What is Special Education Inclusion?

Originally, the concept of inclusive education materialized over issues with segregating disabled students in public schools. Children with disabilities faced issues such as school removal, segregated classrooms, or no in-class support. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was created to ensure all children receive a free and appropriate public education. Within the legislation is a mandate requiring schools educate a child with a disability alongside children without disabilities as much as possible. Today, becoming a special education teacher means learning inclusive teaching in a special education degree program.

What is Special Education Inclusion?

An inclusion classroom will include both disabled and non-disabled students (this is true of early childhood and elementary education as well as secondary). Modifications and adaptations are typically found in an inclusion classroom. Under IDEA, these tools are referred to as supplementary aids and services. Preferred placement for a child with a disability is the least restricted environment (LRE). Educators will aim to place the child in an inclusive setting as long as he or she is able to stay academically on track with peers in the classroom.

Even if the disabled student is unable to attend classes in a general education setting, the school’s placement team is required to still create opportunities for the student to interact with his or her non-disabled peers. The placement team made up of teachers and non-teaching special education experts will need to address objectives of inclusive education as part of developing an individualized education program (IEP) for the student. The inclusion of special needs students in regular classrooms have been shown to improve peer relationships, lead to fewer absences, and offer best post-secondary school outcomes.  

What are the Objectives of Inclusive Education?

The concept of inclusive education is to aim for the same positive educational outcomes for both general education students and special education students. Although an IEP goal is to get special education children in general education settings, it is also important to utilize effective educational practices in the inclusion classroom. In the ideal inclusive classroom, a general education teacher and special education teacher will work together to meet the needs of all students. 

Problems with inclusion of special education students in classrooms are usually attributed to lack of experience. Educators should have a background in special education and have been trained to work with children that have disabilities. Disadvantages of inclusive education can include not having adequate staffing to manage the classroom. It is important for an inclusive classroom to have teacher aides to assist with positive reinforcement, therapy appointments, and IEP objectives. Although supports from the IEP are made available because of the special education students, general education students find benefits of special education inclusion settings. 

Parents may ask, “Is inclusion effective for non-disabled students too?”  A non-disabled child struggling in a general education classroom is more likely to find success in an inclusive classroom with a higher teacher to student ratio. One of the objectives of inclusive education is to teach students based off of their individual learning needs. The importance of inclusive education is that students are learning to cooperate and socialize with children who are both disabled and non-disabled.

What are Some Examples of Inclusion in the Classroom?

Although the concept of inclusive education is universal, an inclusion classroom may not always look identical. For one, the modifications and accommodations listed in the IEPs of the special education students will determine what supports and resources need to be made available. Examples of inclusion in the classroom is providing access to the same routines and curriculum, encouraging participation of all students in activities done inside and outside the classroom, and holding all students up to the highest of standards regardless of a disability. 

A variety of instructional formats may be needed in an inclusive classroom. For instance, some students may benefit more from peer-led instruction instead of teacher-led instruction. Kids could be paired up for class work or placed in small groups. Special education students may be given the same class assignments, but be allowed extra time for completion or be provided with a reduced number of problems. Additionally, students with IEPS may use assistive tools such as headphones, organizers, calculators, and laptops.

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