Inclusion is more than simply having a child in the classroom. There are things that need to happen to make the general ed classroom more inclusive so that all children are set up for success!
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Inclusion is defined as:
“all students are presumed competent, are welcomed as valued members of all general education classes and extra-curricular activities in their school, fully participate and learn alongside their same age peers in general education instruction based on the general education curriculum, and experience reciprocal social relationships.”
When we are facilitating inclusion, we want to make sure that we are actually facilitating inclusion.
Numerous studies show positive effects of inclusion, including:
• higher expectations for student learning
• improved communication and social skills
• more satisfying and diverse social relationships
• improved academic outcomes in ELA and math
• better quality IEPs
• improved outcomes in education, employment, and independent living.
Creating a More Inclusive Classroom
1 – Buddy Up!
Make the general ed classroom more inclusive by having buddies or pairs when working. Not only does this allow the special ed student to meet his peers, but it gives the general ed students a chance to interact with and befriend children that they may not see all of the time in the classroom. It also inherently provides support for the special ed student which alleviates some of the anxiety and tension that might exist.
2 – You Belong Here
Make sure that your special ed students know that they belong in the general ed classroom. They should have their own desk with their name on it just like the other students. They should be listed on the class roster and have their name on the birthday bulletin board. A set of labeled supplies should also be allotted for them just as they are for the other students in the classroom.
3 – Time for Centers
Center time is a great time of day for inclusion. It gives the students practice with different skills and procedures, as well as giving them the opportunity to interact with their peers. Since centers are also more skills-focused, it is a wonderful time to assess their progress on goals. If centers are not an option for inclusion time, read-aloud time is a fine alternative. The time gives students a chance to practice on appropriate participation skills, as well as listening and comprehension.
4 – Mornings Matter
The morning sets the tone for the rest of the school day. If possible, have your students be included in the general ed classroom setting for the first half-hour or so of the day. This sets the tone that they belong and gives them the consistency they need to be successful. When the student returns to the general ed classroom later in the day, it feels more natural as their presence was already established hours earlier.
5 – Be in the Know
Working together with the general ed teacher is key. Ask to be included in all communications that are sent out to families so you are aware of special events and activities that will be taking place that the student should participate in. If possible, knowing what is being taught ahead of time can also be a help. It gives you an opportunity to introduce the material to your student ahead of time so that he or she can feel more confident in the general ed setting.
As always, the better the communication between special ed and general ed, the better the inclusion experience will be for all involved. Encourage an open dialogue and get to know the teachers who you will be working with. When you both feel supported and heard, the students benefit.
How do you ensure an inclusive classroom setting for your students? Share in the comments below!