Together We Learn Better: Inclusive Schools Benefit All Children

Happy group of kids smiling at the park

The journey to becoming an Inclusive School may be long and challenging at times, but ultimately this journey can strengthen a school community and benefitALL children.  "Inclusion" does not simply mean the placement of students with disabilities in general education classes.  This process must incorporate fundamental change in the way a school community supports and addresses the individual needs of each child.  As such, effective models of inclusive education not only benefit students with disabilities, but also create an environment in which every student, including those who do not have disabilities, has the opportunity to flourish.
Here are some ways in which inclusive educational practices build a school's capacity to educate all learners effectively.

Differentiated instruction increases student engagement. 

One of the most important principles of inclusive education is that no two learners are alike, and so inclusive schools place great importance on creating opportunities for students to learn and be assessed in a variety of ways.  Teachers in inclusive schools therefore must consider a wide range of learning modalities (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, etc.) in designing instruction.  Certainly this enhances the way in which educators provide supports and accommodations for students with disabilities, but it also diversifies the educational experience of all students.

Academic supports help each student access the full curriculum. 

In this age of accountability and high-stakes testing, it is important for educators to ensure that every student is addressing the appropriate standards and objectives across the curriculum.  As such, inclusive schools provide academic supports (flexible pacing and grouping, reading and literacy specialists, tutoring, etc.) that create a supportive environment for all learners.  It is immediately clear how these supports help students with disabilities and English Language Learners, but inclusive schools can also better challenge and engage gifted and talented learners by building a more responsive learning environment.

Behavioral supports help maintain a positive learning environment for everyone. 

Another important factor in effective inclusive education is the implementation of consistent behavioral supports throughout the learning environment.  This consistency is essential for the success of students with emotional or behavioral disabilities in the general education environment, but school-wide behavioral supports also help to establish high expectations throughout the school community as a whole.

Respect for diversity creates a welcoming environment for all. 

Inclusive education for students with disabilities can only be successful when those students feel that they are truly a part of the school community.  This requires open and honest discussion about difference, and an institutional respect for people of all backgrounds and abilities.  In inclusive schools, the establishment of such a climate benefits everyone by fostering an environment where students and their families are valued for who they are.

Inclusive practices make effective use of a school's resources. 

In the past, special education often involved the segregation of students with disabilities for the purpose of specialized instruction.  Not only does that model of special education in a separate setting deprive students with disabilities of interaction with their peers and full access to the curriculum, it can also involve duplicate systems and resources that are costly for schools to maintain.  Inclusive education can make more efficient use of a school's resources by maximizing the availability of staff and materials for all students.=

To read more about benefits of inclusive education for all students, check out Improving Education: The Promise of Inclusive Education. This paper is an excellent resource for educators looking to improve and expand inclusive educational practices in their schools.  It was developed by the National Institute for Urban School Improvement, a project funded by the United States Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), and it includes examples of inclusive educational environments, assessment and observation tools, and guidelines for supporting inclusive practices.  

{ 11 comments… add one }
  • Tonja Gerondale November 8, 2015

    I like the fact that you state that it is challenging. I understand the proponent for inclusive education and how it can benefit most individuals involved. I just wish there would be a more indepth discussion on the how.

  • Delower Hossain November 12, 2015

    Actually I like Inclusive Education and I like to understand and learn more about it. It is a universal strategy if I think so. I am very interested to participate some event/international conference if any. Please help me if possible.
    Thank you so much.
    Delower Hossain
    Chief Coordinator
    National Alliance of Disabled Peoples’ Organizations(NADPO)
    24, Monipuripara, Sangshad Avenue, Dhaka 1215, Bangladesh

    • Inclusive Schools November 16, 2015

      I am not aware of an international conference coming up on inclusion. If we hear of one we will post here. In the meantime you may want to take our Inclusion Basics Course and visit some of the Inclusion Basic Resources available on our website.

  • Laurie March 28, 2016

    Inclusive schools are a HUGE disservice to all involved. I teach in a district that insists all LD children be put in inclusive classrooms. Here’s how it really works, folks: 27 Intensive students (ones who scored Level 1 on state testing) are placed in one room with a teacher and a co-teacher. Fifteen of those students are on IEPs. The co-teacher gets pulled at least once a week to sub or cover another class. Co-teachers get pulled to cover testing. Therefore , the help that was supposed to be provided does.not.happen. There is not enough time in a class period to address seventh grade students who do not even know how to read, let alone do work on grade level. We are talking basic phonemic awareness. And in math–seventh and eighth graders who do not know how to add and subtract, let alone know their times tables, are put in with other Intensive students; this is redundancy in extreme. Inclusive classes? A joke. Ask any teacher, not an administrator.

    • Inclusive Schools March 31, 2016

      Thank you for viewing our website and for taking the time to voice your concerns. First, we’d like to address what we mean by effective inclusion. Inclusion is about all children belonging and participating, not just those with a label. Inclusive education means that students are educated in the general education classroom to the greatest extent appropriate and decisions are made on the basis of student needs. Inclusion does not mean 100% of the students 100% of the day unless that’s what appropriate for all the students at that school. Schools are always responsible to provide the full continuum of services based on students needs, so closing resource rooms or other support services and mandating that every child be placed in general education classrooms is just as unethical and ineffective as removing all Special Education students from general education classrooms. Student needs must drive appropriate instructional and behavioral support and require an objective student-centered staffing with a mindset of “shared-ownership” for all students.

      With that said, we would like to address best practice with regard to in-class support for inclusive schools. Best practice dictates that up to one-third of the class may be students with disabilities since higher ratios approximate a special education classroom. You commented that there are 27 students with “intensive” needs in one classroom, 15 of those students with IEPs. That’s 50% of the class if all 15 students have a need for support in that content area. In addition, the rest of the class should mirror what a typical 7th grade at your school would look like. You stated that the rest of your class also has intensive needs. Is that what the other 7th grade classrooms at your school look like? You also noted that there is a teacher and co-teacher, but the co-teacher is regularly pulled out of class resulting in a lack of needed support. That is of concern to us, also. Formal co-teaching is a daily, semester-long or year-long commitment to a general education and special population teacher partnership for instructional design and delivery. If the decision of the ARD committee is to provide that level of in-class support to a student, schools must provide the level of support, as designated.

      Based on the information you have given us, we certainly understand your concerns. There is definitely “good” inclusion and “bad” inclusion. However, there is substantial data to support the benefits of effective (“good”) inclusion, and we have received countless positive comments from teachers, parents, and students in addition to administrators. Many school practices contribute to success with inclusive education ranging from collaboration, instruction, in-class support, and instructional setting to peer and family relationships. We invite you view the “Client Spotlight” section of our website to hear about just a few success stories or our “Resource Library” to view more research on inclusion topics. Our network provides opportunities for educators and families around the world to build their knowledge of effective inclusion education. We invite you to not only view this information but also to share these helpful resources and information with the staff at your school including your school and district administration.

      We sincerely hope this information has been helpful to you.

      • Paige April 13, 2016

        After reading the moderators comment I would like to withdraw my comment please! It sounds like my school is implementing inclusion in a poor, ineffective way and I would rather not share a comment with my little experience.

    • Paula April 13, 2016

      Laurie, with all due respect, it seems you’ve lost the love for teaching. I have been teaching for twenty years, in challenging settings such as those you describe and every year we make it work. While I definitely understand your level of frustration, calling on all teachers to agree with you isn’t fair to other teachers. It is disappointing that you feel those difficult students should be sent to another environment to further ostracize them from the group, rather than honing your skills to better accommodate them in your classroom. There are plentiful resources for teachers who truly desire to meet the needs of all the students in their classrooms and many of them free for the reading and incorporating. I, personally, would be willing to offer you some immediate methods to help include your struggling readers and ensure 100% active participation for all your students. Please feel free to reply if you are interested in the methods I use with great effectiveness daily–at the middle and high school levels.

    • Paige April 13, 2016

      Your comment hit the nail on the head! I am a first year teacher (7th grade science) and I’m mortified that this is going on in schools where parents assume their children are getting a chance at a good education! Inclusion lowers the bar for all the “intensive” students because teachers have to address the LD kids so often. I also see too many loopholes where IEP’s just allow a below level student to graduate every year to a higher grade when they have nowhere NEAR met the standards. Some of these kids aren’t completely LD and they learn to work the system and become a huge distraction when they realize they can basically do NO work and pass. The whole thing seriously makes me want to homeschool my kids.

  • Mother of Two April 8, 2016

    I am relocating my family to Ireland and we are trying to decide on a location. I have noticed the schools in some counties are inclusive while others are not. My son is 5 and has specific language impairment and auditory processing difficulties. He is also a smart, bright and sociable boy. He absolutely needs a quiet and peaceful environment or he will not be able to follow. Presumably children with ADHD will also be in his class if he goes to an inclusive school. While I feel compassion for all children with disabilities my concern has to be for my child. Noisy disruptive behaviour by others will be more detrimental to my child than most. I’m concerned about it. What advice can you offer?

  • Raheem Kabiru May 12, 2016

    Kudos to you all for your contributions concerning inclusion. My own concern is that in some part of the world like the sub Saharan Africa, there are lacks of the necessary apparatus like qualified manpower and facilities in the regular schools let alone inclusive school, and as it has been confirmed that inclusion is a measure that bring positive result, is it still advisable to adopt inclusion under this ugly conditions?

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