Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Inclusion Gives You a Voice

Thursday, June 16, 2016

11 Different Definitions of Inclusion: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Inclusive education is still not widely practiced in schools across the United States. As a result, only the "lucky few" have seen what inclusion really is. Those that haven’t, are generally left to sift through myths, misunderstandings and the occasional truth.

There is quite a bit of confusion as to the real meaning of an inclusive environment. The following is a run-down of the different definitions of inclusion (the good, the bad and the ugly) that I have heard over the years:

The Good:

Let’s start with the good. In other words, let’s begin by stating what inclusion really is. By knowing what it is, then we can easily identify what it is not. These are definitions that tell what a truly, inclusive environment is. They are not conjured up or idealistic views of a theory taken from a book. They are an accurate reflection of what inclusion is about:

Children, regardless of ability, are taught in general education classrooms with same-age peers.

Inclusion allows all students equal access to the curriculum through differentiated, adapted and/or modified lessons.

The majority of learning needs are met in the classroom where support services are brought to the child.

Children, of all abilities, are supported and included in all activities throughout the school, such as class activities, recess, lunchtime, assemblies and field trips.

The Bad:

Now, let’s move on to some definitions of inclusive education that aren’t so good. If they describe a situation that you know of or are in, be aware that it can be better. Perhaps a resource such as Cheryl Jorgensen’s book, The Inclusion Facilitator’s Guide , or Paula Kluth’s, Don’t We Already Do Inclusion?, will help shed new light on ways in which your school’s activities and/or events can be more inclusive.  These definitions have some elements of what inclusion truly is, but still miss the mark.

Students are included in the general education classroom for only part of the day and then go to a self-contained room for the rest of the day to receive different lessons.

Only mild to moderate students are included in the general education classroom while students with severe needs receive their education in a self-contained special education classroom.

Students with special needs are included in activities that can easily accommodate the child. For example, the child has to fit the activity; the activity does not have to fit the child.

The Ugly:

Finally, here are some definitions of inclusive education that are just plain wrong! The following descriptions are of an environment where students are not naturally included to the best of his or her ability. Instead, these are definitions that describe inclusion as more of a place or program where a concentrated effort is given to including students with special needs. School clubs such as a Lunch Buddy Club (a time when a typically developing student is paired up to eat lunch with a special needs student in a designated lunch area), while have good intentions, only perpetuate the “we need to help them” or “we are doing them a favor” attitude. It does not provide a natural inclusive experience such as a lunchtime would where all the students sit together in the same room.

Inclusion is a program that is delivered by the school and hosted in “inclusion classrooms”.

Inclusion is a place in the school where students with special needs can receive some interaction with their typically developing peers. 

Students with special needs are included in enrichment activities only such as Music, Physical Education and Art.

Students with special needs are considered included when they are “mainstreamed” into classrooms. This means a student with special needs must be able to keep up the with grade-level work of the other students without any extra support.

Use this information and more about inclusive education by checking out so you can easily identify a situation that is authentically inclusive!

(Note: this post was originally written for The Friendship Circle of Michigan is a non-profit organization affiliated with Lubavitch of Michigan. It is their goal to provide every individual with special needs the support friendship and inclusion that they deserve.)

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

12 Resources that Teachers Need to Know About for the Inclusive Classroom: A Professional Development Guide

Anyone who is or knows a teacher also knows that summer vacation is a time for professional development. Whether it is attending workshops, reading about the latest teaching trends or finding new lesson ideas on Pinterest, teachers are using their summer vacation time to plan for the school year ahead. Here is a list of helpful resources that teachers can read and use in the inclusive classroom:

Authors, Jennifer Kurth and Megan Gross, provide a comprehensive resource for inclusive education in this essential resource! Full of research-based strategies, tools, and practical advice on inclusive education. The Inclusion Tool Box will expertly guide any teacher through the development, implementation, and expansion of an inclusive classroom. Topics include collaboration techniques, lesson planning for inclusion, grading, and ideas for behavior management. Checklists, templates and examples of schedules round-out this must-have book.

Paula Kluth and Sheila Danaher put together 100 more ways that teachers can differentiate instruction in their follow-up book to From Tutor Scripts to Talking Sticks. This illustrated guided gives teachers time-effective ways in which they can tailor curriuclum to meet the different needs of students. Inclusive or not, K-12 classrooms will benefit from the creative ideas in this book that must be on every teacher's shelf. Topics include strategies for differentiating mathematics, language arts, assessment and behavior management. 

Here is a handy resource guide for paraeducators and teachers written by paraeducators! Authors, Megan Gross and Renay H. Marquez, have written the "ultimate guide to working in special education." Easily adapted to the inclusive classroom, ParaEducate, outlines ways in which paraprofessionals can support student learning, behavior, communication and  social skills. Special education terms, tools and stories give readers a deeper understanding of how to educate all kinds of learners. 

This award-winning teacher's guide by Dr. Michele Borba is a timeless classic for every teacher's resource shelf. Dr. Borba provides a skill-building approach to developing student self-esteem and improving class, as well as, school climate. Teachers can quickly and easily use the practical ideas that Dr. Borba suggests, resulting in greater student motivation and social/personal responsiblity. The book includes strategies for monthly themes, school-wide activities, staff and student assessment, as well as cooperative activities. 

June E. Downing, a pioneer in the world of inclusive education, writes a resource book for teachers who have students with moderate to severe intellectual disabilities in their classrooms. Suggestions for determining student needs, adapting curriculum, and assesing students help teachers fully include students who work below grade level. 

This website needs to be bookmarked by teachers in every kind of classroom. It provides the most comprehensive information on Universal Design for Learning on the web! UDL is a set of principles for curriculum development that allows all types of students access to the curriuclum. Ideal for inclusive classrooms, UDL is a proven, research-based, approach to delivering content. In addition, resources such as a UDL lesson planning page, is an invaluable tool for curriclum planning. 

Students make progress in a variety of ways and letter grades are not the only way to report growth. Student-centered, summative as well as formative assessment, are key features of an inclusive classroom. Enter Quio. Quio is an innovative, online platform that teachers can use to track and assess authentic student learning. Teachers can plan meaningful instruction and evaluation by matching curriculum perfomance descriptors. Evidence of student growth (such as photos, documents, audio clips and video clips) can be safely stored on line and shared with students and/or families. This transparent form of communication allows students to develop self-directed learning skills and parents to support learning outcomes. Quio is suitable for all grade-levels and types of classrooms.

Full disclosure here! This online professional development course for K-12 educators was co-developed by The Inclusive Class and Kids Included Together. It pulls together accurate and recent research, in addition to a wealth of real-life experience, to create a comprehensive overview of inclusion in the classroom. Delivered in a user-friendly, interactive format, this online course can be used towards CEUs. Topics include the history of inclusive education, the purpose, what inclusion looks like and what the research says about it. 

This is one of my favorite go-to sites for all-things assistive technology! Creator, Glenda Hampton Anderson, combines her extended experience as a teacher and service provider to bring the latest information on supporting students using assistive technology. She covers dozens of topics including helpful software, strategies for skill development, and technology implementation. You'll spend hours combing through the valuable and helpful information Glenda gives!

This is one of THE BEST sites on the internet for learning and understanding medical and disability issues within the school context. Created by the province of Alberta, educators and families can research ways to support and teach students with various disabilities. In addition to medical information about moderate to severe needs, there are strategies for teaching and communicating with students. Just as important, it is presented in a quick and easy-to-read format.

 houses a number of free graphic organizers that can be printed off and used for any class. These graphic organizers can help all students better understand concepts as well as demonstrate learning. A must-have resource for your classroom!

Wanting to promote inclusion and acceptance early on? Here are some books (for mostly primary grade classes) on valuing one another that you can use to stock up your library. From the site, A Day in Our Shoes, each book has a description and link to Amazon. Definitely a resource to use when planning for social and emotional learning opportunities.

Do you have any more must-have resources to add to this list? Comment below with the name and link to the resource! Thanks!

Monday, May 30, 2016

7 Things NOT to say to Someone with a Learning Disability

The Inclusive Class is so pleased to post this article submitted by Lachrista Greco. Lachrista was a guest on The Inclusive Class Podcast several years ago, sharing her experience growing up as a student in special education. Today, we welcome her back with this very insightful blog about learning disabilites!

As someone with two learning disabilities, I have experienced firsthand some pretty ridiculous questions and statements regarding my disabilities. In third grade, after much testing, I was diagnosed with Dyscalculia (the math version of Dyslexia), and Language-Processing Disorder (a disability which makes it difficult for me to process information I receive and to then regurgitate this information either on paper or verbally. It also makes it difficult for me to retain information).

Learning Disabilities are commonly misunderstood, even though 4.6 million Americans report having one. This type of disability is treated as “less than” physical disabilities. According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities, “seven out of ten parents, educators, and members of the general public incorrectly link learning disabilities with intellectual disability” (NCLD, 2014). Because learning disabilities are invisible, those of us with them are treated poorly, and often not believed.

Without further ado, I give you 7 Things Not to Say to Someone With a Learning Disability:

1. “You don’t look like you have a disability.”
I have legit been told this before. Yes, much of this is ignorance, but please refrain from saying this to someone. There are many types of disabilities, and not all disabilities are visible ones.

2. “What happened?”
Most of us are born with them. For whatever reason, our brains are wired differently. It doesn’t mean we experienced some form of trauma in the womb or as young children.

3. “I would never think YOU had a learning disability!”
Newsflash: all types of people have learning disabilities. These disabilities don’t discriminate based on age, race, gender, etc. This is rude, because it’s incredibly judgmental. It really shows a person’s ignorance. Saying this to someone with a learning disability can really invalidate our experience and our diagnosis.

4. “Oh, do you have Dyslexia? I’ve heard of that.”
We don’t all have Dyslexia. There are many different types of learning disabilities. Please don’t assume that we all have the same one.

5. “Are you sure you’re not just using this as a crutch?”
One of my middle school science teachers asked me this. It was extremely hurtful, but I didn’t have the language at the time to articulate why. Saying this to someone with a learning disability is completely inappropriate. Asking this assumes we are lying about our disability and our need for accommodations. I’m not using it as a “crutch.” It’s all I know.

6. “Why are you allowed extra time on a test/project/etc? That’s unfair!”
Actually, it’s not unfair. All through school, part of my IEP (Individualized Education Plan) was to be given extra time for tests. Because tests are created in a one-size-fits-all way, giving a person with a learning disability extra time allows for somewhat of a level playing field. It takes many of us longer to process information, and then to show that information in the form of a test, so the extra time is necessary. Having extra time on a test never gave me a leg up--trust me--I did poorly on several tests even WITH extra time.

7. “I can help you overcome this!”
No. You can’t. This statement assumes a) you think you know what we’re dealing with, and b) that we must obviously want to be “fixed.” Learning disabilities don’t get better with time. Those of us with them just learn how to work with them more, and not against them. There is no “overcoming” our disability. And honestly, I wouldn’t want to. It’s a part of my identity. It’s a part of who I am, and how I think.

Lachrista Greco is a writer, speaker, activist, and Trauma-Informed/Adaptive yoga instructor. She is also the founder and CEO of Guerrilla Feminism, a global feminist resource network for activists. Lachrista has spoken at colleges, universities, and nonprofits about digital activism, learning disabilities, ItalianitĂ , domestic and sexual violence, and yoga. She has published two books. Lachrista lives in Madison, Wisconsin (with pieces of her heart in Rome), and plays BeyoncĂ© songs on her ukulele. Follow her on Twitter or check out her  website @

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Q & A: Accommodations and Modifications

Not sure how to include students who work below grade level in your class? Wondering if it is fair that one student gets extra test-taking time while the rest of the class does not? Want to know if it really is your job to give students in your class accommodations?

I recently had the opportunity to answer these questions and more about education-related accommodations and modifications! In addition, I shared some of my favorite strategies to use in the classroom with examples!

Here is an excerpt with a link to the whole article.....

1. You’ve explained this on your excellent blog before, but for anyone who doesn’t know—can you briefly clarify the difference between accommodations and modifications?
Nicole Eredics of The Inclusive Class
Nicole Eredics of The Inclusive Class
Yes! Educators use a variety of teaching and assessment strategies to help students access the curriculum. In addition to research-based, quality instruction (such as Universal Design for Learning), some students require support in order to meet the learning expectations. For example, a student might need extra test-taking time, larger print materials, simplified material, or visual reminders. The alteration of the curriculum and learning environment, to help a student achieve educational success, is known as an adaptation. Accommodations and modifications are two types of adaptations that can remove barriers to learning.
Accommodations are adaptations that make curriculum accessible. They provide students with an equal opportunity to learn from the same material as his or her peers. Accommodations do not change learning outcomes. Rather, accommodations change the way students access learning. Accommodations are often referred to as, “pathways to learning.” Educators can create pathways for students to learn by.........CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE READING.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

10 Tips to Help You Advocate for Inclusive Education

Years of research and experience tells us that inclusive education, which is the practice of educating all children of all abilities in one classroom, is the gold standard. However, many schools still have classrooms where children with disabilities are removed and educated from the rest of the student population. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), originally enacted in 1975 and with many revisions since, provides guidance to educating children with disabilities. Though the word, “inclusion”, isn’t specifically used in the IDEA, it mandates that children with disabilities be educated in the Least Restrictive Environment.

The level of inclusive environment is subject to the needs of the student. If the school determines that a student's needs cannot be supported in the general education classroom, then a child can be placed in a “self-contained” or segregated classroom. The reality is, inclusive education is not yet a common practice in the education system. Therefore, the education of a child can look different across schools and school districts. Being well-informed about the philosophy and practice of inclusion is your first step in this journey. Here are some suggestions to help you successfully advocate for inclusive education:

1. To ensure your child receives a successful inclusive education, it's important to know the definition of inclusive education. There are many terms and definitions associated with inclusion. There are several reliable resources that describe inclusion, including this video on The Inclusive Schools Network site

2. Find out the federal laws that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act has mandated to support the education of students with disabilities. is a great place to get to know the law in easy-to-understand language. Understand the function of a 504 Plan and an Individual Education Plan and ways in which they can be used to promote inclusion.

3. Get familiar with the research that supports inclusive education. Inclusive education has been proven to be beneficial to the social, academic, physical and emotional growth for both students with and without disabilities. 

4. Learn your school district’s history with inclusive education. Have they been known to bus students with special needs to magnet schools miles away from your neighborhood? Or, do they provide supports in neighborhood schools? Are there schools that are very inclusive or schools that have segregated classrooms? A phone call to the school district office can often answer those questions and prepare you for future conversations.

5. Reach out to national organizations such as MCIE, TASH, and The ARC, who support the inclusion of people with disabilities in all areas of life, including school. 

6. While advocating for an inclusive setting for your child, you need to be willing to provide all relevant information about your child’s special needs to the appropriate school personnel.  Being honest and upfront about your child’s strengths and weaknesses will be helpful in deciding what types of supports are needed in and around the school. Parents can give schools comprehensive information to provide a greater understanding of the child’s needs and abilities. For example, parents can easily identify what will work and not work in certain situations such as transitions, large groups or recess time. If applicable, tell the school if your child is being included elsewhere or has prior experience with inclusive settings. You can offer to bring in videos and pictures as examples of how your child is included in the community.  By providing this information in an open and honest manner, either through conversation or a portfolio, the stage can be set for successful inclusion.

7. Have a few inclusive education resources on hand to share with school staff.  These resources can be in the form of hand-outs, books, videos or photos which can be easily found online or in a bookstore. Brookes Publishing has numerous professional books about inclusive education. First, these resources help inexperienced staff envision what inclusion looks like. Second, resources can offer guidance in how inclusive schools operate, how classwork is handled and ways in which students can be included. 

8. Look for resources in your community. Many communities have organizations that offer training and support for inclusion. Tapping into outside agencies can provide extra materials and expertise. 

9. Find others who have gone before you and ask for their ideas and suggestions. Learn from their experiences, take notes, and ask questions. Facebook and Twitter are great places to connect with others who are in similar situations or have advice.

10. Know that inclusive education is not a program that can be handled by one classroom teacher. It requires a system of support from the principal to the teacher, bus driver, lunch supervisor and recess monitor. Your child’s inclusion will also require your participation. You will need to be available for meetings, respond to correspondence, and regularly communicate with your child’s teacher. Don't forget to take notes of names, dates, and conversations you've had with district personnel.

Parents can face many challenges when seeking an education for their child with disabilities in the American public school system. For example, how do parents find the most appropriate education for their child’s specific needs? How do they know if it is the most ideal situation? Will their choices be supported by school personnel, and if they aren’t, how do parents advocate for a more suitable placement? Finally, what if the school's vision of education does not align with yours? 

It can be an uncertain time but can be made more bearable by doing some research and knowing a few key strategies for advocacy.