Inclusive education happens when children with and without disabilities participate and learn together in the same classes. Research shows that when a child with disabilities attends classes alongside peers who do not have disabilities, good things happen.
For a long time, children with disabilities were educated in separate classes or in separate schools. People got used to the idea that special education meant separate education. But we now know that when children are educated together, positive academic and social outcomes occur for all the children involved.
We also know that simply placing children with and without disabilities together does not produce positive outcomes. Inclusive education occurs when there is ongoing advocacy, planning, support and commitment.
These are the principles that guide quality inclusive education:
· All children belong.
Inclusive education is based on the simple idea that every child and family is valued equally and deserves the same opportunities and experiences. Inclusive education is about children with disabilities – whether the disability is mild or severe, hidden or obvious – participating in everyday activities, just like they would if their disability were not present. It’s about building friendships, membership and having opportunities just like everyone else.
· All children learn in different ways.
Inclusion is about providing the help children need to learn and participate in meaningful ways. Sometimes, help from friends or teachers works best. Other times, specially designed materials or technology can help. The key is to give only as much help as needed.
· It is every child’s right to be included.
Inclusive education is a child’s right, not a privilege. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act 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.
The Benefits of Inclusive Education
Here are key findings about the benefits of inclusion for children and families:
· Families’ visions of a typical life for their children can come true.
All parents want their children to be accepted by their peers, have friends and lead “regular” lives. Inclusive settings can make this vision a reality for many children with disabilities.
· Children develop a positive understanding of themselves and others.
When children attend classes that reflect the similarities and differences of people in the real world, they learn to appreciate diversity. Respect and understanding grow when children of differing abilities and cultures play and learn together.
· Friendships develop.
Schools are important places for children to develop friendships and learn social skills. Children with and without disabilities learn with and from each other in inclusive classes.
· Children learn important academic skills.
In inclusive classrooms, children with and without disabilities are expected to learn to read, write and do math. With higher expectations and good instruction children with disabilities learn academic skills.
· All children learn by being together.
Because the philosophy of inclusive education is aimed at helping all children learn, everyone in the class benefits. Children learn at their own pace and style within a nurturing learning environment.