What is inclusion in education? (2023)

If you've spent time in a classroom as a teacher or parent, chances are you've heard the term inclusion. But what exactly is inclusion in education and what does it mean for teachers and learners?

What is inclusion in education?

In particular, inclusion in education refers to ensuring that students with physical, behavioral or learning disabilities are integrated into mainstream classrooms as much as possible. It also means giving them the support and accommodations they need to thrive alongside their peers.

In the early years of American education, people with disabilities often received no education at all. Eventually there were efforts to provide these students with an education, but usually in special schools or special classrooms separate from other students. People felt that the special needs of these students could only be met if they were kept separate from the general student population. Some also didn't want them to mix with what they called "normal" kids.

Not surprisingly, the stigma attached to "special schools" and "special classrooms" created a divide that persisted into adulthood. Many communities did not (or could not) provide meaningful education for these students. If parents could not afford private education, these children simply would not go to school.In 1970 only 20% of children with disabilities attended school.

But 1975, theLaw on Education for All Disabled Childrenthings changed. She called for free and decent education for all children. It provided funds to help schools accommodate people with disabilities and created policies such as IEPs and other tools to help these students succeed.


What is inclusion in education? (1)

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In 1990, Congress re-approved the law and changed its name to the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), as it is still known today. The law applies to children from birth to 21 years of age.IDEA requires all public schools to provide the following:

  • Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE): All students, regardless of disability, should have access to the same general education.
  • Least Restrictive Environment (LRE): This is the part of IDEA specifically related to inclusion. He explains that students with disabilities should be included in traditional classrooms as much as possible.
  • Appropriate Assessment: Schools are required to conduct assessment against certain standards to ensure students are properly placed and regularly assessed.
  • Individualized Education Program (IEP): Each student identified as an IDEA student receives an IEP that outlines the accommodations needed for the student to be successful in the classroom.
  • Parent and Teacher Involvement: IDEA sets out specific requirements for how schools must communicate and collaborate with parents.
  • Procedural Safeguards: Parents have the right to view educational records, actively participate in all meetings related to educational decisions, and be notified before changes are made.

What does "less restrictive" mean?

IDEA requires students with disabilities to be accommodated in the general classroom “as far as possible”. To determine thisSchools answer two questions:

  • Can adequate education in general education be satisfactorily achieved with the help of supplementary aids and services?
  • If a student is placed in a more restrictive environment, is he/she "integrated" to the "maximum degree of appropriateness"?

Ultimately, the goal of inclusion in education is to provide a standard education in a regular classroom, using the standard curriculum whenever possible. For some students, this will require special precautions, including but not limited to:

  • Inclusion specialists, teacher assistants, or paraeducators who teach in general classrooms or spend time supporting students with special needs
  • classroom adjustments, such as B. Seat changes or access to special equipment or materials

In some cases, it may not be possible to meet specific needs in general education. If this is the case, schools should make every effort to meet these needs before deciding that a student needs to spend part or all of the school day in an alternative environment.

Inclusion and IEPs

IDEA has outlined 13 areas of special education that require the creation and use of Individualized Education Plans (IEP). An IEP serves two purposes: to set reasonable, measurable goals for the child and to specify the achievements that the school will deliver. Schools and teachers work with parents and experts to create a specific plan for each eligible student. These plans include the necessary general classroom accommodations for the student to be successful.Learn more about IEPs here.

What does a good inclusive classroom look like?

It is rarely possible to provide quality education to special needs students unless you have more than one educator in the classroom. These students often need one-on-one support, either during the day or with specific activities. Inclusive classes can have:

  • Co-teachers who split their time between general classes and student care
  • Special Education Teachers (SPED) who can “push” or “pull” as needed (see below)
  • Paraeducators, also known as teaching assistants, support students individually or in small groups
  • Interpreter for blind or deaf students

Inclusive classrooms can also support students with special equipment or spaces, such as B. Text-to-speech/speech-to-text programs, pencil grips, quiet corners, etc.More information about inclusive classrooms can be found here.

Push in/pull out

Educators can provide support for special needs in two ways. They can "push," meaning they work with students in the general classroom as needed. Or they can “strip” and take one or more students at a time to work together in a separate location. Both have advantages and disadvantages.

Push-in can be performed by SPED teachers or assistants, general class teachers, interpreters, speech or occupational therapists and many more. You can work quietly side-by-side with a student or provide general support in group activities as needed.

In a very quiet classroom, the push-in support can sometimes distract other students. A student may also need special direction, more time than the general schedule allows, or a safe space to deal with behavior issues. In such cases, resignation makes more sense. This is usually done by SPED teachers or coaches, counselors, or speech and language therapists or occupational therapists.

Students can have scheduled meetings or use the accommodation only when needed. Educators often try to limit “retreat time” as this defeats the purpose of an inclusive classroom.Learn more about “Push-In/Pull-Out Services” here.

How does inclusion benefit all students?

What is inclusion in education? (2)


In the 1990s, schools began to put more emphasis on real inclusion. In other words, students with disabilities didn't just go to public school to be segregated in their own classroom. Instead, these students have finally found their place in the general classroom, assisted by specialists and paraeducators when necessary. They were given equal access to the curriculum and the ability to socially integrate.

According to a report summarizing several studies, "Students included develop stronger reading and math skills, have higher attendance rates, are less likely to have behavior problems, and are more likely to complete high school than students who were not included."

What about students in the able-bodied classroom?It says the same report, “In most cases, co-education with a student with disabilities does not result in any negative effects for children without disabilities. On the contrary, some research suggests that able-bodied students who are in inclusive classrooms are less biased and more accepting of people who are different from them.”

When students with disabilities are not hidden, other children see them from an early age and learn that people of all abilities can and should learn, play and live in the same world.

What are the challenges of inclusion in education?

Proper inclusion requires full collaboration between teachers, parents and administration.

  • The administrator must work to provide the right staff to meet student needs and find the means to cover specific equipment or materials. They must also help teachers deal with behavioral issues and work with parents.
  • Teachers bear the greatest burden as they must work to support all students in their classroom, including those with special needs. They also need to communicate with parents, ask for support and provide regular updates.
  • Parents are an important link in the chain, but not all students have parents or guardians who are willing or able to get involved in their child's education. This can be a problem, especially for students with behavioral problems.

Behavioral problems are one of the biggest problems in inclusion classes, especially when there are not enough teachers or caregivers, or when parents or administration cannot or do not want to be involved. Some special needs students are also subject to bullying or social isolation, which adults in the classroom may or may not be aware of.

Inclusion in educational resources

There is much more to know about inclusion in education. Try these resources to learn more.



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What is inclusion in education? (3)


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