By: Allie Szczecinski
Inclusion matters! Facilitating positive and meaningful experiences for students with disabilities to learn with and alongside their typical peers in general education settings isn't easy, but it's necessary.
Students with disabilities in inclusive classrooms have been shown to make academic gains in a number of areas,like improving their performance on standardized tests, mastering their IEP goals, grades, on-task behavior, and participation (National Center for Education Restructuring and Inclusion, 1995). Research tells us that the pros of inclusive settings far and away outweigh the possible challenges, so how do we truly make inclusion successful?
Here's 3 helpful tips for teachers to make these opportunities as seamless as possible.
1.) Keep Things Consistent
Is the student's special education classroom covered in visuals? Is the student used to using a communication device? Does the student use a seat cushion on their chair in the special education classroom? KEEP IT CONSISTENT! Bring a bag with needed visuals, bring the communication device, and bring the seat cushion! Students may already feel a bit out of sorts in a new classroom, but they'll likely feel completely lost without their usual supports. Bring what works with them for a better chance at a successful experience for everyone.
Also read: Accommodating Sensory Issues In Classrooms
2.) Introduce the Student
One of the most powerful elements of inclusion are the social benefits from both the student being included, and the typical students. If we miss the opportunity to fully introduce the student to their peers, it becomes a true missed opportunity. Peers might make dangerous assumptions about the student, or not fully understand the best ways to engage with their new classmate. A fun way to do this is to have the included student introduce themselves! This gives peers a chance to see all of the unique qualities the student will bring to their classroom from a first person perspective. Setting the tone from the beginning for positive, healthy relationships to form is essential!
3.) Be Proactive About Behavior
Don't wait for problems to happen - anticipate the possibilities and get ahead of them! Creating a helpful behavior plan that all staff understand how to follow is a great start. Many students struggle with the differences in structure in a general education setting versus a special education setting. Bringing in sensory tools that are discreet and non-distracting can be a helpful way for students to release some anxious energy and exhibit positive behaviors. I love these two fidget cubes from Everyday Educate as fidgets for inclusion. They're small (see my hand for size!) with tons of sensory benefits. With some explicit training on how to use them in class, students can be gaining needed sensory input without distracting any of their classmates. Win, win!
Hope these tips help in integrating your students better in your classroom. What strategies do you do in your class to make it more inclusive? Share your thoughts below in the comments :)
Allie is a special education teacher from Chicago. Follow her on Instagram for more classroom tips and teacher resources.