Reflections on the PHI Credential:
Part 3

Sherwood J. Best
Inclusion. You've heard the word. You know what it means -- you think. Perhaps you've even seen the outcomes for students with physical and health impairments who have been "fully included" into general education programs. Sometimes these students flourish, and sometimes they are isolated, both academically and socially. No one disputes that, whenever appropriate, students with physical and health impairments should receive educational services in general education classes. The answer lies in the word "Appropriate".

There continues to be debate about the meaning and implementation of inclusion. I learned this when collecting data for my dissertation, which examined the self perceptions of students with physical disabilities in general education classes compared to those in self-contained classes on general education campuses. When I compared the two groups (over 100 total) on measures of self-concept, perception of acceptance by others, school attitude, and social competence, I found that students in self-contained special day classes rated themselves higher on all measures than students fully included in general education classes. Hardly an endorsement for inclusion, I thought.

And then I thought again. Perhaps the difference could be attributed, at least in some part, to the how inclusion was implemented. In my research, I had compared three school districts, all with different models for inclusion support. One school district had an "Inclusion Facilitator" with a PHI credential, who provided consultation to general education teachers and direct services to students. Her caseload was approximately 50 students. In the second district, included students received no direct services from a PHI teacher; a situation that was not only unfortunate, but illegal. In the third district, there was a PHI-credentialed "Inclusion Facilitator" who provided consultation to general education teachers and direct services to students. The students in this district were clustered at one site, which allowed daily contact with the inclusion facilitator, who also had a full-time assistant. Her caseload was approximately 20 students. It was no surprise that fully included students in the third district scored the highest on measures reflecting a quality experience.

The moral of this story is simple. To be truly successful, inclusion requires support. Real Support. The type of support that takes money, time, commitment, and trained professionals who understand the needs of students with physical and health impairments. That means teachers with the PHI credential. Anything else is "dump and hope".

This article is from the CAPHI Newsletter, Summer 2006.