Support for Classroom Teachers Involved in Mainstreaming Students with Severe Handicaps
By Linda Stanviloff

SSTA Research Centre Report #96-10: 60 pages, $14.

Introduction This report presents a summary of the literature in the area of mainstreaming students with severe handicaps, specifically in the area of offering support to the classroom teacher. It also provides results of a study (Stanviloff, 1994) which sought to determine from a group of Saskatchewan educators the components of appropriate support for successful teaching in a mainstreamed classroom. A discussion of the implications of the findings from this study follows, along with recommendations and tips for teachers and administrators in successfully including students with severe handicaps in their regular classrooms.
Understanding Mainstreaming and Needs for Support: Literature Review
Important Factors in Providing Support: Responses from Educators
Mainstreaming Students with Sever Handicaps: Implications for Teachers and Administrators

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One of the issues facing educators today is the impetus to include children with severe handicaps in regular classrooms. According to the Regulations for the Saskatchewan Education Act, students designated as severely disabled are those who have a severe sensory, physical or health impairment, are trainably mentally handicapped, or are considered multiply handicapped because of a combination of these handicaps. Many classroom teachers have had little contact, experience or background knowledge in working with these children with more serious special needs. The thought of working with a child who has mental, physical and often medical difficulties brings many new challenges to classroom teachers. The prospect of such a placement can evoke fear, apprehension and insecurity. Results from the recent study by Rita McLeod, commissioned jointly by the STF and Saskatchewan Education, reinforce the notion that for successful mainstreaming to occur, the classroom teacher desires appropriate and meaningful support (McMahen,1995). Since the classroom teacher is the primary person who will determine the success or failure of an integration experience, considerable attention must be given to addressing their feelings, concerns, and pleas for support.

This report presents a summary of the literature in the area of mainstreaming students with severe handicaps, specifically in the area of offering support to the classroom teacher. It also provides results of a study (Stanviloff, 1994) which sought to determine from a group of Saskatchewan educators the components of appropriate support for successful teaching in a mainstreamed classroom. A discussion of the implications of the findings from this study follows, along with recommendations and tips for teachers and administrators in successfully including students with severe handicaps in their regular classrooms.

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Part l

Understanding Mainstreaming and Needs for Support: Literature Review

What is Mainstreaming?

Increasingly more parents, educators, lobby groups and writers in the field of special education are advocating the practice of having all students with disabilities placed in the regular classroom. This practice is referred to in the literature by a number of terms: integration, mainstreaming or inclusion. Differentiating between the terms is not always an easy task and often is dependent upon the writer's philosophical position. The Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation (1986a) defined mainstreaming as the "social trend of bringing exceptional people into the world of non-exceptional people" (p.3). Others have stated that "integration, both in education and in society is general, is the process of people coming together to achieve the objective of living together in a harmonious whole, each one an integral part" (Forest and Lusthaus, 1989, p. 44). This implies that the integration of all students into classrooms is a primary goal, beginning with including those who have previously been left out - students with special needs.

More recently the terms " inclusion" and "inclusive schooling" have been used in the literature ( Pearpoint, Forest & Snow, 1992; Stainback & Stainback, 1990, 1992a, 1992b; Villa, Thousand, Stainback & Stainback, 1992). The use of this term arises from a concern that many students are still left out of the mainstream of regular classrooms and are not integrated into their regular neighbourhood schools. Inclusion reflects a belief that all students are to be educated in regular education, as opposed to special education classes (Stainback & Stainback,1990). Children and youth with disabilities would thereby be included with others their age in regular classrooms in the neighbourhood school. Since this philosophical belief and practice is not yet widespread among school districts, this study used the term "mainstreaming" which refers to the practice of moving students with severe handicaps from self-contained settings into regular classrooms.

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Rationale for Mainstreaming

Students who are designated as severely handicapped typically have one or several disabilities which might include: mental handicaps, sensory impairments, physical handicaps, or chronic health problems. These students can learn but might require a lot of guidance, teaching of basic life skills, or assistance with daily care (SACL, 1991). The rationale for including these students in the regular routines of school life is often based on educational, moral, and legal arguments.

Proponents of mainstreaming argue that all children with special needs have a right to equal opportunity in the regular classroom, and need the regular classroom environment and stimulation of typical peers in order to gain functional life and work skills and to develop social relationships (Thousand & Villa, 1991). From an educational perspective, attention has been given to the importance for children with handicaps to be around typical peers for at least a portion of their days in order to learn and utilize social skills. Stainback and Stainback (1988, 1990, 1992a) advocated that all children benefit from the practice of including students with severe handicaps. Students can assist one another, develop friendships, and come to accept individual differences. Given the benefits to all students, the authors concluded that there is no justification for the separation from a regular class.

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Reasons for Increased Pressure to Mainstream

Beliefs such as these, that it is right and beneficial for all children to be educated together in regular education programs, have led to growing pressure on school boards to re-examine their policies and more actively engage in the process of mainstreaming students with moderate and severe handicaps. While many in special and regular education agree with the philosophy of serving all children within the regular classroom setting, there are writers, school boards, and educators who remain reluctant or opposed (Lieberman, 1990, 1992; Trigg, 1992). As a result, those in favour have become more vocal and proactive in their quest for mainstreaming for all children.

The main impetus for changes in educational decisions made for students with special needs has come from parents (Hayes, 1989; STF, 1986a). Increasingly, they are acting upon their concerns and forming associations or lobby groups to act collectively for the rights of their children. Parents are also turning to legislation and legal action to support them in their endeavours. Existing educational legislation and the Charter of Rights have led to parents seeking interpretation from judicial bodies. Whereas courts were initially reluctant to rule on educational practices, as more of these cases come before the courts, there has been a gradual trend to "judicial intrusion" in educational decision-making (Doctor, 1992).

Parent advocacy for inclusive schooling has increased substantially in the years following the adoption of the Charter, particularly by parents of students labelled mentally handicapped. Recognizing that parents themselves can often have more impact than teachers or professionals working within the system, they have lobbied for the right of all children to be educated in regular classrooms. As well, they advocate for policies, practices, and resources to support their children in these settings.

Families have been supported in their efforts by organizations such as the Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL), the national advocacy association for persons with mental handicaps. At the national, provincial and local level, CACL has helped parents to articulate their concerns and achieve solidarity. They have also assisted educators to become trained to work in integrated settings; this through conferences, seminars, publication, video production, and financial and consulting support for litigation (Porter & Richler, 1991). The Saskatchewan Association for Community Living (SACL) takes the position that parents or legally appointed guardians have the responsibility for the welfare of the children, including education (SACL, 1991). They, in turn, support parents in voicing their choice to school boards in educational decision-making and appropriate placement for their child with special needs.

The commitment and tenacity of all proponents of mainstreaming, whether through legal means, publications, advocacy or lobby groups, points to a growing trend of more students with special needs being included in regular classrooms.

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The Importance of Support

Including a child with special, complex and multiple needs into a regular classroom evokes great change on the part of all the participants, especially the classroom teacher. As with all change, this process requires support in order for the concept to be translated into effective classroom practice. Fullan (1991) stated that a full range of support is necessary for any change at the system or individual level.

That support is necessary for successful teaching of students with special needs in classroom settings cannot be understated. In virtually all discussions of the mainstreaming process, the phrase "with support" is evident, however what that means in practice is not always as clear. While there is an awareness of the importance of providing support when mainstreaming, the literature reflects that in many instances the necessary knowledge and other support structures are not put in place. Instead, in some studies, comments from teachers about mainstreaming have revealed frustrations with a lack of resources, insufficient contact with resource personnel, an overwhelming workload, and a feeling of isolation where the students have been just "dumped" in the classroom (Isenberg, 1987; McFadden, 1990; Seaman, 1991). In a study by Stoler (1992) involving 182 secondary teachers in six school districts, teachers were surveyed to determine their perceptions towards the inclusion of students with handicaps. He concluded:

(respondents) are receiving little or no support from the special education department or school administration. The teachers were concerned about class size given the influx of students with special needs, regular education students not receiving the proper time or attention to develop within their educational programs, and a general feeling of helplessness given a medical emergency in the classroom. Other concerns of the teacher included their potential loss of classroom autonomy when a special education teacher is in the classroom and how they will handle the presence of seeing eye dogs, medical equipment required by the medically fragile students, and aids for those students who are otherwise impaired and cannot be left alone. (p. 62)

Such studies reinforce the notion that while support for children is vital, the needs and concerns of teachers must also be addressed.

Whereas special education has typically focused its attention on the needs of the child, more recently it has been conceded that the regular education teacher also has many needs with the introduction of students with severe handicaps into the classroom, and attention to these needs will impact upon success for all students and teachers (Capper & Larkin, 1992; STF, 1986c). Clearly teachers must be given assistance in dealing with the concept and practice of including students with severe handicaps in regular classrooms.

The needs for support identified by teachers can in part be attributed to their feelings and lack of knowledge around mainstreaming. Studies have demonstrated that teachers experience fear and anxiety in anticipation of the placement of a child with special needs in their classroom (Forest, 1986; Ottoman, 1981; Stainback & Stainback, 1990). One explanation for this fear is a lack of knowledge about people with severe handicaps and a fear of failure (Kunc, 1984). In practice, it has been demonstrated that by acknowledging teachers' fears and anxieties and then addressing them by working as a team, the negative feelings generally dissipate months into the mainstreaming experience (Forest, 1986; Harvey, 1992; McFadden, 1990; Stainback, Stainback, & Forest, 1989).

Besides addressing initial feelings of inadequacy, fulfilling the task of effectively teaching in a mainstreamed classroom brings many other challenges for the teacher: the ability to individualize and adapt instruction, foster positive peer relationships, collaborate with parents and other professionals, communicate with parents, monitor and evaluate progress, and manage a classroom of students with diverse academic, social and behavioral needs (Jenkins et al., 1990; O'Brien et al., 1989; Schloss, 1992). To fulfil this responsibility, teachers require preparation through inservice and training, an understanding of their own strengths, weaknesses and fears, and input into decisions which will affect them on a day-to-day and long-term basis. It has been demonstrated that preservice education, professional inservice, and exposure to students with handicaps alleviates some of this fear and increases teachers' confidence in their ability to teach a wide diversity of students (Chadwick, 1989; Cross & Villa, 1992; Harvey, 1992; Heller et al, 1992; McFadden, 1990; Sanche & Dahl, 1991).

Another factor identified as demonstrating support is allowing teachers to have input into decisions which impact upon their professional lives (Stainback & Stainback, 1992b; Stimson & Appelbaum, 1988). The practice of involving teachers in decision-making prior to implementation is perceived to be a significant factor in responding to these frustrations and promoting positive attitudes and commitment. A common complaint of teachers is that they are powerless, they are told who, what, and when to teach, and they lack meaningful opportunities to make decisions which affect their professional lives (Stimson & Appelbaum, 1988). Under these circumstances, negative feelings and resistance to new initiatives such as mainstreaming can have long-lasting effects.

On the contrary, research has shown that a majority of educators reflect positive attitudes towards mainstreaming and a willingness to make classes conducive to students with special needs if they are involved in the planning process (Stainback, Stainback & Jackson, 1992). In this forum, teachers are permitted choice into the types of support and assistance they require. Whereas support often begins after the decision is made to bring a student with special needs into the regular classroom, the preferences of teachers to be part of the decision-making team emphasize the need for involvement even before training and inservice is initiated.

Planning for the integration of a child with special needs must incorporate careful preparation and training for school personnel. The content required of this preparation appears to fall into two categories: a broad general base, and training for specific teaching strategies and skills. First of all, to help staffs alter their belief systems and understand the principles underlying mainstreaming, they need to believe that they can appropriately serve all students. Before engaging in the mechanics of how integration will work, effort must be made to ensure that the philosophical groundwork has been laid and that there is understanding of the "why" behind the initiative (Horrocks, 1993). Sapon-Shevin (1992) stressed that "all members of the school community must understand and be comfortable with the school philosophy of inclusion, including the school secretary, janitors, cafeteria staff, teachers' aides, parents, volunteers, students, teachers, and administrators" (p. 346).

Besides the "conceptual framework" or broad general knowledge from which to understand mainstreaming (Villa & Thousand, 1992a), preparation and training for teachers need include specific strategies for instruction and classroom management in classrooms with students with special needs (Heller et al. 1992; Williams, 1990); A number of skills have been identified as providing a strong base for teachers. Instructional strategies, classroom management practices appropriate for special needs children, and communication skills have been found to rank high in what teachers express as needs (Heller et al., 1992; Williams, 1990). Some areas and strategies currently proposed as part of best educational practices include: outcome-based instruction, cooperative learning systems, behaviour analysis and management techniques, and social skills training (Nevin, Thousand, Paolucci-Whitcomb & Villa, 1990).

Other skills needed are those to work effectively in teams and collaboration. Teachers are encouraged to adopt a team approach in working in classrooms with students with disabilities. Besides having to acquire new skills to work with academically and physically challenged students, and becoming proficient in using specialized equipment and technical aides, teachers are asked to participate in multidisciplinary planning meetings with professionals who previously played small roles in the lives of classroom teachers - social workers, psychologists, and various therapists (Schloss, 1992). Teachers need to be key members of the team. The success of this may depend on a teacher's ability to engage in effective team planning, problem solving and collaboration (Villa et al., 1992).

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Support Providers

Team members who can provide support to the classroom teacher who is involved in mainstreaming are: school principals, special education teachers and consultants, colleagues, paraprofessionals, parents, and students themselves. This section will outline the roles, duties and responsibilities of each of these members:


On the school team, the school principal plays a key role in facilitating the success or failure of integration (Alberta Education, 1991; Chalmers, 1993; Forest, 1986; Perner, 1991). Biklen (1985) reinforced this position stating, "some programs may succeed without the active support and involvement of building principals. But a program cannot succeed where the principal is opposed, or negatively disposed, to mainstreaming" (p. 30).

In the role of school principal, some of the responsibilities comprise: ensuring that a vision for the school is in place, establishing policies and forums for decision-making, allocating resources and defining staff roles, and overseeing staff development (Villa & Thousand, 1990). One way principals can support teachers in mainstreamed classrooms is by facilitating staff development appropriate to group and individual needs of their staff. They can engage in a process to develop and communicate a school vision which encompasses the philosophy of inclusion. Commitment to the practice can be demonstrated through their involvement in team meetings and by promoting collaborative decision-making. In addition, they can act as supporters for teachers by providing time, resources, and recognition.

Special Education Teachers

Where schools or school districts have incorporated an inclusive approach to educating students with disabilities, it has meant a change in structures, teaching strategies, and roles of personnel. This is most evident in the role of the special education teacher within the school. The typical role of the resource or special education teacher calls for this individual to spend the majority of school time working in a setting outside out of the regular classroom with students who have been deemed to have a learning handicap. When students are seen only for a portion of the school day in a special education classroom, "the interventions provided ... are directed at improving the skills required for the student to function effectively in a 'regular' classroom" (Doorlag, 1989, p. 39).

Because the needs of both teachers and students in a mainstreamed classroom are much more complex that just improving skills, some schools have redesigned the job of the special education teacher to be one of a support facilitator (Stainback & Stainback, 1988, 1990, 1992b). A support facilitator is described as a person who is primarily responsible for providing direct support to classroom teachers with the goal of meeting the needs of all students. Stainback and Stainback (1988) listed some of the ways that this professional could help the teacher,

A support facilitator is a person who can either assist regular classroom teachers with suggestions or provide an extra pair of hands to help adapt and individualize instruction to meet the needs of all class members. In addition, the support facilitator can offer students direct support or instruction for such things as understanding and communicating with peers and teachers, completing assignments, developing positive social behaviours, learning bus schedules and routines, understanding and dealing with individual differences, and learning to support and assist others. (p. 18)

Related Service Providers

When a diverse population of students is educated within one classroom, no one individual will have the expertise to meet all of their needs. It is therefore necessary to utilize the expertise of professionals trained in specific areas. Some of the related services professionals identified in the literature as able to offer support to classroom teachers are: physiotherapists, occupational therapists, psychologists, behavioral therapists, nurses, occupational therapists, computer specialists, physical education consultants, and speech and language pathologists (Falvey, Coots, Bishop & Grenot-Scheyer, 1989; Harris, 1990; Saskatchewan Education, 1989a).

Biklen (1985) proposed some responsibilities of related services professionals in providing support teachers in mainstreamed classrooms. Especially in the first or second year of integration of students with special needs, he suggested that consultants or specialists could be of help by listening to the concerns of teachers and sharing experiences and moral support. They could observe in classrooms, provide suggestions to teachers, and offer individual or group training in specific skill areas. As well, specialists could identify and access technological aides such as communication boards or adaptive computer equipment. This kind of support and knowledge would be especially beneficial in the planning of the child's IEP (Individualized Education Plan) or Personal Program Plan (PPP), as it is referred to in Saskatchewan.


Besides acting as team planning members, fellow teachers can offer support in other ways. The formation of teaching teams has been suggested as one way of empowering teachers to meet diverse student needs. A teaching team would capitalize on the strengths and expertise of the team members to provide greater potential for quality instruction for all students.

A strategy being increasingly used in schools to assist and support teachers is teacher assistant teams. The teacher assistant team (TAT) is a school-based unit where colleagues meet and engage in a positive, collaborative, problem-solving process to help teachers cope with a wide range of issues (Chalfant & Pysh, 1989). Composed of a core of classroom and special education teachers, and in many instances, the principal, the team brainstorms and exchanges ideas to assist a student or teacher. The TAT members also become involved when and where necessary to assist in the implementation of the suggestions (Stainback & Stainback, 1988).


When a student is integrated into a regular classroom, a paraprofessional may be employed to provide ongoing and consistent assistance to the student and the teacher. Paraprofessionals can assist with personal care needs and academic programming for the student, as well as non-instructional responsibilities such as maintenance of equipment, preparation of materials, and clerical duties (Saskatchewan Education, 1989a). While the responsibility for diagnosis, planning and designing of programs and the IEP rests with the teacher (Pawlak, 1990), the teachers' assistants or associates can contribute observations, opinions and provide input into team meetings.


In virtually all of the literature on mainstreaming children with special needs, the role of the parents in the process is recognized as significant. Whether it be as advocates for their children's inclusion in the classroom or as key members of the educational team, parents can offer information, assistance and support. A description of some of the ways parents can assist teachers is provided in the Meeting Challenging Needs Handbook:

Parents have up-to-date medical information, are knowledgeable on their child's disabling condition(s), and can share insights about the child's strengths, likes and dislikes. Parents can contribute to the development of an appropriate program for their child by identifying the activities most needed at home and in the community. (Saskatchewan Education, 1989a, p. 48)

Whereas in the past, educators often saw their role as telling parents what they could do to help out at home, the tables are now being turned and teachers are seeking out information from parents.


Non-handicapped peers also can provide valuable information and support to accomplish the goals of an effective program plan. They can offer students with special needs acceptance, partnership, friendship and personal support. Through a strategy called Circle of Friends (Forest & Lusthaus, 1989, 1990; O'Brien et al., 1989), students can volunteer to welcome a student to be integrated, assist with routines at lunch and break times, form a telephone committee to call a student with special needs outside of school hours, and help with problem-solving. Furthermore, fellow students can be members of a collaborative team who can offer a "refreshing, creative, enthusiastic and cost effective source of expertise" (Cross & Villa, 1992, p. 227).

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Benefits of Collaborative Teams

The practice of using collaborative teams and group decision-making has been demonstrated to be a key factor in achieving optimum results in schools, this through the merging of special and general education strategies (Porter & Richler, 1991; Stainback & Stainback, 1988, 1992b; Villa et al., 1992). The literature in the fields of special education and educational administration also point to the need to recognize individual strengths, weaknesses, and needs of students and teachers, and to operate in a collaborative manner in order to establish unique and effective means of meeting these needs. Just as the individual student is the focus in designing an IEP, the individual teacher needs to be at the center in designing a network of support. Kauffman (1993) underscored the importance of teachers in achieving school reform, of which mainstreaming is a part:

Schools will be successful in nurturing the intellectual, social, and moral development of children only to the extent that they also nurture such development of teachers. The notion that what is good for students is also good for teachers applies not only to the conditions under which they work but also to the way they approach problems. (p.93)

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Model of Support

Based on this notion of support being best facilitated by multidisciplinary teams composed of individuals from a variety of backgrounds and perspectives, a conceptual model was derived which incorporates both personnel and actions. The model, Circles of Support (Figure l), is predicated upon the belief that the teacher must not stand alone when teaching in a mainstreamed classroom. Rather, he or she must be surrounded by a team of people providing support through their actions, suggestions, and team problem-solving.

In this model, the teacher is at the center with support personnel surrounding the individual to achieve the established common goals for the school, student and teacher. In keeping with the belief that each member of the support team "must operate as equals and have coordinate, as opposed to superordinate and subordinate, status" (Graden & Bauer, 1992, p. 89), no circle or role is represented as larger or more important than another. Rather, the actions and responsibilities of each member of the circle are vital in ensuring that the appropriate supports which have been identified in the literature are indeed in place. While each support provider can engage in a variety of tasks or activities as part of the collaborative or support team, the choice of which of these would be most advantageous, is dependent upon the individual student with special needs, the overall classroom situation, and the subsequent needs of the individual teacher. Operating from this model, a school team could determine and assign formal and informal support responsibilities dependent upon the complexities of each setting.

Because each child with special needs brings unique gifts and challenges, each teacher possesses different strengths and emotions, and each classroom presents a different set of dynamics, the model Circles of Support would be personalized for each environment and time period. This foundation of support would be based upon the expertise, input, and actions of the many individuals. Using a collaborative team approach, the goal would be to create a model of support and ultimately an optimum educational experience for all students regardless of ability.

In summary, this model depicts an organizational structure where a teacher engaging in the process of mainstreaming a student with a severe handicap does not work in isolation. In our world today, the task of effectively educating a diverse population of students is too complex for any one person to do alone. Instead, as this review of the literature has revealed, the expertise, input, and actions of many support providers need be incorporated to create the conditions and support for adults and students to experience successful mainstreaming.

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Part ll

Important Factors in Providing Support: Responses from Educators

The Stanviloff (1994) study investigated what constitutes appropriate support for classroom teachers engaged in having students with severe handicaps in regular classrooms. To fully describe the requirements for support, the perspectives of four groups of educators were sought: classroom teachers, special education or resource teachers, principals, and central office administrators.

Participants were interviewed and asked questions in the areas of teachers' initial feelings and reactions towards mainstreaming students with severe handicaps, their immediate needs, and the persons who could offer support and provide assistance to meet these needs. The sample of respondents was drawn from two urban school systems in one Saskatchewan city. Eight elementary schools were selected, four where students with severe mental and multiple handicaps were currently being mainstreamed in regular classrooms, and four where there were no students with severe handicaps in the school. From each of these schools a classroom teacher, the resource or special education teacher, and the principal were interviewed for approximately 45 to 90 minutes. As well, the central office administrator from each school system responsible for overseeing services for special needs students was interviewed. This section provides a summary of their responses.

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Participant Responses

All of the 26 participants were asked to reflect on what they perceived to be teachers' needs when working in a classroom with students with severe handicaps and, subsequently, what supports in terms of personnel and their responsibilities were appropriate. The responses were categorized into seven main areas. As well, all participants were asked to offer any final advice when contemplating engaging in mainstreaming.

Teachers' First Reactions to the Prospect of Mainstreaming

Participants were first asked to reflect on what they would perceive to be the initial feelings of a teacher upon hearing news of a future placement of a student with severe or multiple handicaps into his/her regular classroom. Classroom teachers were asked to reveal actual feelings in response to this hypothetical situation, while other groups were asked to speculate upon a teacher's reaction from their own perspective.

Participant responses indicated that teachers frequently experience fear and anxiety when first called upon to mainstream students with severe handicaps in their classrooms. The overwhelming response to the question of initial feelings was that a first reaction would be worry or fear arising from a sense of not knowing what to do with a child with severe disabilities. The teachers who had not experienced teaching in a classroom with a student with a severe mental, physical, sensory handicap or multiple handicaps indicated that they would have "lots of questions" about the child with special needs, the other children, parents' reactions and their own capabilities. An example of this was the teacher who explained her thought process:

I've never done this, can I? What skills do I have that will help me deal with this child? What's going to happen to the other kids in the classroom? How are parents going to feel about having this child in the classroom? Are they going to welcome it as an opportunity where their child might learn some things that they might not learn in another way? Are they going to say, "Will the teacher have time for my child?"

As well, all the teachers with no experience stated that they had real concerns with some of the medical or personal care issues of students. Their negative feelings centered around lack of confidence and training in working with these students, worry about medical and personal care issues, and uncertainty of support. Besides the unanimous response of feelings of fear and worry, three of the four inexperienced teachers suggested reactions of inadequacy and being overwhelmed.

None of these reactions, however, were identified feelings of the teachers who were presently involved in mainstreaming. In response to the question of a teacher's feelings and reactions, each participant in this group acknowledged that the first time a teacher received news of the classroom placement of a child with special needs, it is likely that there would be that fear of the unknown and worry about the ability to do one's job. All experienced teachers, however, now offered different reactions having taught at least one year in a classroom with a student designated severely handicapped. The fact that experience relieved a lot of the nervousness and fear was summarized by a classroom teacher with several years of experience mainstreaming:

If I were told that a child was coming next year, I would feel it's okay.... The first time when I knew a child was coming up the following year, I wasn't sure how I was going to handle that, what it was going to be like.... I was anxious.... Some people have preconceived notions and once you've had the experience, it's fine.... Now, it wouldn't phase me at all.

Comments such as these reflect vivid contrast in feelings between those teachers with experience mainstreaming and those without.

In summary, it was stated by all groups of educators that the predominant initial feeling of teachers new to mainstreaming students with severe handicaps would be fear, worry and a sense of inadequacy. This would be attributed to not knowing what to do and how to handle the situation, worry and concern about support and appropriate training, and some apprehension of how the decision would impact upon their other students, the parents, and their own personal workload. One principal remarked,

There would be apprehension, especially for the first month of September.... There would be concern on the part of the teacher and more attention would need to be given than what is normally attached to the entry of a regular student. The teacher would be wondering about a lot of things and would have lots of questions.

One superintendent acknowledged such teacher anxiety, but also described the positive attitudes of teachers which could be fostered by the students themselves:

It's just attitudinal that we are afraid of people who we don't relate to. The most heartening kind of experience is to watch the other kids. They don't have labels and they don't classify them (students with disabilities) according to the disability. They just see it as somebody who needs help. The kids in their own classroom are the greatest example to the teacher.

Beyond the common reply that teachers having a child in their class for the first time would have initial feelings of worry, fear and inadequacy, was the response that for those teachers who were experienced in the process, there was little anxiety. There was, instead, a focus on the benefits of mainstreaming for all students and themselves, and a willingness to continue the experience provided the supports were in place.

Appropriate Notice to Teachers of Placement of a Child

Participants were asked what they thought would be the ideal time for teachers to receive notice of the entry of a child with severe handicaps into their classrooms. Within the groups of in-school educators, responses were very similar. Participants perceived that teachers should receive early notification of a student placement, this to allow them to prepare psychologically and professionally through sharing their concerns and feelings, visiting the child's previous educational setting, receiving any essential background information on the child, and some preliminary and ongoing training.

Recognizing that placement decisions are often made in the spring and sometimes the fall, a frequent comment made was that as much time as possible would be most beneficial to teachers, students, staffs, and parents. In-school personnel expressed the benefits of being notified as early as possible before the end of a school year. The optimum time stated was in April, May or early June. This would allow time for acceptance and assimilation of the decision, the gathering of relevant information, and preparation by the teacher and staff for the arrival of the student. Teachers with no experience mainstreaming confirmed their desire and willingness to spend some time getting ready for the student. In particular, one woman foresaw her preparation:

If I knew before the end of the school year, then I could prepare in any way, whether it be reading or talking to other special ed teachers. I have a lot of people resources. I could go to a lot of places and find out a lot of things.... If I knew in June that I was getting this student I could make some of the contacts and access a lot of people.

One superintendent saw May or June notification as beneficial, but pointed out difficulties with this due to administrative decisions such as staffing and transfers. The other superintendent perceived that a teacher's awareness of the arrival of a new child through a preliminary visit to the preschool or the presence of the child in the school would cause the notification factor to be of less significance.

A point emphasized by several individuals in regard to timelines was the importance of providing background information in concert with the placement notification. While stating that there needs to be some reasonable time for preparation, perhaps a few weeks, one resource teacher cautioned,

I don't think the time is as critical in terms of the child's entrance, as it is giving information with it. The time lag between notification and information is most important. There has to be enough time to get the information and absorb that, whatever that length might be.

Immediate Needs of Classroom Teachers

To ascertain areas of need for support, participants were asked to state the immediate needs of a teacher in a classroom with "typical students" and a child with a severe handicap. Generally all classroom teachers, resource teachers, principals, and central office administrators mentioned the importance of providing background information on the child, specifically information on capabilities, goals and expectations. An educational program was identified by most participants as a high priority need. The importance of a teacher assistant in the classroom was also a consistent response of participants; one named by all classroom teachers.

Another need expressed by six of the eight classroom teachers was someone to talk to about their own feelings, their needs for support, and concerns with working with the child with special needs, a person with whom to air their frustrations, apprehensions and feelings of inadequacy. As one teacher explained, there are times one just needs to "belly-ache" and sometimes having done this, the individual feels better. The teachers with no experience stressed the importance of training for themselves and the provision of appropriate equipment to meet the physical, medical, or personal care needs of the child.

All teachers and superintendents focused on the day-to-day operations within the classroom, pointing to the need to address daily routines and personal care issues of the child. The resource teachers recognized the importance of providing personnel and program immediately, and especially getting the relevant information pertaining to the child's disability. Some resource teachers related stories of teachers receiving important knowledge about the child months into the school year. This was felt to be inefficient, unnecessary, and frustrating for both the teacher and the student.

In two of the sites where there was a special education teacher assigned to oversee the needs of the students with severe handicaps, these teachers reported that their primary responsibilities at the beginning of the school year were to oversee the entry of the child, to monitor the needs of both students and teachers, and to arrive at a program and schedule which would be most effective for the child, teacher assistant, and teachers working with the student. These special education teachers frequently acted as the "listening ear" and the "bearer of the knowledge." This is evident from the comments of one:

I would prepare the teachers for the student. I would say that this is how he tends to relate. This is what we believe he's trying to do. This is where we've been. Here is where we're going. This is how we'll get there. This is how the support will work. This is what I can bring ... how can I help you? Tell me what you need and together we will work this through. Let me know your frustrations.

Principals focused on what they perceived to be an important part of their role in providing support. Each spoke of a teacher's need to receive reassurance initially and throughout the mainstreaming process, someone the teacher could go to and talk about the experience, to receive suggestions or affirmation that "one is doing the right thing ... doing a good job." For most principals, an immediate need was to ensure that teachers knew that they had in-school administrative support. The comments of a principal in a school with several teachers with mainstreamed students summarizes the overall perceptions expressed by the group of principals:

The first need is an emotional need: "Is somebody going to help me with this child." That help comes in different forms. The first thing I always sense with teachers is whether there is someone else who will help, meaning a teacher assistant. They ask it and they want to know. When you say "yes", it's like "whew, good! Now tell me more about the student." The second thing is they really need to know, to satisfy their own curiosity, about the nature of the child - physically, socially, emotionally, intellectually. What is this child bringing? The third need is an ongoing need - "How do I provide an education for this child? How do I teach this child." That starts with an initial inservice, an introduction to children like that, followed by more specific information about that child, followed by some ongoing support - from administration, consultants, other people.

Training and Preparation of Classroom Teachers

When asked to suggest any education or training needs of teachers who would be working with a child with severe or multiple handicaps, in-school personnel - especially those teachers without experience and the resource teachers - emphasized the importance of preparatory information. The combined responses of all teachers and principals suggested including several components as part of this preparation. Of special value would be a preliminary visit to see the child, combined with a school meeting to procure initial background information with regard to the disability and the consequent goals, expectations, and capabilities. A general understanding or mindset towards mainstreaming and its rationale was considered important in helping teachers learn general strategies for adapting, programming, and meeting the needs of children with special needs. In-school participants suggested preliminary and follow-up inservice for teachers, accompanied by some preparation of all staff members and other students in the classroom and the school. The administrator in System "A" focused on the need for common sense problem-solving approaches rather than special education training; the superintendent from System "B" stressed the facilitation of some training once "all the players are in place."

Decision-making and Input of Teachers

Participants were asked to contemplate the extent to which classroom teachers should have input into both the placement of a student designated severely handicapped and the provision of support. In terms of the placement of a student with special needs, it was thought that teachers should offer their feelings, reactions, and opinions but not be afforded the final say. All but two teachers and principals felt that the final decision of student placement was an administrative role. On the other hand, in determining the best way to provide support services to the classroom, teachers' comments and requests were perceived to carry much weight.

Support Providers

Having discussed these first questions, participants were then asked to name those persons who could be supportive addressing teacher and student needs, and what specifically these persons could do. All spoke of the critical role the principal played outside the classroom in offering and lobbying for support. Equally important was the need for another person to assist within the classroom for all or a portion of the day, that usually being a teacher assistant. The resource teacher, parents, system consultants, related service professionals such as doctors, physiotherapists and specialized equipment technicians, as well as colleagues and student peers were also identified as potential support providers.

The responsibilities allocated to these support providers sometimes differed depending on the perspective of the participant. Some of the responsibilities cited were: to listen to the teacher and provide moral and emotional support; to set the climate and present the vision for the mainstreamed classroom in the school; to facilitate or provide for the preliminary visit and the critical background information on each child; to work as a team, including parents, to prepare an individualized education plan for the student; to lobby for proper equipment, materials and extra personnel, especially a teacher assistant; to help teachers acquire knowledge about mainstreaming and instructional strategies to effectively teach in a mainstreamed classroom; to clarify the role of the teacher assistant and delineate duties and responsibilities; and to monitor the classroom and ensure that support was in place and needs were being met.

While many of these needs were perceived to be met by either the principal or resource teacher, other participants named the consultant as a coordinator and primary supporter, one who assumed an active role in providing and ensuring supports and program were in place.

Barriers to Mainstreaming

When asked to name some barriers to mainstreaming which might impact upon success and decisions around appropriate support, many respondents referred back to those topics of support which had been discussed throughout the interview: preparation and training, advance notice and decision-making, immediate needs, and support providers. Not addressing those effectively was perceived to be a barrier to success. In addition, other concerns or barriers surfaced. They tended to fall under five categories: negative attitudes of teachers, administrators, or parents; dynamics of the classroom especially class size, split grades and the needs of both the students with special needs and their peers; the time factor in communicating with personnel and in providing support through teacher assistants; the

lack of role clarification of teachers, resource people, and teacher assistants; and the worry over financial cutbacks. Some participants offered advice and means of ameliorating the impact of these barriers; others left the solutions unsaid.

Advice to Teachers and Decision-makers

Before concluding the interviews participants were asked to comment on any advice they would offer to teachers embarking on this new experience in teaching, and to decision-makers who provide direction and support. Advice offered was grouped into five broad categories. First, the need for communication was stressed. It was stated that teachers must ask for what they need and communicate openly with their colleagues and administrators, and administrators and support personnel must listen and respond to those needs. Secondly, preparation of teachers needs to be facilitated; this to include background information and formal training on appropriate strategies and program planning.

A third point made by experienced participants was that mainstreaming can and does work. What is required is an understanding of the different goals and expectations for these children, and the knowledge that the situation is not greatly different from regular teaching. The fourth area of advice returned again to the need to monitor and evaluate the mainstreaming experience for the teacher and the child. Classrooms with students with severe handicaps need to be monitored and supported, especially in regard to clarifying the roles of potential support providers and reflecting upon the effectiveness of the placement for all affected.

Finally, in order for mainstreaming to be perceived positively and the practice increased, participants appealed to decision-makers to "do it right", to make positive decisions and to support them adequately and appropriately.

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Part lll

Mainstreaming Students with Severe Handicaps: Implications for Teachers and Administrators

Experience Affects Attitude and Feelings Towards Mainstreaming

That classroom teachers require support when teaching students with diverse and challenging needs cannot be disputed. What that support looks like varies, depending on the individual teacher and the experience he or she has had in working with students with special needs, and the specific needs of the designated child. In this study, one of the areas which revealed the greatest difference in perception of individuals was that of initial feelings of teachers in contemplating mainstreaming. As in the literature, those teachers in this study who had no experience teaching this group of students with special needs expressed strong emotions of fear and anxiety (Forest, 1986; Ottoman, 1981; Stainback & Stainback, 1990). It was perceived that this task would bring many challenges for teachers in terms of uncertainties about one's training and background to do the job, as well as changes in teachers' job description and workload, especially when those students with medical and personal care needs were included in the classroom.

On the contrary, those teachers and principals in the study who were in schools with mainstreamed students expressed many positives about the experience, some noting that teaching practices and routines need not change dramatically. As one experienced teacher expressed, "It takes very little of my time other than the collaboration time, which I welcome and find very helpful." These findings are also supported in the literature (Forest, 1986; Harvey, 1992; McFadden, 1990).

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Preparing the Teacher for the Inclusion of a Child with Severe Handicaps

A few of those educators with experience voiced their concerns around the time it takes to procure support from the system and the time lag in delivering support services to classroom teachers. One of these services deemed vital even before the entrance of the child is preparation and training (Heller et al., 1992). As demonstrated in this study, knowledge of mainstreaming, gained either by formal training or experience, dramatically altered the emotions and confidence level of teachers (Chadwick, 1989; Cross & Villa, 1992; McFadden, 1990; Sanche & Dahl, 1991). It is therefore important to instigate some training and confidence-building early in the process of mainstreaming.

Besides education, part of the preparation should include providing all relevant information about the child. Learning of the child's medical and/or educational history, the nature of the handicap, the potential and the difficulties, allows teachers to know some of the expectations for that child and for themselves. Some teachers saw this information being presented in a workshop format. Others, however, recognized that because of the uniqueness, diversity and variety of handicaps presented by those designated as having severe or multiple handicaps this might not be the proper forum. Instead, as one teacher expressed, "Every child has specifics that teachers will need to know that don't generalize to other situations.... It almost needs to be somebody coming out to the school and giving them firsthand information about that particular child."

While specific information is best given on a one-to-one basis, some general information on mainstreaming can be offered to groups of educators. Some writers have advocated education and preparation which ensures that the philosophical groundwork for mainstreaming has been laid, that there is an understanding of the "why" behind the initiative (Horrocks, 1993), and a common conceptual framework and language to communicate and work with each other (Villa & Thousand, 1992a). Clearly, some educators in this study were supportive of attention to the philosophical underpinnings of integration. Once a basic understanding of mainstreaming and working with students with special needs is established, then further training on specific strategies for the particular child can better be undertaken.

While some decision-makers opt to begin the process of teacher education after the student with special needs enters the class, it would seem advantageous to begin this aspect of preparation earlier to address teachers' feelings and uncertainties. Comments from many participants with no experience working with students with severe handicaps indicated a need for the rationale and philosophy of mainstreaming. There were doubts expressed about their placement in regular classrooms and questioning of the benefits of removing them from situations where "they can be with their own kind" and get specialized education.

Presentations of material such as Meeting Challenging Needs (Saskatchewan Education, 1989a) and the best educational practices offer rationale, philosophy, and general guidelines for individual program planning and curricular adaptations. As well, they offer reassurance to teachers that the task of mainstreaming is feasible because, as one principal recognized, "children are children first, and so many, many things that we do with children work in a special needs situation." Further, the presentation of the broad general base information soon after notification of the future placement of a child is a means of acknowledging teachers' initial feelings and concerns, and acting upon them in supportive ways early in the process. Participant comments also support the argument that extending part of this knowledge, especially the philosophy, to all staff members in the school promotes better understanding, awareness, and team support for successful mainstreaming (Sapon-Shevin, 1992).

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Transition Planning

Knowledge and information form part of the transition process of a student moving from one setting to another. Saskatchewan Education (1989a) identifies transition planning as one of the current best practices and defines it as "the planning that precedes and follow moves between programs.... The planning process facilitates the transfer from the known to the unknown through the development of a transition plan that establishes timelines, identifies the participants, and the expectations of the next environment" (p. 30). Most of the study participants, while not terming it "transition planning", identified a visit to the child's current setting as an important beginning of support. It was perceived that a visit would be of great value in coming to know and understand the child, and getting the teacher and the classroom ready with appropriate equipment, materials, and support personnel. One principal articulated that "the more you get done before the child arrives, the less you have to do when you do get a few surprises."

A year-end visit to meet the child, prior to the future classroom entry in the fall, could be facilitated through system staff development funds to cover substitute costs. It was indicated in this study that this practice has been used in both school systems and partially fulfils Fullan and Hargreaves' (1991) recommendation that "staff development resources be allocated not to workshops and inservices, but to opportunities for teachers to learn from, observe, and network with each other" (p. 103). Another suggestion made by a principal for use of staff development funds in support of mainstreaming was to consider utilizing the experience and knowledge gained by those teachers in the system who have successfully worked with students with special needs. He elaborated,

There is a group of people out there we have never really thought of. Maybe we should think about pulling them together and developing some guidelines. They're the experienced ones. For example, one of these teachers could save a lot of skinned knees if she were to put down some of the things she's done - to give an idea of how to integrate. Integration is not difficult. It's just adapting more than what we are used to. We do this with reading groups. Here we are just stretching it a little bit further.... The consultant ... could put together some of these people who could get together a doclet or a hand-out on integrating in subjects like art or physical education. You could apply for some money for sub days, some professional development money like curriculum committees do. (The experienced people) and the teachers who have been able to successfully integrate need to be tapped, they need to share.

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Collaborative Teams

This notion of using the experience and knowledge of teachers in a problem-solving and support capacity echoes Skrtic's (1994) premise that the time has come to use teams of people to design instructional programs that meet the needs of all students. This team approach is used in school-based MAPS sessions (Forest & Lusthaus, 1990) where the input of teachers, parents, administrators, and other support people is sought to arrive at an individualized program plan (Appendix A.) There does however, appear to be merit in expanding this team-sharing beyond the school to a system level so that teachers do not have to continue "reinventing the wheel." In speaking of the profession of teaching today and the practice of teachers sharing expertise, one principal remarked, "It's obvious that good teachers have been doing it for years. For some there is an attitude that it's my class, I don't need any help.... I don't think in this day and age, we can do that anymore - that one person can handle it all." Given the concerns of educators over increasing class size and needs of students, countered with the reality of financial restraints, the need to share ideas to "work smarter together, not longer" (Donaldson, 1993) becomes even more critical.

Returning once more to the apprehensions, fears, and anxieties of many teachers considering mainstreaming students with challenging needs, system or school colleagues who are experienced and positive can also be invaluable in bestowing confidence and moral support (York et al., 1992). Another participant's recommendation of using experienced teachers in inservices to give testimonials to the realities and benefits of mainstreamed classrooms could serve to alleviate some of the depth of emotion. As Glickman (1991) stated, "In powerful, successful schools ... the people who are seen as most credible with the greatest expertise about teaching and learning are the teachers themselves" (p. 8).

Tapping into the reservoirs of wisdom and strengths of teachers is one means of empowering and supporting. The more recent advocacy for peer coaching stems from the idea that teachers can be leaders not just for their students, but also for each other in a mutual relationship. Viewing teachers as leaders and coaches empowers them to make judgements on the right thing to do in situations where the environment is unique and situational (Schlecty, 1991).

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Involving Teachers in Decision-making

Listening to, acknowledging, and responding to teachers' expressed needs is also viewed as a powerful tool in being supportive (Stimson & Appelbaum, 1988). In sharing experiences of her first year mainstreaming, especially with the collaboration process in her school and her input into decisions, one teacher concluded, "my needs are taken into consideration as much as that student's needs. It's pretty equal." Having felt supported and included as an equal team member she offered this advice to teachers new to mainstreaming, "relax ... give it a month ... don't be concerned that you need to do all these different things. You just need to be yourself." This comment and another from a principal, "We know what the decision-making cycle is like. If you're involved in the baseline situation you're going to have ownership and you'll make it happen," demonstrate that positive experiences result when teachers are involved in the planning process (Stainback & Stainback, 1992b).

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An Exemplary Model of Support for Mainstreaming

While the purpose of this study was not to evaluate existing programs in the sample sites or support services in evidence, one situation was viewed to be exemplary in reflecting the elements of support previously discussed. In this school, the total number of neighborhood students with special needs and the few from outside the area who attended because of the reputation of the support services, warranted the assignment of a teacher to oversee the integration of those students. The practices described by the three participants from this school demonstrated attention to the concepts of transition planning, individual and staff preparation of teachers, teacher input into decision-making, and school-based collaborative teams. In praising the efforts and direction of the special education teacher, the principal explained,

We've worked the model from working with the child to working with the teacher. She does a lot less with the individual child than she does with the teachers and teacher assistants, with the classroom. We've also evolved out from just our special needs kids to a number of kids within the classroom.

This special education teacher assumes responsibility for preparing teachers for the arrival of a child with special needs by giving them the background information and when necessary, facilitating preliminary visits with the child by covering homeroom classes or making suitable arrangements. She designs a flexible schedule which permits collaboration time within the school day where teams can meet to program and problem-solve, or teacher assistants can communicate information about the children they work with and receive training in specific strategies. One idea shared by this teacher was a strategy she called a "grumplist". After the child and teacher are together for a few weeks, the question is asked,

"What makes you grumpiest about having this child in the classroom?" The grumplist becomes a way to start building. I then say, "Let's prioritize that. I will listen. I will hear. I will bring. You are responsible for this child but there's all this support." I provide all the program but I leave it to the teachers to tell me what they need.

Beyond these activities, the teacher also communicates with related service professionals, becomes involved in some demonstration teaching in the classrooms and provides any information which serves to address teacher resistance. Special education personnel operating in this capacity add credence to the notion of changing roles and routines in special education services. While some have titled such a role a "support facilitator" (Stainback & Stainback, 1990), a "methods and resource teacher" (Porter, 1991), or an "integration facilitator" (Cross & Villa, 1992), when questioned what the special education teacher's title was in this school, it was declared that she is just referred to by her name, "The kids know that she's different in that she doesn't have a classroom so to speak. As far as a title or role, I don't know!"

Removing labels and focusing on the strengths of individuals, both students and teachers, is one of the goals of mainstreaming and inclusive schools (Pearpoint et al., 1992, Porter & Richler, 1991). When appropriate supports are in place and energy and initiative is expended on meeting individual needs, labels are unnecessary and the arguments for mainstreaming are strengthened. In the words of a classroom teacher from this exemplary school,

There are a lot of factors to consider when you make a decision to integrate children. It can work, I have no doubt about it, but it takes a lot of willingness and support from everyone. The adults involved first of all can model teamwork and then I'll tell you that after that the students in your room pick it up no problem. There isn't a child in my class who wouldn't come to the assistance of Andrew (pseudonym).... They're very aware of the little things with him - if he wears new clothes, or new shoes. They notice him. The advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. If my only experience had been this school and the program that's here, I would say there is no problem with integration. Nobody would say no to having a special needs student. There's just no reason in the world for anyone to be apprehensive. I know this is unique, it isn't always that way.

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The conceptual framework for this research was the model Circles of Support. Data derived from the participants substantiate this study's premise that teachers need to be surrounded by a team of individuals providing a variety of supports. Who actually fulfils each responsibility, and how this is determined, does not appear to be as critical as ensuring that the emotional and professional supports are intact. Emotional support requires someone to listen, reassure, respond, and provide information which affirms and bolsters the confidence and competence of teachers. Within the model, this support could be provided by the principal, the special education teacher, the consultant, and colleagues in the school or system.

Professional support encompasses setting the school climate and vision for mainstreaming to be accepted and the growth and potential of all individuals to be realized. As well, it requires facilitating adequate training, preparation, transition, and communication with parents, educators, and other related service professionals. Other critical elements of support are: lobbying for and ensuring ongoing support to the classroom teacher by means of extra personnel, preparation of program plans and a typical day (see Appendix B), provision of resources and materials, and team collaboration. It can be restated that these supports are best provided through a "division of labour" (Skrtic, 1994), where the responsibilities are shared and delineated.

In sharing responsibilities in a school, it was proposed in the literature and in the model Circles of Support that student peers assume roles of instructional agents through the practice of peer tutoring (Cross & Villa, 1992; Stone & Campbell, 1991; Villa & Thousand, 1992b). Within this study, students were occasionally named as support providers but from the perspective of assisting students with special needs in activities more informal and less structured ways than instruction. Their role was seen to be a helper and friend to the student during break times, lessons, and school routines, but no mention was made of students as instructional agents. Rather, one resource teacher was aware of the advocacy for peer tutors and cautioned,

I would not expect peers to know how to manage children's behavior when even adults do not know how to manage. There has to be an adult to assist children to manage children's behavior - for their safety, for the safety of the child with special needs.... Expecting children to do what I would consider an adult job would be like expecting peers to parent. I have concerns with that.

Peer tutoring is a more recent strategy proposed in the literature, the efficacy of which, it is hoped, will be determined by further practice and research.

Some writers advocate greater involvement of classmates as natural supports who can offer programming suggestions and help reinforce student behavior changes. It is argued that increased student involvement is required because, "education and human services systems do not have and will not have the capacity to provide a paid service provider for every individual who needs support in every integrated school, community, and work environment (Vandercook & Cook, 1990, p. 104). Instead, as one resource teacher concluded, "You've got parents and students every day. When you make them your main support on a daily basis, with help from the consultant, principal, resource teacher when you need it, then you've got the best of everything. I don't think it could be better."

A few participants advised reliance on support from those persons in close proximity, making reference to their colleagues. According to one classroom teacher, "Your supporters are mostly in your building except when you need more, then you go to those you know will provide it. Colleagues are supporters of each other." While no one identified co-teaching or team teaching as collegial support, there was instead an emphasis on planning units and developing strategies together, informally or formally.

Besides the recommendation to use natural supports in schools due to proximity and budget restraints, one other issue became evident in considering the merits of the model, Circles of Support. There were considerable differences in perceptions between participants, schools, and school systems regarding the role of the principal, resource teacher and the consultant. While the recognition of differences is acknowledged as realistic, healthy and unique to each situation, the larger issue becomes one of clarifying responsibilities. Where some saw the principal as being the key facilitator, others perceived this to fall on the shoulders of the resource teacher. Comments from individual principals and resource teachers reflected both groups saying that their "plates were already full" and this addition might be unmanageable. Consequently, the consultant was named as the person to assume primary responsibility for overseeing support. Other participants, however, perceived the consultant should not be the person to take on this role as he or she is generally out of the building and is therefore not readily available as the primary supporter on a daily basis.

Of similar concern was that of teachers who do not reveal their uncertainties and needs. Instead they remain silent and allow a situation to function in a less than optimal manner, preferring to let things unfold on their own. This in effect can lead to "increased educational, social/emotional and physical isolation for the student with special needs" (Jacobsen & Sawatsky, 1993). This could occur given that attention to appropriate programming, social interactions, and resources are necessary supports which differentiate an integrated placement from full inclusion in the classroom (Stainback & Stainback, 1990; Villa et al., 1992). The necessary component in addressing both of these concerns - role clarification and teachers expressing needs - is to ensure that one individual is appointed as coordinator or key facilitator and ensures that programming is designed and monitored and support roles are clarified and not left unstated.

The model Circles of Support can serve as one tool used to build a support team; one with a coordinator and many other individuals each bringing different strengths. As one teacher with no experience mainstreaming hypothesized, "Every situation can be managed as long as there is the support there and we have enough of what we need." By engaging a team of supporters to surround the teacher, the prospects of fulfilling this requisite are greatly enhanced.

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This study sought to investigate the components of appropriate support for classroom teachers involved in mainstreaming students with severe handicaps. Inasmuch as the author acknowledges that the findings and conclusions were derived from the literature review and this study only, some final recommendations for teachers and decision-makers are offered.

Recommendations for Teachers

1. Maintain ongoing communication with the administration and other support personnel. Make your needs known and ask for those supports which will increase your effectiveness in the classroom for all students, those with and without special needs.

2. Ensure that relevant information about the child coming to your classroom is received as soon as possible. Request a visit to the child's setting and a meeting with the parents to augment this information and to provide a picture of reasonable expectations for the student and yourself.

3. If a teacher assistant is provided for all or a portion of the day, whenever possible, utilize this individual as a helper to not only the child with special needs, but to all students and yourself.

4. Use the supports of colleagues in the school and beyond. Network with other teachers who are mainstreaming students with challenging needs. If it is more expedient, request that the consultant arrange and facilitate networking meetings.

5. Recognize that the goals for the child with multiple or severe handicaps will be different, but as meaningful as those of the "typical students." Celebrate those successes, both large and small.

Recommendations for Resource Teachers

1. Lobby for more collaboration time during the school day. Request clearer guidelines outlining the job description of the resource teacher and the proportion of time for collaboration, especially for those in part-time placements.

2. Determine at the school level who is responsible for overseeing the mainstreaming of the child with severe handicaps and how this is best accomplished. Ensure that someone, if not the resource or special education teacher, is identified as the case manager or coordinator and will monitor the planning and evaluation of the child's education.

3. Assist teachers in drawing up a typical day plan from which to function on a daily basis in the classroom. If possible, demonstrate teaching strategies which include students with a diversity of abilities.

4. Spend some time in the regular classroom to develop an accurate awareness of the dynamics of the class, what is working, and where modification of supports need be implemented.

Recommendations for Principals

1. Be involved in constructing and managing Circles of Support. Maintain close and regular communication with the teacher and an awareness of the classroom to monitor the supports and to understand reasons for any additional or decreased support. Lobby for all resources, personnel, inservice and equipment which will assist the teacher in fulfilling the mandate to provide a quality education to all students.

2. Monitor the classroom and ensure that sufficient preparation, training, and background information have been provided and that the child is truly included and educated, not just placed in the room.

3. Clarify and monitor the activities of the teacher assistants to guarantee the teacher assumes primary responsibility for the child's education and the assistants' time is utilized as a support to the classroom.

4. Facilitate some professional development for the entire staff. Support mainstreaming by having the rationale and philosophy presented along with any strategies considered valuable in supporting the children with special needs and their teachers.

5. Schedule a master plan in the fall which enables teachers to have the same in-school time to participate in team planning and collaboration meetings.

6. Understand that you establish the climate for mainstreaming and the acceptance of students with special needs. Model this acceptance through actions and decisions which affect students and teachers - "walk the talk!"

Recommendations for Central Office Administrators and Consultants

1. Design a plan for the preparation and education of teachers who will be mainstreaming students with severe handicaps. Include the presentation of background information on the child at the time of notification of placement and a general introductory workshop on philosophy and principles of mainstreaming. A recommended time for the workshop is early June, offering it to those teachers who will be receiving new students with special needs the following school year. Plan follow-up inservices for the fall on topics such as working with teacher assistants, classroom management, strategies to adapt and modify curriculum, and skills for collaborative team planning.

2. Maximize the strengths and experiences of those educators who have successfully mainstreamed students with severe handicaps. Solicit their input and involvement in workshops, written documents, and planning directions. Listen to those professionals who have experience with mainstreaming as they describe what works and what doesn't.

3. Facilitate support networks of teachers in similar situations through sharing meetings after school or via release time arranged at the school.

4. Encourage and support regular classroom teachers' attendance at special conferences or presentations offering suggestions for working with students with severe handicaps.

5. Redefine the role of the resource teacher to be more of a direct support to the classroom teacher through increased demonstration teaching, co-teaching, and collaboration during the school day. Promote the practice of resource teachers moving away from extensive evaluation and over-reliance on remediation outside the classroom to bridging special education and general education practices in the regular classroom.

6. Provide system direction to schools to promote an understanding of the goals of mainstreaming, the philosophy, and the expectations for receiving support. Implement procedures which ensure teachers and classrooms receive the supports of personnel, resources and equipment as quickly as possible.

7. Ensure that the right personnel with the right attitude are in place to demonstrate commitment, ownership, and a desire to support students and teachers in the movement to include students with severe handicaps in regular classrooms.

Recommendations for Further Research

1. While this study sought to investigate appropriate support for mainstreaming through the perceptions of a cross section of educators, a case study of an exemplary school demonstrating mainstreaming support could offer specific strategies, sequences of actions, and roles of support providers which combine to serve students and teachers in a positive and effective manner.

2. A more in-depth study could be conducted with educators experienced with mainstreaming to ascertain which practices and policies are perceived to be of most worth in being supportive of teaching students with severe handicaps in regular classrooms.

3. This study included participants from urban school settings where there is a wider range of service options for students with special needs. Where parents are dissatisfied with one program or system, there exists the possibility to move a child to different schools, programs, and school divisions. A study of the practices of rural school systems in providing support and satisfying parental requests, where there are not choices of alternate programs or schools, could shed further light on providing appropriate support.

4. This study sampled only educators to determine their perceptions of appropriate support. The advocacy to include parents and classmates in collaborative decision-making makes these two groups worthy of study in terms of their perceptions of appropriate support to classroom teachers.

5. In these times of financial restraints and cutbacks to education, school divisions must be vigilant, efficient, accountable, and creative in the way their resources are allocated. A study could be undertaken to explore the financial models and policies of a variety of school systems for distributing money to provide effective support to classrooms serving a diversity of students.

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Concluding Remarks

Myles and Simpson (1989) made the claim that "a number of studies have focused on regular education teachers' attitudes towards mainstreaming, however, researchers have failed to examine teachers' mainstreaming-related suggestions" (p. 485). One of the goals of this study was to allow educators to voice their needs and their suggestions for the provision of support in classrooms where students with special needs are included as part of the mainstream. It was hoped that the findings might generate some discussion amongst educators and decision-makers from which to put appropriate supports for classroom teachers into practice.

Responses and reflections of the participants in this study offer numerous ideas and suggestions for bridging the two worlds of general and special education. Some are common-sense proven approaches, while others reflect changes in the traditional manner of operating in regular and special education settings. It is necessary in these times of rapid change and increasing demands upon our education system to continually reflect upon, evaluate, adapt and adopt the best educational practices which serve all individuals.

Like many other issues in education today, the task of ensuring appropriate support for mainstreaming requires a new set of strategies and a new mode of problem-solving. Both of these best evolve from the practice of many heads working together to come up with the optimum course of action. As the nature of teaching continues to change, so too will educators need to return to the notion of appropriate support. The purpose of implementing support services should always remain that stated by Dr. Margaret Lipp (1992), "to reaffirm the efforts of those who are expected to implement the changes in special education programs, rather than to support those who designed the change" (p. 33).

While this purpose may be clear, the path to achieve it may not always be so unclouded. As educators however, we can take comfort from the message we so frequently offer our students, "there is no problem so great that it can't be solved" (Coloroso, 1994). Teachers and support providers, working together to achieve the goal of true inclusion of students with special needs by providing appropriate support, bring results to themselves and students which indeed make the quest worthwhile.

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