Inclusion by kma08009


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									On Inclusion
 Karen M. Adrián

 August 11, 2008

   Inclusion refers to the mandate that, when appropriate, students with disabilities

receive their education in the regular classroom with their non-disabled peers and are

provided access to the general education curriculum. It is done with the hopes that the

student will receive the best education in the least restrictive environment as defined by

the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Undoubtedly, inclusion of

students with disabilities is challenging and it has intensified with the No Child Left

Behind Act and IDEA. But it is a challenge worth taking because of its perquisite impact

on families and schools, and because inclusive classrooms have been shown to have

higher academic gains for students with disabilities.

   There are many factors that influence when and how students with special needs

should be included in a classroom with nondisabled students. But the only way inclusion

with combined services can succeed is through the commitment of the school, the

services offered by law, and the collaboration and involvement of guardians and students

with special needs. If the multiple ways in which inclusion affects students with special

needs are not taken into account, then the classroom becomes an environment that can be

more detrimental than educational, and a place of fear and self-deprecation rather than a

place that fosters individuality and healthy social growth.

   When deciding on the best form of inclusion in the least restrictive environment, the

success of inclusion can only be maintained through the interdependence and constant

open dialogue of the parents, students, and school personnel, and by being aware and

respectful of the services offered by law. School personnel, which includes the principal,

general and special education teachers, requires open and constant communication with

one another in order to balance the responsibilities to offer the best education to the

maximum extent appropriate.

   The Regular Education Initiative promotes responsible inclusion when the general

and special education teachers are working together as a team. Monitoring the progress

of students should not become the sole responsibility of general education teachers

because it can be exhaustive and may dissuade teachers from being accepting of inclusive

students with special needs. The general and special education teachers collaborate to

create generic lesson plans for all students rather than isolating or accentuating special

needs students. When school personnel work together to provide the best

accommodations, adaptations, and modifications to benefit students with special needs, it

also benefits nondisabled students and students who demonstrate learning problems but

may not qualify for special education. “A few minutes of one-on-one purposeful

teaching is an effective way to assess progress and provide directed instruction” (Vaughn,

et al, 2007, p 17).

   The history of the federal laws for the education of learners who are exceptional dates

back to the 1960s. But the laws have been more effective for inclusion with the passing

of IDEA (1990, 1997, 2004), and No Child Left Behind Act (2001). These two acts have

served to assure that the general education classroom is inclusive of students with special

needs and offers them the best education in the least restrictive environment. “Each State

must establish procedures to assure that, to the maximum extent appropriate, children

with disabilities... are educated with children who are not disabled” [20 U.S.C.

1412(a)(5)(A) (IDEA „04)].

   IDEA requires an individualized inquiry into the educational needs of each disabled

student in determining the possible range of aids and supports needed by the student such

as modifications to the regular class curriculum, assistance of an itinerant teacher with

special education training, special education training for the regular teacher, use of

computer-assisted devices, provision of note-takers, and use of a resource room.

   One of the ways in which these acts have been prevalent to the inclusive classroom is

through the Response for Intervention (RTI) program. Because it is not a special

education process but a general education initiative that fits within the school

improvement efforts, general education teachers can be discreet about students‟ particular

needs without minimizing their Individual Education Plans (IEP) requirements. Thirteen-

year-old Allie‟s dyslexia is an invisible disability that allows her to feel comfortable in an

inclusive classroom. However, she feels embarrassed and uncomfortable when the

teacher is not discreet about the accommodations and modifications designed in her IEP

(students with special needs, July 28, 2008). Allie‟s mother, Lynn, is also very emphatic

about teacher discretion, particularly because Allie is very sociable and outgoing, but

“she hurts inside” when she is labeled in the classroom. She suggests that teachers

incorporate lessons like everyone else without singling students with special needs.

“Great teachers plan alternate assessments, do not clump readings, offer after-school help

and group sessions, and grade based on effort” (classroom inclusion, August 4, 2008).

   Guardian communication, involvement and cooperation in classroom inclusion are as

valuable as services provided and school assistance. Again, the communication with and

from the school is pivotal for the success of inclusion with combined services. Guardians

have rights under the laws, which they should be fully aware of through the school but

also by educating themselves about their children‟s needs, disabilities, and rights. But

they also have vital insight into their children‟s needs and personalities that schools do

not have with the same depth. By getting involved in their children‟s IEPs and team

meetings, guardians offer a unique perspective laced with emotional subjectivity needed

in a setting that can be too professional and in doing so may miss the emotional/social

needs of the students.

   Ayla‟s mother, Carol, repeatedly stated the importance of having a caring support

system for Ayla that included administrators, general and special education teachers, and

everyone involved in Ayla‟s education. She emphasized keeping an open dialogue with

parents, students and administrators (classroom inclusion, August 4, 2008). Liz, the

guardian of multiple children with physical and mental disabilities, was resolute about

pre-service teachers getting properly trained to deal with special needs students, attend

professional developments, be part of IEPs, “and get comfortable with it” (classroom

inclusion, August 4, 2008). By sharing their views, schools become more aware of

students‟ needs, guardian concerns, and then are better able to collaborate with both.

   Legalities, indifferences, and misconceptions or labels should not drown out the

voices of students with special needs. When possible, these students should actively be

part of their Pupil Placement Teams, know what is written on their IEPs, and be actively

involved in communicating their needs with teachers and guardians. Ayla openly

expressed to her mother how she liked to feel special and have special treatment when

she was in the general education classroom (classroom inclusion, August 4, 2008). Allie

informed her mother about her feelings about a teacher‟s lack of discretion, and Lynn

quickly told the principal (classroom inclusion, August 4, 2008). By becoming involved

and motivated in their education, students learn to advocate for themselves and develop a

support system that includes parents and schools rather than feel inhibited by their


    In order for general classroom inclusion with combined services to succeed, there

needs to be a collaborative interdependence between school personnel, guardians and

students, and an acknowledgment of the services provided to meet student needs. There

must be an ongoing dialogue that fosters support and cooperation, involvement and

motivation, and professional development of the services that can offer the best education

to the maximum extent appropriate in the least restrictive environment. RTI grants such

services with discretion to all students. It “relies on – and ultimately enhances – core

principles of effective education: high-quality instruction, evidence-based individualized

student support, consistent evaluation of outcomes, ongoing professional development,

and collaboration among staff members and with families” (Canter, Klotz & Cowan,



Canter, A., Klotz, M. B., & Cowan, K. (2008, February). Response to intervention: the
       future for secondary schools. Principal Leadership, 12-15.

Individual Disabilities Education Act (2004) 20 U.S.C. 1412(a)(5)(A)

Moore, V. M. (2007). Teaching students who are exceptional, diverse, and at risk in the
       general education classroom (4th ed.). Paterson, NJ: Allyn & Bacon.

Unpublished Interview: Allie (July 28, 2008)
Unpublished Interview: Lynn (August 4, 2008)
Unpublished Interview: Carol (August 4, 2008)
Unpublished Interview: Liz (August 4, 2008)

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