Let’s Talk Inclusive Classrooms
What Makes a Classroom Inclusive?
Children with disabilities have a right to a public education and to be part of the general education classroom. Federal legislation makes it clear that students with disabilities are included as general education students. This means that they are an important part of their general education class.
“Inclusion Elevates ALL.”~ Elaine Hall
The benefits of inclusion are clear. We know that being included means students with disabilities spend more time on academics and achieve more. They participate in nonacademic activities and develop broader social relationships when they have opportunities to interact with peers without disabilities. Students without disabilities also benefit from the variety of instructional strategies and accommodations used by teachers. They learn to help and value each other.
Inclusion is not just being in a general education class. Inclusion only works when your child is learning and applying meaningful content and meeting IEP goals with same-age classmates without disabilities. So, how do you know if your child is included in the classroom? Here are some observations you might make about the surroundings in an inclusive classroom:
- Desks are arranged in groups around the classroom. This allows for peer learning, engagement, and socialization among students. Students who collaborate productively will have more positive outcomes.
- Visual learning aids are used, such as daily schedules, timers, posters, and charts. Many students are visual learners, and even those that aren’t can beneﬁt from this support.
- Leveled books, manipulatives and centers with hands-on activities are available, providing a variety of learning materials for all.
- A class-wide behavior program supports positive social skills and behaviors in students. Even if there is a school-wide program, students beneﬁt from support tailored to their speciﬁc needs within the classroom.
- Technology (including assistive technology) is available to support students. These items can be simple, such as pencil grips, reading guides, or sticky notes, or complex, such as text-to-speech software, tablets, or web-based applications.
Inclusion looks like a group working together at the library.
A BIG thank you to our models:
Parents: Conversations with your children are needed to make inclusion easier in classrooms
Personal hygiene is an important topic related to inclusion. So, with school approaching, now is a good time for another hygiene conversation with your child.
Person hygiene includes:
- brushed teeth
- clean clothes
- hair care
Other Elements of an Inclusive Classroom
Person First Language – This is the practice of using language that refers to the person before the disability or label. For example, it is more respectful and honors the person to say “The child has special needs” instead of “The special needs child.” Address the person ﬁrst!
Presumed Competence – Also known as “the least dangerous assumption,” presumed competence is about having high expectations for learning, thinking, and understanding. You can always make things simpler, but no one is harmed by aiming high to start with.
Growth Mindset – According to Carol Dweck (2015), people with growth mindsets believe that they can improve basic abilities like intelligence and talent through hard work and effort. This is opposite of a ﬁxed mindset, where the belief is that those basic qualities are ﬁxed traits.
Universal Design for Learning (UDL) – Like wheelchair ramps, curb cuts, and raised lettering in elevators, which everyone can use, UDL in the classroom is a way of designing lesson plans that accounts for learner variability and context, and eliminates barriers to learning for all students.
Differentiation – Lessons can be changed, or differentiated, using their content, the process of teaching the content, or the product used to measure learning, based on frequent assessment of student learning.
Accommodations and Modiﬁcations – Both of these are components that can be written in an IEP to meet a student’s needs, and they must be provided if they are included. Accommodations are changes to how something is taught or assessed, and are often just part of good teaching for all students. Modiﬁcations change the content that is taught. Only students with signiﬁcant cognitive disabilities can have modifications.
Co-Teaching or Support Facilitation – Inclusive classrooms often have multiple adults as part of their schedule. When two teachers who meet certiﬁcation requirements are teaching at the same time, every day, for the whole time, it is called co-teaching. Support facilitation is two certiﬁed teachers teaching on a regular schedule, but not every day for the whole instructional period.
Collaboration – Many adults work together to meet the needs of students in inclusive classrooms. They must plan, implement, assess lessons, and decide what is needed for all students to learn.
What Can You Do To Support Effective Inclusive Practices In Your Child’s Classroom?
Ask your child’s teacher what your child’s teacher what you can you can do at home to make to make it easier for your child to be to be included, such as helping with special homework projects oral homework projects or practicing vocabulary and communication skills.
Stay on top of what your child is learning at school. Ask your child’s teacher to share the results of his or her weekly progress.
Read stories to your child about friendship and belonging. Talk about how to make friends at school. Ask your child to draw a picture or write about the meaning of friendship.
- How do friends help each other?
- What are some things friends do together?
- How can you make new friends?
Share ideas with the school about what is helping your child at home with learning, communication, or social/behavioral difﬁculties. Open communication between home and school will help support your child’s routine and learning.
Be a school citizen. Participate in activities, such as the Parent Teacher Organization, or the School Advisory Committee. Volunteer for ﬁeld trips and other activities where family members are needed.
Help support other families, especially those of students with disabilities. Even a small gesture such as a phone call or kind word can mean a lot when a family is struggling.
Thank teachers for efforts to include your child. Send thank you notes. Celebrate successes, no matter how small. Let the principal, superintendent, and school board members know how teachers are helping to include your child.
Check out the following websites for more ideas to support inclusion for your child:
Inclusive Schools Network:
Center for Parent Information & Resources:
Institute on Disability:
The Helping Hands Program
This program, in the Canfield Local School System, started approximately by a former teacher 20 years ago and has thrived each year from there.
The HH program encourages students to help students with special needs in class. The HH students work with the students on IEP related goals, under the watch of the Intervention Specialist.
Those in the HH program will receive credits toward graduation, will be required to keep a daily journal throughout their experience, do a presentation on a disability and will receive a pass/fail grade.
Many students who have gone through the HH program have gone onto become teachers, some intervention specialists as well as Occupational and Physical therapists.
The HH program has students in all grade levels in the Canfield School District.
www.canfieldschools.net Alicia Muzina
Learn more about:
What makes a Classroom Inclusive?
Photos by YosayPhotography.com
- Inclusion: Why It Matters?
- Inclusive Bathrooms: Let’s Start Talking About It
- Top 10 Parks Worth Playing At: Inclusive Parks where Everyone can have Fun!
- School Clothes with Inclusive Design Features Parents should know about
- Inclusive Holiday Activities
You May Also Like
- Planning for Your Special Child’s Future: It’s Never “Too Early” to Start!
- Educational Options After High School for Students with Special Needs
- College Programs: Closer Than You Think
- Where to Go if Your Child Needs a Job or Help with Post High School Education
- What Are Pre-Employment Skills and How Does My Child Get Them?
- Parenting Your Young Adult Through Their First Employment Experiences
- Group Homes: Can My Experience Help You?
- Preparing for the First Apartment: Beyond Home Furnishings and Domestic Supplies
- The Politics of Special Education: The Information You Need Right Now
- How Parents Can Work Together to Help Their Child With Their Education
This post originally appeared on our January/February 2016 Magazine