All kids benefit from inclusion. Students with and without special needs thrive from being surrounded by diverse learners. For the student with autism, being able to practice social skills with typically-developing peers is invaluable. For a student with a reading disability, hearing and seeing strategies that neurotypical peers use is a great learning opportunity. And for students without disabilities, inclusion builds acceptance. It teaches students with and without disabilities how to co-exist with people who may or may not be like them.
Why inclusion is the best model for students with IEPs
It is always the goal to place any student with a disability in the least restrictive environment. That means giving them access to the same curriculum and opportunities that their neurotypical peers have, to the maximum extent possible. In an ICT (Integrated Co-Teaching) classroom, everyone has access to the same rigorous curriculum, while also getting the supports they need to be successful. Students are also learning social skills from peers and are able to practice those social skills in real life situations. Nothing could better prepare students for the real world than being taught in an environment that replicates it.
No, inclusion does NOT drag Children Down
Inclusion classrooms do NOT slow down the progress of students performing on grade level. Many parents fear that their neurotypical child, who may or may not be performing on grade level, will be brought down by the “lower-level” instruction. This is just not how ICT classrooms work. The purpose of inclusion is not to take students at different levels and teach to the middle. It’s to teach rigorous, grade-level content, and have supports in place for all students to be able to achieve their goals.
In fact, the diverse learners in ICT classes make the learning more dynamic. When teachers have different types of learners and different levels in their classroom, they are more likely to teach using different models and teach to different learning styles. In this way, ICT classrooms quite often do more good for neurotypical students than non-ICT classes. Your child gets to experience a wider array of learning styles, strategies, and modalities, and they get to be a role model for students who could learn from them.
When inclusion might not work for your child
For a majority of students with disabilities, a well-taught inclusion class is the best setting to learn and thrive in. However, there are some extenuating circumstances in which a student would benefit more from a further individualized setting. For students who need significant attention from the teacher in order to get through most academic tasks, there is the risk of falling through the cracks. When intervention and other related services aren’t enough, and all support options have been thoroughly explored, it might be time to revisit the conversation about the best placement for your child.