Frequently Asked Questions on Inclusion

Learn more about inclusion and how it impacts the classroom.
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From: The ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education 

How can inclusive practices be incorporated in early childhood settings, and how can parents become involved?

"The inclusion of children with disabilities in general preschool and child care programs is becoming more and more common. Parents, teachers, and researchers have found that children benefit in many ways from integrated programs that are designed to meet the needs of all children. Many children with disabilities, however, need accommodations to participate successfully in the general classroom. Teachers and other staff often require current information, skills training, and even additional staff to meet the needs of these children. The information that follows provides strategies for working with children in inclusive early childhood environments." (From Preschool Inclusion by Claire C. Cavallaro & Michele Haney. Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.)

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Is it possible to meet the needs of gifted students in the regular education (inclusion) classroom?

Research indicates that the needs of students who are gifted can be met in the inclusive classroom under certain prerequisite conditions: (1) the students are appropriately grouped, either in clusters or some other homogeneous arrangement; and (2) the students receive an appropriately differentiated curriculum. It is not easy to provide a learning environment where each child is working at his or her level of challenge. Grouping alone does not produce results; i.e., higher achievement. However, grouping makes it easier to achieve this goal. Additional strategies for providing effective instruction are discussed in the literature.

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What does the research say about including gifted students in the regular education classroom? Specifically, are those elementary school programs that rely heavily on a pull-out vs. an inclusion-type program (homogeneous vs. heterogeneous grouping) proving to be more or less successful?

When attempts are made to evaluate the effect of a particular school environment, such as the resource room, or ability grouping, or a particular instructional method such as creative problem solving, the range and diversity of results is impressive. It is clear that resource rooms work well sometimes, and not at all well at others. The enrichment triad is a great success in some places and a disappointment in others. Merely placing youngsters in a particular setting, or providing them with a particular set of activities, does not necessarily lead to success. It would appear that merely grouping gifted students together without, at the same time, changing the content and the instructional strategies, will not yield much in the way of benefits. On the other hand, a well-constructed program that brings gifted students other and provides them with an intellectually stimulating and important set of ideas, together with giving them practice to use their own ability to problem-find and problem-solve, seems to yield very tangible results (Gallagher, 1993).

Changing the learning environment without changing the content of lessons seems nonproductive and leads many gifted students to say that "school is boring." Further, much of the curriculum that is designed with gifted students in mind is designed on an "ad hoc" basis, without benefit of scope and sequence, and with little apparent justification. For information on developing appropriate curriculum for gifted students, please see VanTassel-Baska, J. (1992) "Planning Effective Curriculum for Gifted Learners."

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What are some ways regular educators and special educators can work together effectively?

"Co-teaching is defined as two or more professionals delivering substantive instruction to a group of students with diverse learning needs. This approach increases instructional options, improves educational programs, reduces stigmatization for students, and provides support to the professionals involved. Co-teaching is an appropriate service delivery approach for students with disabilities who can benefit from general education curriculum if given appropriate supports. Teachers and related service professionals who are flexible and have good judgment are likely to be successful in this role. Co-teachers need preparation, administrative support, and opportunities to nurture their collaborative relationships. Co-teaching programs should be planned and implemented systematically. Deliberate and ongoing communication among everyone involved is essential." (From Focus on Exceptional Children. Vol. 28 (3), 1995. Cook and Friend, authors. Love Publishing Co., PO Box 22353, 9101 East Kenyon Avenue, Suite 220, Denver, CO 80222)

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What are equitable grading methods that can be used for students with disabilities in inclusive settings?

"The design and use of judicious and meaningful report cards for students with disabilities, especially those included within general education, can be a difficult task. The traditional system of comparing a student with a disability with the rest of the class is inconsistent with the goals of the Education of All Handicapped Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Accommodations in instruction and assessment of student progress can promote a more accurate representation of student knowledge when traditional report cards are used. Adaptations of and alternatives to traditional report cards also provide effective ways to report the academic progress of students with disabilities. The system selected should recognize individual differences in intellectual ability and learning strength for all students. Report cards should provide descriptive information illustrating student accomplishments and identify areas needing improvement. Accommodations, instruction, testing, and/or the grading process itself can reduce teachers' stress in assigning grades and increase the relevance of report cards for parents and their students with disabilities." (From Report Card on Report Cards: Alternatives to Consider. 1995. by Azwell and Schmar. Heinemann Publisher, A division of Reed Elsevier, Inc., 361 Hanover Street, Portsmouth, NH 03801-3912)

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Do you have information on the legal aspects of inclusion for students with disabilities?

The 1975 Education for All Handicapped Children Act (P.L. 94-142) and the most recent amendments in 1990, as well as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (P.L. 101-476) were enacted to ensure that all students with disabilities under the age of 22 years were guaranteed a free, appropriate public education. Through this legislation, Congress declared that every child with a disability had an inalienable right to be educated in the education setting most appropriate for that child. These laws did not contain the word inclusion, but they defined the most appropriate setting as one that was described as the least restrictive environment. Education in the least restrictive environment means that students would, to the extent possible, be educated with their nondisabled peers. Separate schooling, or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the disabilities is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.") (From Handbook for Successful Inclusion by Kochhar and West. Aspen Publishers)

What strategies can be used to assist students with severe disabilities in inclusive settings?

At the present time, students with severe and multiple disabilities are taught in a variety of settings, from totally segregated to fully inclusive. The doctrine of the least restrictive environment (LRE), as applied to students with severe and multiple disabilities has usually resulted in placement in a special education classroom within a regular school. Now an increasing number of leaders in the field of severe and multiple disabilities are advocating for full inclusion for these students. Successful collaboration is essential if students are to be fully included in schools and community settings. Because the students' needs can be extensive, families, educators, physical and occupational therapists, speech and language pathologists and medical personnel need to work closely with each other to ensure that students receive an appropriate and inclusive education. In addition, students without disabilities and community members need to understand their roles in the collaborative planning process. (From Exceptional Lives: Special Education in Today's Schools, 2nd Edition. Turnbull, Turnbull and others. Merrill Publishing, Prentice Hall, One Lake Street, Upper Saddle River, NJ 07458)

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What does research say about the long-term effects of inclusion?

"During the twenty-two years between the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act's (IDEA) first enactment (1975) and its most recent reauthorization (1997), which strengthened its inclusion provisions, extraordinary progress has been made toward including students with disabilities in schools and in the general curriculum. Many teachers and parents have found ways to implement the least restrictive environment principle and to move from mere mainstreaming to authentic inclusion. In general, students with disabilities in inclusive settings have shown improvement in standardized tests, acquired social and communication skills previously undeveloped, shown increased interaction with peers, achieved more and higher-quality IEP goals, and are better prepared for postschool experiences. There is also evidence that inclusive settings can expand a student's personal interests and knowledge of the world, which is excellent preparation for adulthood. The positive effects of inclusive education on classmates without disabilities have been well documented. Both research and anecdotal data have shown that typical learners have demonstrated a greater acceptance and valuing of individual differences, enhanced self-esteem, a genuine capacity for friendship, and the acquisition of new skills. Low-achieving students also benefited from the review, practice, clarity, and feedback provided to students with disabilities. When inclusive education is implemented appropriately, all students benefit." (From Inclusive Education: Practical Implementation of the Least Restrictive Environment by Power-deFur and Orelove. Aspen Publishers, Inc., 200 Orchard Ridge Drive, Suite 200, Gaithersburg, MD 20878)

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What are effective methods for accommodating students with disabilities in inclusive settings?

"When IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) was implemented in the 1977-1978 school year and until sometime in the mid-1980's, the term that described the education of students with disabilities with those who did not have disabilities was mainstreaming, defined as the educational arrangement of placing handicapped students in regular classes with their nonhandicapped peers to the maximum extent appropriate'. Typically, mainstreaming was implemented by having students with disabilities participate in the nonacademic portions of the general education program, such as art, music, and physical education. Most of those students were, however, still enrolled in self-contained special education classes; they "visited" general education classes for a relatively small portion of time. For many educators and parents, mainstreaming provided far too little and came much too late for the students. Sometime in the mid-1980's, their impatience became evident in a movement known as the "Regular Education Initiative" (LRE). The debate centered around five key issues which included: the exclusion of many students who needed special educational support; the withholding of special programs until the student failed rather than making specially designed instruction available earlier to prevent failure; no support for promoting cooperative, supported partnerships between educators and parents; and using pull-out programs to serve students with disabilities rather than adapting the general education program to accommodate their needs. Ultimately, the regular education initiative caused significant changes in the entire approach to special education. A new term, inclusion, and a new technique, collaboration, evolved." (From Exceptional Lives: Special Education in Today's Schools, 2nd Edition. Turnbull, Turnbull and others. Merrill Publishing, Prentice Hall, One Lake Street, Upper Saddle River, NJ 07458)

What are some of the pros and cons of inclusive school programs?

"Age- and grade-appropriate placement is the most controversial component of inclusion because it is based on ideals, values, and goals that are not congruent with the realities of today's classrooms. Proponents of full inclusion assume that the general education classroom can and will be able to accommodate all students with disabilities, even those with severe and multiple disabilities. They assume that such students can obtain educational and social benefits from that placement. Those who oppose full inclusion argue that, although methods of collaborative learning and group instruction are the preferred methods, the traditional classroom size and resources are often inadequate for the management and accommodation of many students with disabilities without producing adverse effects on the classroom as a whole. Some special education experts, however, believe that some students are unlikely to receive appropriate education without placement into alternative instructional groups or alternative learning environments, such as part-time or full-time special classes or alternative day schools." (From Handbook for Successful Inclusion. Kochhar and West. Aspen Publishers, Inc., 200 Orchard Ridge Drive, Suite 200, Gaithersburg, MD 20878)

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