Inclusion, as special education experts agree, is the ideal way of educating students with special needs. Students with special needs are placed in general education classrooms along side their same-age peers, despite physical or academic ability levels. Often, however, inclusive education is a term that is misused and misunderstood by parents, teachers and staff. Here is a list of top ten ways to tell if your child’s school is truly inclusive:
1. School Community – the school community (staff, PTA, parents) is friendly, encourages parent-school communication, welcomes volunteers, and celebrates student learning through bulletin boards, newsletters and school-wide events.
2. School Design – the building has ramps, large doorways, paved walkways, drinking fountains, sinks, storage spaces and coat hooks that a child with special needs can use.
3. School Spaces – the lunchroom, library, playground, bathrooms, and gymnasium (or Multipurpose Room) can be easily accessed and used by a child with special needs.
4. School Routines – lunch hour, recess time, assemblies and school-wide activities include all the students.
5. School Support Staff – professionals such as Speech Language Therapists bring their services to the special needs child. The goal of support professionals is to support the child’s learning as well as help him/her remain in the classroom.
6. Paraprofessionals – Paraprofessionals are available to support the student (depending on child’s needs) in the classroom, during school routines and school activities.
7. Classroom Placement – a student with special needs is placed in a regular education classroom with same age peers despite his/her academic and ability level.
8. Classroom Arrangement – the special needs child has a desk or work area that is integrated into the class-seating plan. There is enough space for the special needs child to move around, a variety of learning materials are available and class materials can be easily accessed.
9. Teachers – Teachers plan lessons and activities in all subjects (not just Music or Art) to include the child with special needs. Lessons are modified and adapted so that the special needs student is actively participating in the learning process.
10. Students – ALL the students have opportunities to interact with one another both in the classroom and on the playground, help one another, work together and contribute to the well being of each other and the school community.
Nicole Eredics is an Elementary Educator who has spent over 15 years teaching in inclusive classrooms. She is also an advocate and has led parent support groups in the community. Nicole currently hosts The Inclusive Class Radio Show with Terri Mauro on the Special Needs Talk Radio Network on Blog Talk Radio (every Friday at 9 am EST). Nicole has developed and discovered many valuable resources for parents, teachers and schools that she shares on Twitter at @Inclusive_Class and on Facebook at The Inclusive Class. More information can be found at http://inclusiveclass.blogspot.com/