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Difference Between Self-Contained And Inclusion Classrooms

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By: Luke Dalien

In this episode of Special Education Decoded, we talk about a decision that parents are faced with every single time an IEP meeting is held…

Should my child be in a Self-Contained or Inclusion Classroom?

Now, like most things in special education… you may be asking yourself, WHAT are these two terms, and what are the differences?!

By the end of this video, you will have the answers to these questions and more!

We spend time defining both Self-Contained and Inclusion classrooms, along with discussing what they look like in the school setting.

We discuss some of the pros and cons of each of those environments.

We go through how you, as a parent, can help to make the best decision for your child.

Lastly, we provide answers to some common questions involving both the Self-Contained Classroom and the Inclusion Classroom.

Alright, let’s dive into these two different classroom settings!

Self-Contained VS Inclusion Classrooms

Let’s start with how this decision even comes to light in the first place…

After children go through the testing process and are found eligible for special education services, the IEP team has to decide on a placement for the child and its essential to consider the LRE or Least Restrictive Environment.

The Least Restrictive Environment – involves finding which Classroom Setting Would Allow Your Child To Reach Their Ultimate Success?

What Is A Self-Contained Classroom

Many years ago, most special education students were in self-contained classrooms for most of the day.

However, that landscape has changed significantly over the years.

Self-Contained Classroom –

A Classroom Where A Special Education Teacher Is Responsible For The Instruction Of All Academic Subjects.

This type of environment is Typically Separated From General Education Classrooms But Within The Same School Building.

Simple enough, right?

Next… let’s discuss the advantages as well as disadvantages to a self-contained classroom.

Advantages Of Self-Contained Classrooms;

  • The students may have more of an adapted curriculum.
  • The Teacher Can Adjust The Classroom Schedule.
  • The teacher may be able to group more than one subject together into one larger lesson.
  • The teacher and students may have a more personable relationship with having a smaller class size.
  • Students are given an alternative state assessment or benchmark test.
  • Students will have interaction with others in their classroom and possibly be able to participate in special classes or electives such as;
      • Art
      • Music
      • Library
      • PE

Disadvantages Of Self-Contained Classrooms;

There are disadvantages to a self-contained classroom as well…

  1. Students are not able to interact solely with their peers in the general education setting.
  2. Students may not get to attend those specials and electives with their general education peers.

So far we’ve taken a deep dive into Self-Contained Classrooms,

Now it’s time to talk about the collaborative or inclusion classroom.

Inclusion Classroom:

This type of environment is where The Special Education Students Are Included or “Mainstreamed” Within The General Education Classroom Setting…

There Are Different Options For Students Within An Inclusion Classroom Setting. Those Are;

  1. 100% Fully Inclusive –
  2. 100% of the time in general ed classroom

Now that we have gone through what the term inclusion classroom refers to let’s look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of this particular classroom setting.

Advantages Of An Inclusion Classroom;

  • Your child will be taught the same curriculum as their peers.
  • Your child is able to socially interact with their grade-level peers.

Disadvantages Of An Inclusion Classroom

  • Difficulty in keeping up within the general education setting.
  • Could cause behavior issues.

How is this placement (or Which classroom setting a student goes into) different today than in the past?

Well… today, Most schools push for students to be in an inclusion classroom if at all possible.

There aren’t as many children placed in fully self-contained rooms anymore as this setting is mainly reserved for kids who have more severe developmental and academic concerns.

As a parent, you have the right to make the decision that is best for your child.

To aid in that decision, Let’s go through some common questions and answers dealing with the self-contained classroom and inclusion classroom.

Common Questions Surrounding Self-Contained and Inclusion Classrooms

What if I am unsure about this decision and need more guidance?

As a parent, you are part of the IEP team. Together as an IEP team, you can decide what is best for your child.

You can also ask school officials.

What if my child is struggling more in one subject than another, could we differentiate services?

Absolutely! Your child can have both!

Can I increase or decrease services after an IEP is written?

Yes! You can call an IEP meeting anytime. Also, a Special Education Teacher can call a revision to add or decrease the number of services for that student.

Will my child continue to get services and help if they transition to another school or the middle/high school?

Absolutely! Your child will receive special education services as they travel throughout the school system.

That’s it! I truly hope this video helped you understand exactly the differences between the self-contained classroom and an inclusion classroom.

Thank you!



This entry was posted on Wednesday, May 8th, 2019 at and is filed under Classroom Environments In Special Education, . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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