Inclusive education is an approach to education that includes all learners, regardless of ability. It is not a program or teaching strategy. In fact, inclusive education is a school- wide philosophy that is practiced by all members of the school community. It’s benefits, too numerous to list, is regarded by special education experts, to be the gold-standard in delivering educational services to students with special needs.
Unfortunately, many schools claim they provide an inclusive education but fail to live up to the beliefs and practice of inclusion. For example, a school may state they have an environment that includes all learners, yet still offer a classroom only for students with moderate to severe disabilities. Despite an earnest attempt, inclusion has no boundaries, rules or guidelines about who or who cannot be included.
How do we really know then, if inclusion is truly occurring? Here are some signs that indicate your child is really receiving an inclusive education:
1. Your child is placed in a general education classroom with same-age peers.
2. Your child’s books, belongings, desk and learning materials are in the general education classroom, not in an alternate room.
3. The teacher knows your child’s abilities, interests and areas for growth.
4. School work is age appropriate, relevant to the curriculum and adapted to your child’s needs.
5. Your child attends recess and lunch at the same time as his or her classmates.
6. Your child plays with peers at recess and lunch, not alone or with an isolated group of children who have special needs.
7. Your child can name or identify classmates and talk about common experiences such as class events, special days or activities.
8. Most of your child’s day is spent in his or her classroom, following the same routines as the rest of the class.
9. Support services are delivered to your child in the classroom or with minimal disruption to the day.
10. Your child participates in class field trips, performances and all class activities to the best of his or her ability.
Nicole Eredics is an elementary teacher who has spent over 15 years teaching in inclusive classrooms. She is also a parent, advocate and frequent blogger. Nicole currently co-hosts The Inclusive Class Podcast on Fridays at 9 AM EST. In addition, she has developed and discovered many valuable resources for parents, teachers and schools that she shares on her blog, The Inclusive Class, on Twitter at @InclusiveClass and on Facebook at The Inclusive Class.