This is the 2007 version. Click here for the 2017 chapter 12 table of contents.


In the late 1970s and 1980s, a new movement took shape: the movement to return retarded and handicapped people to normal social environments. In schools, this is called mainstreaming. Fewer children are isolated in "special education" classes. Whenever possible, they are put into classrooms with other children. Those who need special education may get it in a special class or two per day. The general rule is to make the least restrictive placement possible.

What is mainstreaming? What are benefits of mainstreaming for the individual involved, for fellow students, and for society?

When mainstreaming works, it has several beneficial effects:

—Mainstreamed students are encouraged to learn social and practical skills of everyday life. This makes them more independent. People often rise to meet a challenge. If expected to cope with a normal class, most students can do so.

—Other students become accustomed to seeing people with disabilities such as cerebral palsy and Down syndrome. Everybody relaxes, and developmentally disabled people get a chance to be accepted as individuals.

Mainstreaming is not limited to children. The same concepts can be applied to occupational therapy with retarded or emotionally disturbed adults. Such adults can be helped to get jobs in normal work settings. This benefits society as well as the individuals. A formerly nonproductive adult becomes someone who contributes to society.

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