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  1. Michael L. Hardman,
  2. Shirley A. Dawson

Published Online: 30 JAN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470479216.corpsy0521

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

How to Cite

Hardman, M. L. and Dawson, S. A. 2010. Mainstreaming. Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1–2.

Author Information

  1. University of Utah

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 30 JAN 2010


Mainstreaming dates back to the very beginnings of the field of special education. As the term implies, mainstreaming means educating students with disabilities alongside students without disabilities in a general education classroom for at least some portion of a school day. Mainstreaming came into widespread use in the late 1960s as professionals and parents called into question the segregation of students with disabilities in U.S. public schools. Professionals argued that special classes for students, particularly those with mental retardation, could not be justified (Dunn, 1968). The purpose of mainstreaming was to ensure that students with disabilities receive individualized planning and support from both general and special education teachers. However, this did not always happen in actual practice. In fact, the term mainstreaming fell from favor when it became associated with placing students with disabilities in general education classes without the necessary support as a means to save money or limit the number of students who could receive specialized services. Such practices gave rise to the term maindumping. Although the term mainstreaming still remains in limited use today as one way to describe educating students with disabilities in general education settings, other descriptors have come into standard use, including integration, least restrictive environment, and inclusive education.


  • disabilities;
  • mainstreaming;
  • integration;
  • inclusive education;
  • least restrictive environment;
  • special education