Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Is Your School Failing at Inclusion?

Is your school failing at inclusion? If you think your school is failing at inclusion, it does not mean that, "inclusion doesn't work". It actually means that your school is failing to successfully create an inclusive educational environment. 

There are several components of inclusion that are absolutely critical to creating and providing meaningful, inclusive environments. It's important for educators and parents to know about these crucial aspects of inclusion in order to give students with disabilities opportunities to successfully learn and grow alongside their same-age peers. 

Here are the foundational elements that every successful inclusive school system has: 

The Right Attitude

Inclusion succeeds when stakeholders such as administrators, teachers, parents and community members all believe that, as a society, we are better together than we are apart. The priority for social justice drives a belief that all students deserve equal educational opportunities that are meaningful and purposeful. 

In addition, there is trust in years of empirical research, which has found no benefit to educating the majority of students with special needs in self-contained classrooms. Finally, successful inclusion is based on the expectation that every child will attend his or her neighborhood school where the child will be placed in an age-appropriate general education classroom and learn from the general education curriculum. 


Intentional Inclusive Behavior

Successful inclusion doesn’t just stem from a desire to do what's best. Inclusion relies on an intentional,  well-informed, properly prepared infrastructure. For example, inclusive schools use resources from a variety of sources within the district and community to provide appropriate learning 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 meaningful, appropriate education. However, it is understood that inclusion does not preclude alternate, more suitable educational environments outside of the general education classroom for an individual student. Furthermore, the language, classroom routines, instruction, and activities found within inclusive schools reflect the desire to welcome and educate all students. 


Appropriate Teacher Training

Inclusion is successful when teachers are trained and prepared to teach in classrooms that are inclusive. Before entering the classroom, they are equipped with knowledge and tools to cultivate a welcoming environment, identify student needs, use research-based instructional strategies to teach diverse learners, and assess individual progress. They understand the importance of Individual Education Plans and ways in which curriculum can be taught to students of all abilities. 

Teachers are also versed in accessing resources that will provide specialized instruction when required. Additionally, there is an understanding that training does not stop at teacher credentialing. Professional development is ongoing through collaboration with school staff, workshops, conferences and access to teaching resources. Well-trained teachers who are skilled at inclusive practice and committed to life-long learning are the backbone of successful inclusive schools. 


Final Note

While there are more elements worthy of mentioning, the ones listed are at the top of my list. Once there is a belief, a commitment to a standard of education, and appropriate training, it is possible for inclusion to come to life. We need to stop blaming the failure of inclusion on the concept itself but on the school's failure to create inclusive environments.

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