The Inclusive Classroom

iStock 000014040993XSmall 150x150 The Inclusive ClassroomMeeting the needs of Special Education students is a concern for all schools.  While students with special needs used to be relegated to “Special Education Classes”, increasingly many of these students are being placed in inclusive classrooms. Though some originally viewed this trend as a way for schools to save money, studies have found that the benefits of inclusive classrooms are wide spread both for the students with special needs and the non-identified students.
Inclusive classrooms are not the same as the concept of mainstreaming which was the ideal of 15 to twenty years ago. Mainstreaming provided an opportunity for students with various special needs to be placed in general education classes usually for only parts of the day.  Typically students would join their peers for physical education, art, music or similar subjects in order to provide the special needs students with the chance to interact in a safe environment with a group of their peers. These students generally had to “earn” the privilege by showing that they could keep up with the rest of the class and often never really felt a part of the group. Sometimes if a special needs student showed a particular talent in an academic area, they would be “mainstreamed” for that class. Alternatively, some students were “mainstreamed” for the majority of the day and then “pulled out “ into the resource room for assistance at various times during their school week. While some of these students were successful, often they still were not accepted by their peers because of their differences and due to scheduling difficulties for the resource room teacher, might have to miss either valuable content lessons or their special activities classes (i.e. art, music, etc.) in order to be provided the resource services they were entitled to.
The current trend of inclusion has taken the idea of mainstreaming one step further. Inclusive classrooms are based on the thought that all students are entitled to be educated to the maximum extent possible at the school and within the classroom that they would otherwise attend if they did not have special needs. Inclusive classrooms bring the resources to the classroom and the students. In inclusive schools/classrooms the focus is on reducing obstacles to learning and providing access to the learning environment. This might be by making physical adaptations to the classroom and school for better access for the physically challenged and/or providing extra equipment either high or low tech such as a standing frame or special computer for augmented communication.
In some cases the special needs student is provided with a shadow teacher to provide direct assistance in the classroom. In the best case scenario, teachers are provided with extra training to help them work with the inclusion student(s). The classroom/school becomes a community and all work together to provide the best learning situation for all students. By creating such school environments, students are exposed to a model of the real world we live in including the diversity and adaptation to that diversity.

6 Responses to The Inclusive Classroom

  1. Shari Sheppard says:

    I have seen inclusion really work but the key is training and support for the teachers and staff in the classroom. If there isn’t enough of it, it turns into a disaster for the teacher, included child and the rest of the class.

  2. Jennifer Mills says:

    I enjoyed this article it includes all the main points about inclusion. I would like to add one concept that was not touched upon in the article and that is: children are usually included in a classroom with their chronological peers to allow for social integration and not with their cognitive peers. I think that this is an important point.

  3. a. kiser says:

    I spent many years as an inclusion ESE teacher and find that inclusion is very beneficial for students with special needs. Currently, I teach at a center school for students with severe disabilities. No inclusion. However, we are now required by the state to teach literacy, which I love. I would like to see more information on literacy for this population. I notice that this site doesn’t include this population in the topics for which to blog. These schools are still out there and many serve multiple school districts. I find that we tend to be left out of the current topics for discussion. I have found some resources on literacy for this population and would love to hear from others on how they are teaching this very “special” population.

    • Miriam says:

      Thanks for your incisive comment. I always appreciate hearing from teachers on the ground. It is difficult to include all populations in every blog post. Nonetheless as an educator of many years I always attempt to include the full range of special education in my discussions. I did blog about literacy which is one of my favorite topics ( Perhaps some of my suggestions there can be adapted to suit your needs. I would love for you to comment on that post with some ideas that you have used or are considering using. In addition, Hertz Furniture whose site hosts this blog, offers wheelchair accessible tables and lab furniture that is available to meet the ADA. They would be happy to hear any suggestions that you as a teacher of students with severe disabilities would have.

  4. bob lewis says:

    I am not a teacher but i have been subbing in a high school with a 60 percent special needs population.Inclusion is not working.Class size is up to 25 per class with 2 teachers.One leads and the other is the shadow teacher.Many of the special needs students read at the 3rd. grade level and can not keep up so they act up.Was inclusion meant for such a high percentage of special needs students in a class?

    • Miriam says:

      I maintain that inclusion works. That being said there must be proper numbers and training. Without support and training inclusion will fail and all students will lose out.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>