January 12, 2011 by esarsea
In an OpEd piece that appeared in today’s Wall Street Journal, Dr. E. Fuller Torrey writes that the recent shooting rampage in Tempe, Arizona is but one of an ongoing series of tragedies steming from five decades of failed mental health policies. You can read the full text here.
Dr. Fuller maintains that we started emptying state mental hospitals in the 1960s, “…but failed to put in place programs to ensure that released patients received treatment after they left. By the 1980s, the results were evident — increasing numbers of seriously mentally ill persons among the homeless population and in the nation’s jails and prisons.”
Reading this article caused me to think about the policy of mainstreaming and/or inclusion in our public school system. You can read more about mainstreaming and inclusion here.
My wife has had several mainstream and inclusion kids in her elementary school classroom over the years, with varying degrees of disabilities. I can certainly see the value in mainstreaming kids that are high-functioning autistic, or having Asperger’s for example. I have however often wondered about the value of having profoundly mentally handicapped kids in a standard classroom.
My wife has had kids in her classroom that were (at the risk of sounding insensitive) incoherant droolers — wearing diapers, non-communicative and seemingly oblivious to their surroundings. These kids are wheeled into class and propped up in a desk and essentially, “babysat” by a full-time assistant who cares for the child independent of classroom activities.
I understand that the two situations are different; untreated schizophrenics shooting up a political rally vs. mainstreaming developmentally disabled kids in elementary school. Yet they may share something in common too.
Is there a philosophical parallel between moving away from mental hospitals where those afflicted might receive expert and/or professional assistance, and the decision to place mentally disabled children in a standard public school classroom vs. in an environment where they might benefit from the services and talents of persons specially trained to address these kid’s special needs?
In the end I suspect it all comes down to funding.