Is Inclusion A Good Idea?

Students at desks in an inclusion classroom.

It is vital for students to be educated in an environment that is most appropriate for them. From Inclusion to Self-Contained classrooms, there are many environments to consider when teaching special education students.

But it is most important to discuss the student’s individual needs and where they would benefit from most during their educational career.


What is Inclusion?

The term encompasses a wide range of educational services, which includes both students with and without disabilities. Theoretically, the term also means to include students with disabilities in general education classrooms alongside their peers without disabilities.

In reality, this setting looks different across different settings depending on the school system and the structure of each school.


How Does Inclusion Fit Into Special Education Services?

As a child goes through the special education identification process and is found eligible for services, it is essential for the team to come together to create an Individuals Education Plan (IEP) that meets the needs of that specific student.

During the IEP meeting, it is crucial that all stakeholders are involved in the development of the individualized education plan by contributing input, and ideas, and agreeing on the plan.

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During the development process, it is up to the team to create a plan that meets the needs of the specific student. In this plan, all individuals involved will determine the appropriate level of services and the least restrictive environment to best support each child.

Per the law, once students qualify for services, they should be educated in their least restrictive environment. (IDEA 2004)

The law requires students with an IEP to be educated with their non-disabled peers to the maximum extent that is appropriate. What this means for each individual student will vary based on their individual needs.

The IEP team is responsible for developing and carrying out the plan. Often the terms associated with special education services include, but are not limited to:

  • Co-teaching
  • Resource Classroom
  • Self-contained Classroom
  • Inclusive Classroom

And in many circumstances, a combination of services will be part of the child’s IEP plan.


When a child is identified for special education services, the team may determine that a student would benefit most from a co-teaching classroom environment. In this situation, the students would be in the general education classroom, and a special education teacher would come into the class and co-teach in a variety of ways with the general education teacher.

The teachers would not only teach together, but plan, and collect data on student achievement. The child may be fully included in the general education classroom, with support from the special education teacher included.

Resource Classroom

Students are pulled away from their general education classroom for a portion of the day to be in the resource classroom. In this instance, students typically leave their regular classroom during times when the general education teachers are not covering the reading, writing, or math curriculum.

The students will attend the resource classroom with other special needs students. The special education teacher provides support and instruction based on the student’s individual goals.

Self-Contained and Inclusive Classrooms

In the past, the self-contained classroom is where students were placed when they had severe disabilities, and it was believed that they could not be included in the general education classroom.

In some circumstances, based on the student’s individualized education program needs and the IEP team’s decision, this may be the best placement for them. As time has progressed, students may be included in the general education classroom for a variety of subjects, including:

  • Specific Academics such as Math or English
  • Elective classes such as Art or Music
  • Recess
  • Lunch

When students are in a self-contained classroom, it is essential for the team to consider both the benefits and the implications of being entirely excluded from the general education classroom. And if there are any times that each individual student would be able to attend the general education classroom.

Comparison of Services

It is important to note that students should be educated to the fullest extent in the general education classroom when appropriate. When students enter into the special education system, they are afforded the opportunity to have an education that is unique to their needs.

When developing an IEP, it is essential to take into consideration the knowledge of the child and the data that has been collected in order to serve the needs of the student better.


One-On-One Assistance Outside Of The Classroom

In many cases, parents opt to have an outside special education tutor work with their child on a regular basis. This fresh set of eyes AND 100% tailored learning approach, can help make drastic improvements in a relatively short amount of time.


4 Steps To Understanding Inclusive Education

1. Understand the Reasoning Behind Special Education Inclusion

Inclusion allows all students with and without disabilities to be educated together in the same classroom environment. This diversity will enable all students to experience what everyone needs to know and understand to be successful after graduating.

Students need to understand the importance of having different characteristics and strengths in different areas. They also need to know how to work side by side successfully with others that don’t have the same strengths and knowledge in a particular area.


2. Understanding That Inclusion Builds Relationships

When students with disabilities are educated in a separate classroom environment, “typically developing” peers are not given the opportunity to understand differences and how to handle those differences in a positive way.

When having students with and without disabilities in the same environment, they both benefit from social interaction. This allows all students to:

  • Build friendships
  • Learn how to interact with others in various ways that they would typically not have the experience doing

Two examples of this are communication devices and sign language.


3. How Does Collaboration and Team Planning Work In Inclusive Education Settings?

The general education teacher and the special education teacher work side by side to ensure ALL students have access to both general education and specific content curriculum.

It is important to note that this will look different across schools because specific content curriculums vary.

The special education teacher and the general education teacher work together to ensure all accommodations and modifications are being implemented in accordance with the student’s IEP since both work with the student.

When working in a collaborative co-teaching environment, the regular ed and special ed teacher (along with a Special Needs Tutor if applicable) are both in the classroom providing input.

When developing lesson plans, both teachers work together to ensure all students have access to the curriculum being taught. This may look different for every student in the classroom because of differentiated instruction.


4. Knowing How Inclusion Benefits The Classroom, School, And Community As A Whole

When educating students with disabilities in the general education classroom, inclusion allows everyone to have a sense of belonging. When everyone is taught together, the greater community benefits.

This allows everyone to know and understand that each and every person:

  • Learns differently
  • Acts differently
  • Has different strengths and weaknesses

The impact of educating all students together goes beyond the classroom. Students learn the importance of acceptance and apply this throughout the school.

When this happens, it also allows the community to share the positives of this as well. They are not “standoffish” when they encounter someone “different” than them.

Inclusion brings everyone together for a common goal -ACCEPTANCE.


What has been your experience? 

In conclusion, there is not one service structure that is better than another. Rather it is vital that students are given what they need.

As a parent or teacher, what’s been your experience with the different types of available environments? Please leave your answer below.


Students at desks in an inclusion classroom.
Inclusion classrooms have been around for a LONG time now, but is this the environment that would be best for your special needs child?

Picture of Laura Young, M.Ed.

Laura Young, M.Ed.

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