Inclusion of Children with Special Needs in Elementary School

The Inclusion Law – Amendment No. 7 to the Special Education Law – was adopted at the end of 2002. Its implementation began in 2004-05 and it charges the state with responsibility for financing auxiliary services required by special-needs children included in regular schools (e.g., a personal assistant, paramedical and didactic services). In addition, the law stipulates and describes the role and procedures of Inclusion Committees, which determine the eligibility of included children for inclusion-related services, the obligatory involvement of parents in committee decisions, and the need to develop individual, educational, care plans.

The goal of the study was to follow up on the implementation and identify difficulties and successes. The study was based on interviews with most of the directors of the Regional Support Centers (RSC), a representative sample of 363 elementary school principals and 302 parents of special-needs children, active in parent organizations. The following are some of the prominent findings of the study:

  • The Inclusion Committees operate regularly in most schools. They include a principal, RSC representative, a teacher and the parents. Over half of the principals noted that the waiting time for the Committee was less than a month, but owing to long waits for diagnosis in the public system, parents unable to finance private diagnosis have to wait longer.
  • About half of the principals noted that the parents participate actively in the decisions of the Committees. Principals in the non-Jewish sector reported more on the passive participation of parents in the Committees.
  • About half of the parents reported opposition from principals and teachers to inclusion. RSC representatives noted that this opposition related mainly to children with ADD or behavioral problems.
  • There is not enough training for teachers, especially with regard to children with ADD and behavioral problems.
  • Socially, differences were found in the extent of inclusion of children with various disabilities. Problems were reported mainly for children with autism, Asperger’s, retardation, ADD and behavioral problems.
  • Nearly half of the principals reported the contribution made by inclusion to the children without disabilities (social atmosphere, accepting the other); a small percentage reported detriment to the scholastic level (class disruptions).

The findings and discussions with representatives of the Ministry of Education give rise to 3 main conclusions:

  • There is a need to enhance parental involvement, particularly in the preparation of care plans and to encourage parents to take a more active part in the Committees, especially in the Arab sector.
  • There is a need to place more emphasis on training for teachers, especially regarding ADD, behavioral problems and learning disabilities
  • There is a need to encourage an atmosphere of inclusion in the schools, including preparing pupils in advance to welcome disabled classmates and developing mechanisms and standards to implement inclusion in the schools.

The study provided the Ministry of Education with critical feedback for the continued improvement of inclusion. The findings were presented to the Ministry of Education Director General, senior staff in charge of inclusion in special and regular education, and representatives of the Psychological Services and of School Supervision. The study was funded with the assistance of the Mandell Berman Fund for Research on Children with Disabilities.