Thursday, November 1, 2018

4 Things That Every School Needs to Make Inclusion Work

How many times have you heard a parent or teacher say, "Inclusion doesn't work"? I used to cringe when people would make such a bold statement. Trying to resist the urge to retort in what would likely be an unprofessional show of frustration, I would give an overview of 30 years of research to support inclusion. I also provided a personal account of 15 years teaching in a fully inclusive school system. Some stayed to hear me out, while others politely excused themselves from the conversation.

Now, I agree with them. There are components of inclusion that are absolutely crucial to it's success. Without those components, inclusion doesn't work. So, now when I hear the words, "Inclusion doesn't work", I respond with, "You are right. Inclusion doesn't work unless schools have the right attitude, an abundant support system, appropriate teacher training, as well as accessible and achievable educational goals for each student.

Why are those components so essential to a positive inclusive education? What role do they have in an inclusive school system? Here is a brief explanation: 


Inclusion succeeds when administrators, teachers, specialists, and community members all believe that, as a society, we are better together than we are apart. They believe that all students deserve equal educational opportunities that are meaningful and purposeful. 

In addition, there is trust in years of research, which has found no benefit to educating the majority of students with special needs in self-contained classrooms. In fact, there is substantial academic, social, emotional and physical benefit for both students with and without disabilities. 

Furthermore, the language, classroom routines, instruction, activities, and the resources used within the school reflect the desire to welcome and educate all students. 

Inclusion is dependent on our determination to break down barriers and ensure all students have access to a rich and meaningful curriculum. As inclusion expert and author Paula Kluth says, "Over, under, around or through, find a way or make a way".

An Abundant Support System

Inclusion is successful when the school appropriately responds to the child’s learning needs. It is expected that schools will use resources from a variety of sources within the district and community to bring supports to the student in the classroom. These supports include instructional strategies, Individual Education Plans, paraprofessionals, health professionals and assistive devices. 

Inclusive school systems expect they will do everything possible, in partnership with families, to provide students with a developmentally and age-appropriate education. However, it is also understood that inclusion does not preclude alternate, more suitable educational environments outside of the general education classroom for an individual student. 

An abundant support system ensures that students with disabilities learn and progress in their individual educational program alongside same-age peers.

Appropriate Teacher Training

Inclusion is successful when teachers are trained and prepared to teach in classrooms that are inclusive. Teachers must be equipped with the knowledge and tools to cultivate a welcoming, safe environment, identify student needs, use research-based instructional strategies to teach diverse learners, and assess individual progress. 

Teachers need to understand the importance of Individual Education Plans, know how to provide learning accommodations, and make curriculum modificationsTeachers feel more confident and motivated when they have the ability to shape and deliver curriuclum to meet student needs. 

Teachers must also be able to obtain school and community resources that will provide specialized instruction when required. Finally, there is a commitment to professional development. Well-trained teachers who are skilled at inclusive practice and committed to life-long learning are the backbone of successful inclusive experiences.

Accessible and Achievable Education Goals

A successful, inclusive experience is largely dependent on what the student is expected to learn in the general education classroom. We don't expect our students without disablities to learn the bare minimum, so why would we expect any different from our students with disabilities? Research and experience tells us that in order to make the education of students with disabilites more effective, we must have high expectations of our students and provide them with access to the general education curriuclum. 

Choosing goals that are both functional and academic can give a child the opportunity to grow in a variety of ways. Most importantly, the goals should be within the child's zone of proximal development which are those that can be completed with or without guidance. Remember, the student's educational goals are directly related to the student's ability level. 

In an inclusive setting, students are not expected to work at grade level or "keep up" with the other students. Instead, they are asked to "keep learning".  Understanding this fundamental component of inclusion will guide educators in teaching all kinds of learners.

Inclusion can and does work when schools provide a foundation for success. The above mentioned components of inclusive education establish learning environments where all students can learn and grow. 

What else do you think schools need to make inclusion work? Comment below! 

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

3 Big Misconceptions About Inclusion

Despite years of research that concludes inclusion is best for students with AND without disabilities, there are STILL misconceptions about inclusive classrooms. In a recent discussion with, I summarized 3 of those big misconceptions: 

1.  The first big misconception about inclusion is the concern that the student with disabilities will not be able to “keep up” with the class curriculum. Fortunately, inclusive classrooms recognize that not every child will be learning at the same rate, and at the same time. 

You will find that in an inclusive classroom, teachers use inclusive instructional strategies such as Universal Design for Learning (UDL), lesson accommodations and even curriculum modifications to help the students access and learn class material. Here is an example of UDL in action:

Students also have the use of assistive technology to support their education program. In additon, paraeducators and other school professionals all work with the teacher to ensure that the student is learning to the best of their ability. Thus, in an inclusive classroom, students are not expected to “keep up” but to “keep learning”. 

2.  The second big misconception about inclusion is that including a child with disabilities in a general education class will be distracting for the other children. Again, experience and research says otherwise. 

As mentioned above, students with disabilities have significant supports in the classroom to help them access lessons and participate in class activities in an appropriate and meaningful way.  Furthermore, we must remember that students come from all walks of life. ANY child in the classroom has the potential to distract others, depending on their needs and wants, family life, or social/emotional development.

With this in mind, inclusive classrooms establish social and emotional supports for all students. Teachers are responsive to student needs and have strategies to maintain a healthy learning environment. Below is an example of a teacher who uses Morning Meetings to check how her students are feeling before the start of the day:

3.  Finally, the third big misconception I am going to mention is that some people think inclusion is a program. Inclusive education is not a program. It is an educational philosophy that values the participation and education of students with and without disablities in the same classroom. 

This philosophy is the foundation of how a school system functions. Administrative decisions, staffing, training, resources, scheduling, and curriuclum are derived from inclusive beliefs about education.

Since it is rooted in the belief that students with and without disabilities have an equal right to a meaningful education, inclusion is also a social justice issue. Barriers in our communities and classrooms are removed so that every child can participate and learn to the fullest extent possible.  

Source unknown at this time.

Whether you are an educator, parent, or community member, knowing the truth about inclusion can help us develop school systems that truly prepare our children for a future in our diverse world. If you would like to know more about inclusion, you can read dozens of articles at or pick up a copy of Inclusion in Action: Practical Strategies to Modify Your Curriculum.

Sunday, July 29, 2018


Just in time for your back to school shopping,  Inclusion in Action: Practical Strategies to Modify Your Curriculum in on sale now!! Full of practical information about inclusion and easy-to-use strategies to modify curriculum, this book can be used by both general and special education teachers. 

Check out the reviews below:

Inclusion in Action should be in the hands of every teacher and administrator educating students with disabilities. The book reads like a conversation with the author and provides practical, easy to develop modifications, that novice and veteran teachers alike will want to use. My colleague and I started creating new modifications for our students as soon as the book arrived and haven't stopped!” - Megan Gross, Education Specialist, 2017 California Teacher of the Year, 2017 National Teacher of the Year Finalist
As a mom whose daughter was a victim of badly done inclusion, I've read a lot of books on the subject and have always been frustrated by a focus on lofty theory over down-to-earth strategies. Teachers and administrators and school districts need to know how to do this, on the ground, right now. In Inclusion in Action, Nicole Eredics—who's had some experience doing this in the real world—provides just what's needed, from specific ways to adapt meaningful instruction for all levels of learner to worksheets I wish my kids could have had in their school days to a needed reminder that everyone in a school building has a part to play in inclusion. Get this in the hands of a teacher near you ASAP!” - Terri Mauro, Author of 50 Ways to Support Your Child’s Special Education and The Everything Parent’s Guide to Sensory Processing Disorder
This should be a required book for all teachers, especially general education teachers! Nicole has put together a book that provides the essential elements for making inclusion a reality for all students. Few books on inclusive education are written specifically with the general education teacher in mind. Yet, they are the ones who will lead the way forward so that all students, regardless of their abilities or disabilities are educated together.” -  Susan Marks, Professor of Special Education at Northern Arizona University
Inclusion in Action is available on Amazon and through Brookes Publishing.

Monday, May 21, 2018

12 Strategies to Engage Students Who Work Below Grade Level During Instructional Time

Supporters of inclusive education believe that students with ID should be participating to the maximum extent possible (and with appropriate supports) in the classroom lessons and activities

In doing so, we presume competence in the student's ability to learn and participate in education. In other words, we can't assume that the student with ID will not learn what we are teaching. 

However, teachers and parents often wonder what the student with ID can be doing while the rest of the class is listening to the teacher lecture, presention, or discussion. This is a legitimate concern. Understandably, some of the concepts of the lesson may not be at the learning level of the student - particularly if the student is on a modified program

So, one of the most common questions I hear with regards to inclusive education is, how can teachers keep students who work below grade level engaged and learning during class instruction? Well, in addition to providing a modified lesson activity, teachers need to back up and think about providing instructional supports and modifications to the lesson delivery. 

Thus, I have put together a list of strategies that teachers can use to reach and teach students with intellectual disabilites during classroom instruction: 

1. Outlines - Give a partially completed outline of the lecture that the student fills in at key points before, during, or after the lesson. 

2. Lecture Q & A - Give student a handout that asks questions about concepts in the lecture. Student answers questions as lecture is given. 

3. True or False? - Give student True or False questions to answer during lecture.  

4. Concept Mapping - Student draws a concept map as the lecture progresses to demonstrate understanding of lesson.

5. Doodle Notes - Student illustrates a concept or idea from the lesson during or after lecture. 

6. Focused Listening - List several main concepts given during the lecture and have students check off the concepts/make notes about concepts as the lecture progresses.

7. Scavenger Hunt – have student look for key vocab and concepts in lecture text

8. Pre-read – have student read text, watch videos, and/or complete a related activity prior to the lecture

9. Watch – have student watch teacher-created or recommended video and/or interactive lessons prior or during lecture

10. Guided Note Taking – teach student how to take notes through guided note taking. See the following for more info: 

11. Pre-read Lecture Notes – give student the lecture notes prior to or during instruction.

12. Audio Recordings – have student listen to a developmentally appropriate audio recording on the topic during lecture.

Do you have any more strategies to add to this list? Comment below!!

Friday, May 4, 2018

Including Students with Disabilities in Classroom Lessons - Part One

In a previous post, I discuss the different layers of inclusion within a successfully, inclusive school. Inclusion must exist within the community, school, classroom, AND LESSON. 

It is inclusion within the class lesson that can truly make or break an inclusive opportunity. It is not enough for a student with disabilities to be physically present within the general education classroom, without participating in the class lessons. 

Having access to class lessons allows the student opportunities in the education process that is equal to his or her peers, an opportunity to learn and grow beyond what his/her current ability level, 

Class lessons bring students together for a shared learning experience. They build community. They faciliate conversation. They are the building blocks for future units of study.

How do teachers facilitate inclusion within a classroom lesson? Well, first they need to know what grade level the student is working at. If the student has an IEP and is on a modified educational program, then the student does NOT need to be working at the same grade level as his or her peers. 

Available on Amazon and
Once the teacher establishes the grade level of the student's ability in a particular subject area, then the lesson needs to be modified. This means that subsitutions, additions, and deletions are made to the lesson to make it more developmentally appropriate for the student. For example, modifications can be made to simplify the lesson concept, change the learning outcomes, change the instructional method, and/or alter the content. 

For ideas and strategies to actually make lesson modifications, you can check out Inclusion in Action: Practical Strategies to Modify Your Curriculum. In addition to 40 strategies that will alter and modify lessons for students who work below grade level, it has background information on inclusion, the latest research on the benefits of inclusion, tips for inclusion, and printable templates. 

In my next post, I will be outlining ways in which teachers can engage students with disabilities during direct instructional time - the part of the lesson when the teacher is lecturing and delivering content. Stay tuned!!