Inclusion is often believed to be the best option for students with disabilities, but a new study calls into question whether or not the practice truly leads to better outcomes long term.
Researchers found that students with autism who spent 75 to 100 percent of their time in general education classrooms were no more likely to complete high school, go to college or see improvements in cognitive functioning than those who spent more time in segregated environments.
The results published Thursday in a special supplement to the journal Pediatrics come from a study of nearly 500 young adults with autism who received special education services at public schools nationwide. Researchers assessed data on the students collected in the federal government’s National Longitudinal Transition Study-2.
“We find no systematic indication that the level of inclusivity improves key future outcomes,” researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Johns Hopkins University wrote.
Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, students who qualify for special education are supposed to be served in the least restrictive environment. However, the study authors said their results call into question whether or not that requirement is associated with achieving the best long-term outcomes.