number. The smaller the group, the more time the teacher can devote to each student. Specialists present at school, such as a psychologist, therapist, physiotherapist, sociotherapist or speech therapist, watch over all children, so they can catch the first signs of problems in healthy students in time. The cooperation of two teachers means that conflicts, escapes from lessons, acts of violence or truancy in integrated classes are much less frequent.

integration classes advantages classes for students with disabilities

An inclusive school also brings many benefits to students with disabilities. Functioning in a group with able-bodied peers has a positive effect on their emotional and social development – they make friendships, discover their abilities and talents, overcome weaknesses, and most of all, see that their disability does not make them worse than their healthy colleagues. In the integrated classroom, they get a chance to learn how to function in the society in which they will live after leaving school. All this makes them more self-confident and motivated to continue working.

Another advantage is the fact that integration classes consist of 15-20 people, of which there are three or five children with disabilities. For this reason, a qualified support teacher can devote the maximum of their time and attention to them.

In an inclusive school, children with disabilities can take advantage of a wide range of additional activities that support their physical and intellectual development, as well as develop their interests and passions. Similarly to healthy students, children with disabilities participate in interest circles (e.g. reading, science, chemistry, art, mathematics), swimming pool activities, sports competitions or integration dance classes. Some schools also offer scouting and volunteering. In addition, depending on the facility, they can benefit from meetings with a psychologist, speech therapist, school pedagogue, compensatory lessons, hand motor therapy or sensory integration.

Integrated schools and kindergartens are adapted to the needs of students with disabilities. Depending on the facility, they may have lifts, properly arranged toilets and the necessary equipment.

Disadvantages of integration classes

Stereotypes resulting from insufficient education are a big problem faced by institutions with integration departments. Disability is still considered a taboo subject in Polish society, which makes it difficult to find valuable information on inclusive education. Many parents are prejudiced and do not want their healthy children to attend the same class with children with disabilities. They are afraid of delays in the implementation of the core curriculum, low level of education, dangerous or difficult behavior on the part of sick students, as well as their being favored by teachers.

There are much fewer schools with integration classes or integration classes than children in need. It also happens that they are organized in an inappropriate way, which contributes to the formation of further myths. Fortunately, such situations are very rare, and professionals work in inclusive primary schools and kindergartens.