Integration in Special Education: How it’s different from inclusion?

Last Updated on October 3, 2023 by Editorial Team

The education for children with special needs has developed gradually over time and is still in the process of transformation. Before the Civil Rights Movement, children with special needs were denied education and ill-treated in society. After the formulation and implementation of various acts that protected the rights of people with special needs, children with special needs were provided with equal opportunities compared to their general peers. 

Integrated education is such an effort where children with special needs and regular children are brought into the same environment and are provided with the same opportunities. Integrated education is a challenging approach but has various advantages. We will be covering the benefits of integrated education in this article. Additionally, we will cover the challenges around the successful implementation of integrated education and how they can be overcome. 

Before diving deep, let’s see the difference between integrated and inclusive education, a highly similar but different approach to education. 

How is integrated education different from inclusive education? 

Integrated and inclusive education are often considered the same, and the terms are used interchangeably. However, integrated education and inclusive education are not the same and are significantly different from each other. 

Let’s see how integrated education is different from inclusive education. 

What is Integrated education for special children? 

Integrated education for special children refers to the meaningful involvement of special children in regular schools along with regular children. To overcome the limitations of mainstream education[1] and ensure that special children receive a quality education, an integrated education system was introduced that ensures the applicability of additional facilities like special classes, special education teachers, etc. along with the regular facilities to the special children. 

Mainstream education involves bringing every child under one roof, though the approach was soon contradicted as special children suffered to a large extent due to the general curriculum for all. The major goal behind introducing integrated education in place of mainstream education is to keep the curriculum the same but also provide additional support to special children for better education. 

How is integrated education different from Inclusive education for special children?

Later, integrated education was found to have certain limitations, and to overcome those limitations inclusive educational approach was introduced. Studying a similar curriculum even with additional help was challenging, which was the core of integrated education, therefore, inclusive education proposed the curriculum to be modified according to the unique needs of the children

In other words, inclusive education involves an “education for all” approach where teachers and school accommodates and adjusts to the needs of children with special needs by modifying the curriculum according to the child’s need, whereas integrated education involves children with special needs adjusting and accommodating to the demands of school and studying the general curriculum and “tries to fit in” in the regular classrooms[2]

Lastly, integrated education assumes that there is something wrong with a child that needs to be treated in order for a child to fit with the current system, therefore support is provided for a child to ensure the child adapts to the current system or simply fails the current education system. However, inclusive education assumes that there is nothing wrong with the child, it is the school and the curriculum that need to adjust to facilitate the child’s participation in school. 

How is the integration of education helpful for children with special needs? 

Integration of education provides a diverse classroom environment and helps children with special needs grow personally, socially, and academically. 

integration of education

Some benefits of integrated education are- 

1. Equal educational opportunities  

Children with special needs were denied general curriculum education for a long time. With integrated education, children with special needs can access general education and enjoy various educational opportunities to help them grow academically and socially. 

2. Social and emotional development 

Integrated education brings children with diverse education together and opens the way for communication, and social and emotional development. Integrated education helps children with special needs interact with their peers and form social connections that further foster empathy and reduce stereotypes and prejudices around children with special needs. 

3. Enhanced self-confidence 

Integrated education provides equal access and opportunities to all. However challenging, integrated education provides a platform to study and learn with regular peers, resulting in personal growth and enhanced self-confidence. 

4. Diversity 

Children from diverse backgrounds come and study together, which fosters a sense of togetherness in the children. Additionally, it teaches the regular children the meaning and importance of diversity and respect for children with special needs. Diversity in schools is highly crucial and integrated education is significant for children with special needs and regular children to understand and learn positive skills like humility, empathy, respect, etc. 

5. Growth and personal development 

Incorporating integrated education in classrooms is crucial for the growth and personal development of children with special needs. SEN children engage in multiple activities alongside their regular peers that aid in growth and personal development by fostering skills like communication skills. 

6. Improved cognitive development 

Integrated education allows SEN children to leave their comfort zone and engage in cognitively stimulating activities that would not have been possible in segregated education. Integrated education involves strategies for cognitive learning that result in enhanced problem-solving skills, decision-making skills, and reasoning skills. 

7. Fosters independence 

Integrated education fosters independence and develops a sense of competence in children with special needs. It empowers children with special needs and prepares them for present and future challenges. Integrated education further equips children with special needs with necessary life skills using life skills activities. 

Challenges with integrated education 

Integrated education has proved useful for fostering social, emotional, and personal skills and empowering children with special needs. However, various challenges prevent the successful implementation of integrated education. 

Challenges with integrated education

Some challenges with integrated education are- 

1. Lack of resources 

To cater to children with special needs certain infrastructure arrangements, such as wheelchair ramps, need to be made, and various resources, such as assisted technologies, must be arranged. 

Arranging all the resources can be time-consuming and costly, resulting in decreased efforts by schools and authorities. 

2. Lack of support 

For the successful implementation of integrated education, support from parents, teachers, and authorities is a must. Since it takes time, effort, active inputs, and collaboration from all, support is generally not fully extended, resulting in the unsuccessful implementation of integrated education in the classrooms. 

3. Teacher’s training 

Special education teachers have years of knowledge in dealing with SEN children and general educators must also be trained to handle and teach children with special needs. Educator training can be costly, and sometimes educators do not participate wholeheartedly, resulting in poor outcomes. 

4. Stereotypes and prejudices 

Negative attitudes or lack of open-mindedness can lead to misconceptions about children with special needs and develop stereotypes and prejudices. It may affect the physical and psychological health of the children and will ultimately result in poor academic performance. 

5. Lack of communication 

For successful implementation of integrated education, parents, teachers, and head staff need to be constantly in touch to communicate the progress and obstacles and the strategies to overcome those obstacles. However, fruitful oral communication is not always possible due to various reasons. 

What can be done to overcome the challenges? 

With the right efforts and collaboration, integrated education can be promoted, and the challenges surrounding integrated education can be overcome. 

The following steps could be taken to overcome the challenges surrounding integrated education. 

  • Spreading awareness at the school and community level and breaking the stereotypes and prejudices around children with special needs. Organizing seminars, campaigns, etc., can help achieve this. 
  • Conduct meetings and communication at specific time intervals to ensure the participation of all parents, teachers, and authorities for fruitful discussions. 
  • Setting communication goals can keep the discussion at a point and save time. Goals will also ensure that everyone participates in the discussion for effective results. 

Concluding thoughts 

Integrated education has transformed the face of education for children with special needs. The multiple benefits of integrated education provide children with special education needs an opportunity to grow and develop socially, personally, academically, and emotionally. Integrated education further develops a diverse environment that helps children with special needs and regular children learn and foster life skills.


  1. Keogh, Barbara & Levitt, Marc. (1976). Special education in the mainstream: A confrontation of limitations?. Focus on Exceptional Children. 8. 1-11. 10.17161/fec.v8i1.7118.
  2. Eid, Nabil. (2018). Integration vs Inclusion in Education System.

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