Most students would not know what inclusion is if you asked them, but every student knows how they want to be included. In special education, the idea of inclusion is something that is still wrestled with. As educators and parents, look at what is the best appropriate learning environment for each child.
First, put yourself in the shoes of any child. Every child has a desire to belong and be part of a social group with their peers. That desire does not change or go away just because a child has special needs or learns at a different rate than their average peer.
Second, put yourself in the shoes of a parent. Every parent wants their child to belong, be a part of a social group and grow up to reach their dreams. That desire does not change or go away just because their child has special needs or learns at a different rate than their average peer.
So, how are schools working to fully include all students in the full culture and learning environment of the school? Here is one idea on how schools can begin to truly implement inclusion so that all students are successful and have a sense of belonging.
- Co-Taught Cluster Rooms: A co-taught cluster room with a general education teacher and a special education teacher, provides students with access to support and challenge in one environment. Students would be able to continue to receive support in working on their individual goals, while still being challenged to continue to grow and learn with their peers. Mastery learning would play a key role in the progress and development of all students. Having two teachers allows for deeper differentiation and success for all students, as these teachers would have planning and collaboration time together.
- No More Full Time Pull-Out Programs: Some schools are still using a full time pull out program with their students who have profound special needs. These students still need support to work on their individual goals, but there is a lot they can learn by participating within the general education classroom such as social skills, language and communication skills, and curriculum that they would not otherwise have the opportunity to see and hear. The students within the general education classroom also benefit, in that they may learn new ways of communicating and develop character traits such as compassion, caring, and empathy.
- Full Inclusion: Full inclusion lessons the achievement gap for students who would typically be provided services in a special education setting. All students would receive grade-level content while still being able to work at their own pace through mastery learning. Students are also exposed to peer role models that push their thinking and achievement.
Co-taught classrooms allow for students to be fully included in the learning and social environment with their peers. The end goal is to be student-centered and to provide them with the support they need to reach their full potential. Too many times we cut the achievement of our students short because we force them to fit into current programming and place our own limitations on them. All students are capable of learning and achieving at their own rate.
Special Education Teacher