I wish more people knew what inclusion is and the benefits of integrating special needs children in the mainstream classroom. When I share with others that our son attends the ONLY inclusive school in our district, they stare at me, having no idea what I mean. Information exists elsewhere on this topic, so I will share my opinion and experience, as well as share information from other resources.
So what is inclusion?
Inclusion is when children with special needs join mainstream classrooms for the majority of their day. This means children with mild to significant needs are in the same classroom with their peers. Each individuals assignments may look different when incorporating inclusion, as a child with moderate needs may not be able to complete the same task as a neurotypical child (one without a disorder, disABILITY, or developmental delay).
What does this look like for children with more significant needs?
This dynamic functions best when kids with more significant needs have a full time aid. Because of stress levels, social struggles, sensory needs, etc., the child may need to take occasional breaks from the classroom setting, which would be guided by the aid or Special Needs facilitator in the school.
More information on what inclusion is can be found at Kids Together.
Kids Together defines inclusion differently in some aspects. It really depends on where each school is in their readiness for inclusion. Our school does well with inclusion, but is not able to support a child’s every need within the classroom. When there is a child who needs intense sensory input, they’re not able to meet that need within the general classroom. Whereas, in the definition given by Kids Together, it says, “Supports follow the students, the students don’t go somewhere to get them.”
Tim Villegas of www.friendshipcircle.org says, “Inclusion is going to look different depending on each school and student. That is why I think it is helpful to see it as a framework as opposed to a one-size-fits all system.” Progress is progress, and we must work with what we have and move forward.
For a child who thrives on routine and lack of it can create turmoil within them, I believe the model of inclusion must be amended. For example, for holiday parties, assemblies, and times when the teacher is absent, one might consider creating an alternative for the child.
I agree with inclusion, but there needs to be leeway when the classroom dynamics are altered.
“Inclusion is part of a much larger picture than just placement in the regular class within school. It is being included in life and participating using one’s abilities in day to day activities as a member of the community. Inclusion is being a part of what everyone else is, being welcomed and embraced as a member who belongs. Inclusion can occur in schools, churches, playgrounds, work and in recreation.” ~ Kids Together, Inc.
At this time in my journey with Autism, I’m in support of inclusion. I have two experiences with my son and inclusive classrooms. Jeremiah attended a mainstream classroom for two years, the teacher and aides did not have the training necessary to help Jeremiah appropriately. Because of their lack of knowledge and their unwillingness to learn about Autism, he was stuck in front of a television most of the morning.
In August 2012 he began attending an inclusive classroom that is part of our school district, and is connected to a primary school that’s inclusive. He thrived immediately. The difference? Teachers and aides who were well-informed about Autism, who were able to read his cues, and were willing to work with him where he was. He’s made great progress in his preschool (now in his second year – and we are VERY sad to see it going by so quickly). We also work with the teachers consistently, sharing his progress or regression at home, what he is saying (only a word or two), playing with, or how he’s communicating.
This helps us all meet Jeremiah where he’s at and encourage him to do more.
Here’s a post from Special Needs Resource, which lists 10 Examples of Inclusion: For Those Who Need to See It to Believe It.
Senminefield holds another opinion, he feels that inclusion doesn’t work for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Here’s what he has to say in Special School Vs. Mainstream: Pros & Cons.
In Senminefield’s post, he discusses the teachers lack of knowledge pertaining to Autism. He does say that it’s not their fault; however, it’s my opinion that parents should help educate teachers and staff on how to help our Autistic children. If we want inclusion, we can’t complain about every instance that goes awry, we need to work through them with educators to provide them with knowledge of our children they may not have.
Some other great resources for learning about and implementing inclusion are Think Inclusive and The Inclusive Church (for those who are interested in having inclusion work for church and Sunday School classrooms).
What are your experiences with inclusion? Do you think it would work for your child?
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