What is inclusion? What does inclusion look like? How will I recognize it when I see it?
Perhaps the best way to describe inclusion is to discuss the things that inclusion is not.
Classroom 1: The students are engaged in a lesson on world religions led by their teacher. The students raise their hands to ask and answer questions. The students are broken up into groups of 4, working on an assignment together. Meanwhile, 20 minutes into class, the door opens and 3 students from the special education class enter together, one of them holding hands with the assistant who accompanies them. Those 3 students sit together at a table at the back of the room while the assistant scrambles to find the activity that they can work on together.
This is not inclusion.
Classroom 2: The students are engaged in an activity about world religions. Periodically, students stop working to ask a question or to point out something they learned. Their discussion adds to their learning. One student up by the teacher’s desk works with an assistant writing numbers 1-30 on a copy of a calendar page. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5…. “What number comes next?” asks the aide.
This is not inclusion.
Classroom 3: The teacher leads a discussion about world religions. During the discussion, one student becomes agitated, screams out, and throws her pencil. The aide gathers that student’s belongings and leads her out of the room to calm down elsewhere.
This is not inclusion. The classrooms above exemplify the fact that inclusion is an easy thing to do poorly.
In Classroom 1, the students being “included” are just visitors in that class. They come in late. They sit separated in the back of the room. No planning has taken place on how to include them in the activity.
In Classroom 2, the student is not engaged in the same curriculum as the class. He’s doing a different activity on a completely different topic.
And in Classroom 3, the student’s behavioral needs have not been considered so she is quickly removed from class when she gets agitated.
For inclusion to take place, all students are a part of the class. Everyone gets there on time. Students who receive special education services are mingled in with students who don’t. All students work on the same objectives. Assignments are individualized to the students’ learning level and learning style. Students’ behavioral, emotional, and communication needs are considered and planned for. The aide supports all students.
The classroom utilizes an array of visual aids and tactile activities that benefit all students. Inclusion is a diverse classroom that is difficult to recognize which students receive special education services and which ones don’t. They all learn together in a way that benefits all students.
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From the moment Camila was born, I knew she would change my world. But it was not until third grade when she made the comment “I don’t want to live anymore” that I realized things were not right.