Tuesday, January 16, 2007

School Inclusion Can Be Abuse

School inclusion 'can be abuse'. That is the title of a BBC on line story which includes a report on a recent study of the British inclusive education system prepared for that country's National Union of Teachers "The Costs of Inclusion" by John MacBeath, Maurice Galton, Susan Steward, Andrea MacBeath and Charlotte Page, published by University of Cambridge Faculty of Education. Professor John MacBeath of Cambridge was interviewed and stated that placing some students in a mainstream classroom could be seen as a form of abuse:

"Physically sitting in a classroom is not inclusion. Children can be excluded by sitting in a classroom that's not meeting their needs." The typical secondary school timetable - rushing from physics, to history then French, say - was for some children as bewildering as being "on another planet". "You might call it a form of abuse, in a sense, that those children are in a situation that's totally inappropriate for them." Professor MacBeath also indicated that the report is not "anti-inclusion" , just that mainstream classroom inclusion is not appropriate for all students, particularly those with complex needs."

The BBC story and the "Costs of Inclusion" report can be found at:



I have personally argued against placement of all autistic children in mainstream classrooms as has the Autism Society New Brunswick which asks that the school system look at what works for each individual child. If a child does not learn in, and is overwhelmed by, a mainstream classroom then he or she should not be placed in that environment. A quieter environment is necessary for some autistic children who also require more individualized instruction. Flexibility in choice of learning environment is needed. Some autistic children are capable of learning in a mainstream classroom. Some are not. It is critically necessary to examine the evidence and see what works for the individual child. Failure to place an autistic child in the right learning environment because of a rigid adherence to the philosophy of mainstream classroom inclusion for all may constitute abuse.



jypsy said...


Full inclusion was one of the best things that ever happened to Alex (and his teachers and his classmates). However, there is no *one* thing that is "best" for every autistic.

mcewen said...

I don't know what it's called at home any more, but for Americans the IEP - Individual Education Plan, should be just that. Sometimes it can be hard to focus and remember the 'individual' part, but it is essential to keep that uppermost in our thought when forming a 'plan.'
Best wishes

D.L. McCracken said...

Hello Mr. Doherty,
I have been reading with great interest how you and your family have been "facing autism in New Brunswick". I was particularly interested in this section regarding school inclusion for children with autism.

There is a highly successful program for autistic children and their peers within the school setting called The Friend To Friend Social Learning Society which is described on their website as "a British Columbia-based not-for-profit organization formed in 2002 for the purpose of promoting mutually rewarding friendships between children with autism spectrum and related social-communicative disorders and their peers, classmates and siblings. Our goal is to help children develop to the best of their abilities through the play and socialization that results from these friendships."

I urge you to visit the website at http://www.friend2friendsociety.org/about/mission.php

The woman who founded this program is my sister who has three children one of whom has autism spectrum disorder. My sister - Heather McCracken - founded the program and it has become extremely successful throughout North America and as far away as Australia.

Rest assured that I'm not spamming your blog. I happened upon it completely by accident.

Best wishes to you and your family,

D.L. (Deborah) McCracken

PS - the McCracken family are all originally from New Brunswick. To this day, NB is 'home'.