Inclusive education is a term you will undoubtedly hear again and again when doing research to find the best educational options for your learning disabled child. Understanding its meaning, as well as the benefits of inclusive education, can make the difference in where you choose to send your child to school. For some, that may mean the child receives special education support in his/her current school; for others, it may mean a move to a school dedicated to learning disabilities.
At its foundation, inclusive education is when children with learning disabilities are included in the classroom setting with children who do not have learning disabilities. The students learn together, interact together, and are all welcomed and supported. However, inclusive education doesn’t simply just happen; in some schools it requires a fundamental change in the way the school attends to the individual needs of each child. It means children with learning disabilities don’t just join the classroom at some points in the day; rather, they are there all day, with assistance. When done correctly, inclusive education is a win-win for all students.
An inclusive education can look different, from classroom to classroom, but, ultimately, the end result is created by teachers and administration, and it requires planning, preparation, and training.
There are a variety of ways to make a classroom inclusive:
- A collaboration of teachers, in which both special education and general education teachers work together to teach the subject matter. With both teachers available to students, it lowers the student-to-teacher ratio, which is better for all students.
- A teacher presents the classwork to students in a variety of ways that accommodates the various methods students learn, including multisensory teaching techniques, from adjusting the level of learning that is appropriate to each child, to providing tactile and physical learning opportunities, to working in small groups.
The benefits of inclusion education are not just for the learning disabled child, it’s for all the children in the class. The very definition of inclusion, according to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, “is the action of including; state of being included.” It means children of all abilities learn about diversity and acceptance, and about creating meaningful friendships and social skills when in an inclusive classroom. This learning environment provides the opportunity to master activities by practicing math, language, and other skills, as well as by helping others, so all children can reach their academic potential.
Inclusion education is not just a term or an idea; it is a legal right. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) clearly states that all children with disabilities should be educated with non-disabled children their own age and have access to the general education curriculum. So, whether your child has Dyslexia, an auditory processing disorder, a sensory process disorder, a language processing disorder, or any number of learning disabilities, you are well within your rights to request an inclusion educational environment for your child.
How can you determine if a school is inclusive? Investigate the school’s mission:
- Does the school use language reflective of inclusion?
- Are there multiple inclusive classrooms, or just a few?
- Are learning disabled students using the same spaces – cafeteria, gym, lockers – as non-learning disabled students?
- Is there appropriate equipment for students with learning disabilities in the classroom, like smart boards, listening centers, and manipulatives?
- Is the administration, and are the teachers and guidance counselors all involved and addressing Individualized Education Plan (IEP) objectives?
Learning the answers to these questions can help you determine a school’s commitment to inclusive education. There are many schools committed to inclusive education for children with learning difficulties, and, when you find the right one for you and your child, now you’ll know it.