What Exactly IS Inclusion?
"There are many ways to define and sustain an inclusive culture where all students feel that they are accepted and supported as an essential part of the classroom and school community, and where all [adults] share the responsibility for making that happen."
- Sara Stone, Co-Director of Community Roots Charter School in Brooklyn, NY
Inclusion is growing in prevalence and popularity across the country, and a successful inclusion classroom requires that all adults, especially parents, be informed and on board. According to its most basic and well-known definition, Inclusive Education is the practice of supporting students with disabilities full-time in their chronologically age-appropriate general education classroom. The key word there is “supporting”. Specifically, all students, especially those with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), are given whatever what they need as designated by those IEPs in order to achieve high standards and succeed as learners as alongside their peers and within the context of the general curriculum.
Furthermore, to be included in the general education classroom is considered a Special Education setting, but the Special Education services are met within that classroom setting. Special Education settings lie on a continuum from the most to the least restrictive (restrictive indicating distance between the setting and the general education classroom) and are recommended according to several factors, including the child’s present performance and specific implications of the disability. Meaning, it all depends on what’s best for the student, and some disabilities might be more visible than others.
So, what does this mean for room parents? At Teaching2gether, we also think inclusion describes a certain classroom culture, and that a commitment to inclusion is essential for every stakeholder in the classroom. This type of classroom requires high levels of support, and this is best done as a community effort.
As the summer winds down and the school year approaches, we encourage parents, especially room parents and class volunteers, to ask your teachers the following questions. By asking these questions, you’ll be able to better organize events and support teachers, students, and families:
- What are some specific measures I can take to make sure everyone can attend, equally participate, and feel comfortable at class events and play dates?
- How can I help during class so that everyone feels properly supported?
- How can I educate the classroom community about inclusion?
Parents of children with disabilities can inquire about the best ways to inform their communities, rally support, advocate for their children, and promote the idea of inclusion being the essential idea of everyone learning together.
Of course, parents will never have access to confidential and legal information about other students, but this simply fosters an inclusive culture further, since it’s the specific needs, rather than the disabilities, that are important. (Think: knowing that a child needs repeated, visual directions is more helpful than knowing the child is Speech and Language Impaired, right?)
So, how might you know your child is in an inclusive classroom, or what can you encourage for your child? The signs might not be as obvious as you think.
Strong Inclusion classrooms:
- Might have multiple teachers including at least one Special Education teacher, but their roles are indistinguishable.
- Are organized and arranged so that anyone can access materials and navigate the space (think: visuals, labels and multiple, easily manipulated working spaces. See our Third Teacher post to learn more)
- Are primarily managed by a set of a few, positively framed rules, often called “agreements” or “core values,” and are enforced by community meetings and logical consequences rather than overarching systems.
- Have students that can identify their own personal needs, wants, and learning styles, and are comfortable collaborating and partnering with their peers.
- Uphold “fair isn’t always equal, and equal isn’t always fair” as a common understanding. This may mean that students are given different accommodations and adaptive tools, depending on what they need, and students understand this.
Stay tuned for our next post, featuring parenting and organizing tips for inclusive classrooms.
At Teaching2gether we believe that professional collaboration is the key to successful inclusive education.
When educators work well together, students with special needs flourish alongside their typically developing peers. At Teaching2gether we are committed to delivering exceptional professional development as a means to achieve these goals. We offer consulting services, on-site and virtual coaching, webinars, and interactive workshops to support all stakeholders working to provide access to a quality educational experience for students of all abilities.
When developing our services for teachers, administrators, technologists or parents we draw on both current, research-based practices and our combined backgrounds as inclusive educators and consultants in New York City and Texas. Previous clients and employers include Community Roots Charter School (NYC), PBS Kids, BrainPOP.com, G&R Learning, and Region 13 Education Service Center in Texas.