32 Inclusion

What is Inclusion?

By Emily Mitchell

“Inclusion is being a part of what everyone else is, being welcomed and embraced as a member who belongs.” (Tomko,1996)




After working as a special education aide for a year, I have developed an interest in this topic. Loneliness and fear are something we all feel when we are different from everyone else. When everyone else seems to get along and understand one another, and we are left out, we feel inferior and worthless. We would feel even more worthless if someone told us that we were not good enough to be with everyone else. We cannot talk and play with the other kids because we slow them down. The practice of inclusion attempts to help students with disabilities avoid these feelings of fear, isolation and worthlessness. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), updated in 2004, provides students with disabilities the right to a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment possible. Inclusion attempts to provide this education for students with disabilities and now many school systems throughout the country practice it. Inclusive education comes with benefits as well as downsides.


Schools are not required to include students with disabilities in the general education classroom, but are required to provide them with the most appropriate education in the least restrictive environment. Including a student in the general education classroom is the best solution, if possible. This means the student is taught with his non-disabled peers and has full access to the general education curriculum, extracurricular activities and other programs available to non-disabled students. If a student is capable of being successful in this environment, it is difficult for schools to justify isolating him in a special classroom or special school. A team of educators, specialists and parents construct an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) to ensure that the student’s educational needs are being met. If the decision is made to keep the student from the general education classroom, this team must have valid reasons why that environment is not appropriate for the student (Stout 2007). In order to allow students to be successful in the least restrictive environment, schools use paraprofessionals or co teaching to help the student integrate into the general education classroom (Scruggs, Mastropieri, & Mcduffie, 2007). The idea of inclusion does not relate to academics alone. Students with disabilities are included in the community of the class and school as well. Inclusion encourages students to be a part of the classroom both academically and socially (Burke & Sutherland, 2004).

What does Inclusion Look Like?

A student who attends an inclusive school spends the majority of his school day in the general education classroom, with other students his age. Depending on the level of his disability, he will have an aide assigned to shadow him throughout the day and help him when necessary. The job of the aide is to help enable the student to be successful, while allowing the student to gain independence and confidence in the process. The aide helps to adapt materials and find resources that will help the child function well in the general education classroom. A school practicing inclusion seeks to adapt the classroom in order to meet the needs of students with disabilities (Burke & Sutherland, 2004). A student is not thrown into a classroom and expected to function like everyone else. His teachers must adapt their curriculum and practices to ensure his success. In order for inclusion to be successful, teachers must be comfortable teaching students with disabilities. Many general education teachers do not feel equipped to handle the issues associated with these students. In the article, “Attitudes Toward Inclusion: Knowledge vs. Experience”, authors Burke and Sutherland (2004) explain that many teachers will leave the teaching profession after being exposed to an inclusive classroom they feel unequipped to handle. The authors later stated that teachers who received the most intense training to work with students with disabilities were the most successful in an inclusive classroom. The general classroom teacher must be willing to help include the student, for inclusive education, to work. Authors Griffin, Otis-Wilborn and Winn (2005)in their article, “Beginning Special Educators’ Forays into General Education”, also stress the importance of preparing teachers to be successful in an inclusive setting. They explain that many special education teachers are not prepared for inclusion either. The article states, “many special education teachers are lacking knowledge of general classroom curriculum and pedagogy, skills to accommodate resources effectively for their students and strategies for clarifying roles and for collaborating with general classroom teachers”. In order for inclusive education to be successful, all members of a student’s educational team must be equipped to deal with that student’s needs.

Inclusion Impacts all Members of the School Community

Many wonder what effect inclusion has on non-disabled students in an inclusive classroom. In the article “Parent Perception of the Impacts of Inclusion on their Nondisabled Child” authors Gallucci, Peck, and Staub (2004) report a study done to find out what impact inclusion has on non-disabled students. The authors cite a study that surveyed eighty-one parents whose children were in elementary classrooms with students with severe disabilities. Eighty percent of these parents reported that they believed their children were gaining positive social and emotional growth. Over ninety percent believed their child’s experience with a classmate with a disability was positive. Not all parents or community members agree with the parents surveyed, however. While working as an aide I had a student with autism who tended to display extremely aggressive behavior. He began the year in the general classroom, but after biting and scratching the same child twice, he was removed. The parent of the child who had been bitten demanded that the child with autism be separated from his child. The decision was made to remove the child with autism from his general education classroom and place him in the special education classroom alone. For the second half of the year, this child spent the majority of his school day being educated by aides and isolated from his classmates. He spent thirty minutes a day with a licensed teacher. Inclusion causes a problem when the student is unable to function successfully in the general classroom, or when the parents of the non-disabled children are unwilling to cooperate with the efforts of the teachers and aides to include that student.

Issues with Inclusion

Authors Griffin et al. (2005) speak to other issues that arise in an inclusive classroom. Some teachers are unwilling to dedicate the extra energy and work necessary to include a student with disabilities in their classroom. In addition, confusion can arise over who is primarily responsible for the student’s education. General classroom teachers do not necessarily take responsibility for the student and the collaboration of all members of a student’s educational team is crucial to that student’s success. Effective communication between general and special education teachers can be another challenge of inclusion. The student may not feel safe or supported in the classroom and will not be as successful as a result. At the beginning of the school year, one of my students with autism communicated to his teacher that he did not want to do his work because he did not think she believed he was smart. The student learned to trust her, and things improved overall. Students with disabilities need to feel wanted in the general education classroom or they will be less successful. If the teachers involved do not communicate, or if the general education teacher refuses to reach out to the student, he will not be successful in an inclusive environment.According to Margaret Hoban a couple of the problems faced by teachers that teach inclusion classes is the little teacher prep time and limited resources and the need for extra professional development dealing with inclusion. As well as, the officials applying more effort to developing the inclusion model and monitor their success more efficiently.http://escholarship.bc.edu). The states are now requiring more and more standardized and comprehensive testing. Teachers are already overwhelmed and are sometimes unable to meet the schools and states request for academic accountability and achievement. When teacers have an inclusive classroom, they are put under more pressure and strain. Another problem that is dealt with inclusion is labeling. You hear that a child for instance has ADHD the child is automatically seen as a problem child, and the teacher usually has a low learning expectation of the student. This can and does affect the child’s learning and behavior. According yo Deloney and Thompkins, regular students in inclusive classes do not get the full learning time allotted to them. A lot of the time, their education is interrupted because of the students with disabilities. Either the teacher has to stop their teaching process because of behavior problems, outbursts/distractions, or explaining thngs over and over. You also have the teachers that really do not understand or really want to teach in such an environment could do much to undermine the potentially positive benefits of inclusion.


Those Who Like It

Although, there are parents, teachers and administrators who are not in favor of the inclusive classroom, there are those who think that inclusion has a lot of positive benefits. socialization is a key factor to this. Many parents, teachers and administrators feel that students with disabilities that are in inclusive classrooms have higher self concept about themselves and achieve at higher levels when with their peers (Deloney, Thonpkins). They have “normal” role models and therefore, know what age appropriate behavior is supposed to be. Children learn from each other and will learn how to act and how not to act during certain settings and situations. Scholars also think that the regular students benefit from being in an inclusive class. They will learn to accept differences among people, and become more accepting towards peoples differences as they get older. This acceptance may cause them to have a diverse set of friends. Having students with disabilities in their class will encourage cooperation and patience. Traits that will be good to have growing up.


Improving the Inclusion Model

Some improvements that can be made on existing models can be made to better the quality of learning for both the special ed and the non special ed students. Such as “increasing, the quality time spent with getting disability children to focus on material through enhanced and stimulating communications”. This can be by using power points. Children are growing up on computers and to just teach via lecture and note taking may not be right for a special needs student. I have found jeopardy websites dealing with topics that I have taught in classes and the students really love these. They are all done via power point. I noticed an increase in test grades dealing with the topics that I have played the jeopardy games with as well as other games. The students really enjoy competing with one another. We have hangman and spelling word whomps with our spelling words every week. This as well has increased the spelling test grades. Teachers can also allow more time for the organization of information just received. It is proven that students with disabilities need more time to organize and apply the information that they just learned. http://curry.edschool.virginia.edu/go/cise/ose/information/uvald/inclusion.html



The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requires that a free and appropriate education in the least restrictive environment be provided to all students with disabilities. As a result, general and special education teachers must work together to provide the best education for their students with disabilities. This process can be rewarding for everyone involved if they are willing to expand their comfort zones and are willing to work at including the student. Inclusion is not an easy process. As with all educational practices, inclusion has strengths and weaknesses. In light of this reality, educators and parents must determine what educational plan will best meet the individual student’s needs and work to successfully implement that plan. Ideally, the student will feel included in the general education classroom both socially and academically and will receive the best education possible.


1. Which student goes to school in an inclusive setting?

a. Sally goes to a special school for students with autism

b. Mark goes to public school with his peers, but he spends his day in a classroom full of other students with autism

c. Tom has a tutor who comes to his home to educate him

d. Beth spends her day in the general education classroom with her peer without disabilities


2. Sally spent a successful year in the general education classroom with her peers. She is now isolated because the teacher did not like having a student with a disability in her classroom. What law is Sally’s school violating?

a. Least Restrictive Environment Act

b. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

c. Brown vs Board of Education

d. Fair Treatment of Students Act


3. Which does NOT explain why Sally’s situation is a violation of the law above?

a. Students with disabilities must not receive individual attention from teachers

b. Students with disabilities must be educated in the least restrictive environment

c. Students with disabilities must be given access to the same resources as their peers without disabilities

d. Students with disabilities must be provided with a free and appropriate education


4. Smith Elementary has decided to include all students with disabilities in their general education classrooms. What are NOT some problems the school community may face when this occurs?

a. General education teachers who are unwilling or unequipped to relate to the students with disabilities

b. General and special education teachers who fail to communicate

c. Parents of the students without disabilities who refuse to support change

d. Students with disabilities who have a different learning style than everyone else
5. Mark refuses to complete his assignments. Which is NOT a way his teacher can encourage his educational success?

a. She can make sure he knows he is accepted and appreciated by his teacher and classmates

b. She can adapt Mark’s work so that the format is easier for him to understand

c. She can state that Mark is not being successful in the general education classroom and have him removed

d. She can attend training session and workshops that will educate her on ways to better reach students with autism


1)D, 2)B, 3)A, 4)D, 5)C


Improvements on Inclusion in Schools retrieved April 14, 2008 from http://curry.edschool.virginia.edu/go/cise/ose/information/uvald/inclusion.html

Burke, K., & Sutherland, C. (2004). Attitudes Toward Inclusion: Knowledge vs. Experience. Education 125(2). Retrieved January 31, 2008 from WilsonWeb database.

Deloney, Pat, and Richard Thonpkins. Inclusion: The Pros and Cons: Issues About Change 4 (3). Retrieved April 18, 2008 from http://www.sedl.org/pubs/catalog/items/cha05.html.

Gallucci, C., Peck, C. A., & Staub, D. (2004). Parent Perception of the Impacts of Inclusion on their Nondisabled Child. Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities 29 (2). Retrieved January 31, 2008 from WilsonWeb database.

Griffin, C., Otis-Wilborn, A., & Winn, J. (2005). Beginning Special Educators’ Forays into General Education. Teacher Education and Special Education 28 (3/4). Retrieved January 31, 2008 from WilsonWeb database.

Hoban, Margaret 2007 retrieved April 3, 2008 from (http://escholarship.bc.edu)

Scruggs, T. E., Mastropieri, M. A., & Mcduffie, K. A. (2007). Co-Teaching in Inclusive Classrooms: A Metasynthesis of Qualitative Research. Exceptional Children, 73 (4). Retrieved January 31, 2008 from WilsonWeb database.

Stout, K. S. (2007). Special Education Inclusion. Wisconsin Education Association Council. Retrieved February 15 from http://www.weac.org/resource/june96/speced.htm

Tomko, C. F. (1996) What is Inclusion? Kids Together Inc. Retrieved February 15 from http://www.kidstogether.org/inclusion.htm.

Wikipedia (2007). Least Restrictive Environment. Retrieved January 31, 2008 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Least_Restrictive_Environment.


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