Thoughts on Inclusion

For those versed in education and in special education, the idea of inclusion probably brings forth quite the opinions – and possibly emotions.  And the opinions probably vary like crazy!  Inclusion is the idea of including all students in the same classrom — gifted, special ed, regular ed, children with physical disabilities, emotionally disturbed, etc.

As the mom of a special ed student, I am all for inclusion because I think it benefits Chloe like crazy to be with higher-functioning students and with students whose behavior she can mimic.  I feel like she is challenged by the curriculum and by the routines and rules.  I also feel like she receives the special support that she needs.

As the mom of an above-average student, I have conflicting opinions, knowing that teachers must stop often and address the needs of the lower-functioning students.  While all the stopping and reteaching and redirecting is helping my above-average student remain mindful of friends in his class that need extra help and attention, I also know that all the stopping slows down the academic side of what he could be learning.  It is a toss up, I think, in some ways.

As a teacher, I always found it a challenge to meet each student’s needs appropriately.  I often was left feeling like each student had some needs met but each student also had needs that I hadn’t been able to meet.  I felt like I wasn’t able to challenge my higher students or sufficiently reteach and nurture some of the needier ones.  I know there are teachers (thank goodness!) who probably do a fantastic job of sufficiently reaching each population in an inclusion classroom, but I’m not sure I was one of them.

As I type this I know that some of you might be fuming at my expressing my controversial opinion.  I’m a little bit scared . . .  and wondering if I should even follow through and post this .  . .  But I think I will.   🙂

Anyway . . . the reason I was even thinking about inclusion today is that I read about an article in a Canadian periodical (seems a little random, I realize) about inclusion.  I can’t find the original article online to link to it.  But I will quote the post that I read:

there is an article by Judith Weiner titled Fostering Social Acceptance in Inclusive Classrooms. The author states that “the mere presence of students with learning disabilities in general education classrooms is not inclusion.  Inclusion involves meaningful participation by these students, achievement in accordance with their abilities, and social acceptance by teachers and peers.” How perfect are those two sentences! Students with special needs often have no friends; they  can be ignored, or  bullied and not accepted into the classroom and playground.

Wow!  I agree that those two sentences really speak truth!  I know I have often witnessed inclusion as simply “the mere presence” of special education students in a regular ed classroom!  But inclusion has to mean more than that.  Inclusion has to mean that all students are a part of what is going on in the classroom.  And being part of a class has to involve relationships with other students and with the teacher!  Yes!  True!

Thankfully this year Chloe is truly being included in the regular ed classroom.  She has friends in the class.  She raises her hand to answer questions — and her precious teacher is doing her absolute best to understand Chloe’s responses.  Chloe is achieving and succeeding to her ability.  Yes, I would have to say that Chloe’s teachers really understand inclusion.

While I don’t know how Elliot’s teachers “include” all their students, I do know that Elliot has a couple of friends who have learning difficulties and who go to special classes for extra help.  I said “friends” . . .  because they are his friends.  It seems that maybe Elliot’s teachers at least have the “social acceptance” part down.  That’s encouraging because I know how mean 5th graders can be. . . .

So . . . those are my thoughts.  Have I offended you?  Have I disappointed you?  What do you think?

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5 responses to this post.

  1. I read another post today similar on “sharing.” It’s a difficult balance.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Fran on October 20, 2009 at 6:41 PM

    As a former teacher, I know the difficulties of meeting all the needs of the kids in my classroom. I think there are HUGE benefits to inclusion, but it is a challenge to do it right. I think the relationships are key to kids at both ends of the spectrum because school is about more than just academic growth.

    Reply

  3. Offended? Disappointed? Not at all! The kind of classroom you are describing sounds like a dream come true!

    Our neighborhood public school has two separate special ed classrooms: one is for children with multiple, severe disabilities; the other is for much higher-functioning kids. Although they are in self-contained classrooms they participate in many activities with the rest of the school, including gym, music, lunch, recess, etc. and the school has done quite a bit to educate and raise awareness on these kids’ behalf. It’s a compromise that seems to work pretty well.

    On the other hand, I’ve also seen classrooms where every child was “typical” and yet the teacher was not able to meet everyone’s needs. I think first grade is the worst year for this. It’s an age when some kids might be reading Harry Potter and others still struggling over See Spot Run, and both ends of the spectrum are “normal” at that age. My older son’s first grade teacher happened to be a reading recovery specialist (and an amazing one, at that), so there was a large proportion of lower-achieving kids in the class. Kids like mine, at the other end of the scale, definitely got lost in the shuffle. And it’s doubly frustrating because you feel like a jerk complaining that your able learner is bored when there are all these struggling kids who really need the extra attention…

    Sorry for straying a little off-topic there! I think the key thing for me is your description of how much Chloe benefits from inclusion, and it really sounds like a win-win for everyone. If all classrooms could be like that, with everyone’s needs being met, what a wonderful world it would be!

    Reply

  4. Posted by Tia Sheldon on October 21, 2009 at 10:07 PM

    Wow! I have thought about this a lot recently. I have been substitute teaching over a year now, everything from Kindergarten to 12th grade. I’ve been the regular teacher and several days recently the inclusion special ed teacher. I’ve seen the pros and cons of inclusion, and I’ve seen the kids that struggle, but don’t fall into the “needs special help” category. It takes a lot of communication and support within the school to make inclusion work. I’m not sure we have it right, but I know the teachers have the right heart and are trying to do what’s best for all of their kids, which can be a daily challenge.

    Reply

  5. Check out this mom’s eye-opening experience when she observed her young son in an inclusion classroom. Yet another emotional experience. It’s a hard call. . .
    http://firstborn2autism.com/2009/10/21/inclusion-hes-just-not-ready/

    Reply

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