Inclusion fosters and reflects not just tolerance, but acceptance of all children and celebrates their strengths and differences.
The Mission of Inclusion:
A coherent and unified system to reach children of all abilities in the least restrictive environment that is most educationally beneficial.
What is Inclusion?
Inclusion places children with learning obstacles into the general education population with additional support from Specialized Academic Instructional Staff. Inclusion supports the idea that special education is conceived as a continuum of services that can be provided within a general education environment. It is the belief that Special Education is not a place or a system apart from the school. Although not every student benefits educationally from a General Education environment, research promotes the idea that, there are both academic and social benefits by including students that are "wired differently".
As educators, it is our job to always seek the least restrictive environment for a student with disabilities. The general education environment will build from a student's strength and still support their weaknesses. Many students with learning disabilities simply need accommodations and supports to enhance their learning experiences.
Inclusion is important to both Special Education Students and General Education Students. Special Ed. students feel welcomed and included in the school community. They feel a sense of belonging and connection to their peers. General Ed. Students develop an acceptance of differences and are often utilized as peer tutors. According to the National Association of Special Education Teachers, a sense of belonging can "positively affect the student's self-image and self esteem... and general level of achievement."1
A student involved with a push-in model is not just placed in the General Education environment and then expected to succeed. In a well-designed program, teachers and Specialized staff support utilize strategies to foster development to succeed academically. Students are faced with higher expectations from both peers/teachers and in return often perform better overall.
General Education students benefit academically due to the nature of intervention built into the classroom. General Education students that struggle benefit from the multi-modality approaches and individual interventions that are woven into the curriculum. In addition, the classroom gives every student the opportunity to learn in a diversified manner which leads to development of greater mental flexibility and problem solving abilities.
Should I be Concerned?
The inclusion program is not for every student. Students are selected based on individual needs. An individualized approach is utilized for each and every student and many students have a combination of General Education classes supplemented with more intensive intervention as needed for more severe deficiencies. Remember, parents are part of the team and the team decides on the best placement for each child. A successful Inclusion program keeps the "I" in Individualized Education Program.
National Association of Special Education Teaachers. (n.d.) Promoting positive Social Interactions in an Inclusion Setting for Students with Learning Disabilities