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What Does Inclusion Really Mean?

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Norman Kunc is a well-known advocate for disability-related issues, and he once said “When inclusive education is fully embraced, we abandon the idea that children have to become ‘normal’ in order to contribute to the world. We begin to look beyond typical ways of becoming valued members of the community, and in doing so, begin to realize the achievable goal of providing all children with an authentic sense of belonging.” But in order to understand this idea better, we need to ask ‘What is inclusion in school?’

What is the definition of inclusion in school?

The simplest definition of the word is that all students attend a school and are placed in classes depending on their age. However, successful inclusion happens when all students feel welcomed and accepted in a school among their peers. Inclusion does not mean that everything is exactly the same for each child. It would be unrealistic to expect every child to meet the exact same standards because each child is unique. Inclusion means that each child is given a fair chance to succeed. Removing barriers and providing differentiation are two excellent ways to help with successful inclusion.

Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start in setting up successful inclusion, so I thought I would share a few ideas:

A Successful Start

Invite students and parents to come to the classroom before the school year starts. I have done this for students with special needs or students who have anxiety. Being able to see the classroom and meet the teacher before the school year starts, helps to put people at ease. The students are able to feel successful on the first day of school because they know what to expect when they walk into the classroom.

In the classroom, try to use a variety of instructional methods. For example, in Math class, use small group instruction, you can help to reinforce the math concepts to students who are struggling with them. Small groups naturally foster differentiated instruction because you can help each group work on something that they need help with. For instance, you might be helping one group with how to print their numbers and moments later help another group with how to do simple addition facts. All students are participating in the small group instruction, but they are getting the instruction that they need.

inclusion in gym class

In Physical Education class, modify activities to meet the needs of your students. It might seem daunting at first when faced with the challenge of modifying sports so that all kids can play. However, there are some simple things that can be quite effective. Reducing the number of players on each team can give all students more opportunity to be involved in the game. Eliminating time limits can take the pressure off for students who need more time. If you’re playing a game like Baseball, use a larger ball so it is easier to hit. Make your boundaries very clearly so they are more visible. These are just a few things that you might find effective.

Other Professionals can support Inclusion

To be sure, there are excellent resources out there and professionals who are a wealth-of-knowledge. Students can receive support from many different people, such as Speech-Language Pathologists, Occupational Therapists, Paraprofessionals, and Special Ed teachers. All these people have giftings to help students, so don’t feel like you have to go at it alone. Reach out to others and ask for their advice.

Inclusion has a lot of benefits. It enables all kids to feel successful. It exposes kids to diversity and helps to teach kids compassion and leadership. Inclusion helps to enhance social skills and build friendships. To be sure, there are challenges as well. Teachers might feel ill-equipped or under-supported in how to best support children. Some activities are hard to modify, so the teacher might have to switch the activity. Creating individualized lesson plans takes a lot of time, that many teachers just do not have.

But all that said, inclusion gives all students a sense of belonging. Every child is unique and special. We should do what we can to help our students feel included.

I have created a FREEBIE that I think could be helpful when trying to share more about a student with another teacher. Click this link below to grab the freebie!

Inclusion Student Skill Set Form