Mainstreaming is the practice of selectively placing students with disabilities in general education classrooms for the purpose of improving their academic and social outcomes. This entry presents an overview of historical and contemporary perspectives on this special education approach.

From the early to mid-20th century, public school services for students with disabilities, when they existed at all, usually were isolated. Students with vision or hearing loss and those with significant intellectual or physical disabilities were educated in separate schools. Students with milder disabilities sometimes were educated in separate classes in regular schools, but they seldom had opportunities to interact with their peers without disabilities. However, after the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas Supreme Court decision, which established that de jure racial segregation ...

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