Inclusion, I am told, “It’s something that I learned about in school, but have never seen in practice.”
Inclusion is an educational approach grounded in the belief that ALL students, regardless of labels, should be members of the general education community. Back in the late 1990’s, when I was taking classes for my Special Education Credential, we were taught that inclusion is best practice and universally designed lessons ensure all students are able to access the curriculum. This made sense to me having grown up with a sister who has Dyslexia, was in a resource class her whole academic career, and who came home crying every day after school. Then, in high school, she was “reverse mainstreamed” and put in a life skills program. I didn’t think her self-esteem could drop any further. While she now holds a MEd and is successful, those days left an indelible mark.
My most vivid memory of graduate school is when a panel of adults with a variety of disabilities came to our university class. The one thing they had in common was just wanting to be like everyone else. When asked what they wanted us to know as new teachers – they all said that they wish they had the chance to be with their peers in school – not to be segregated.
Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities states, “Parties to this Convention recognize the equal right of all persons with disabilities to live in the community, with choices equal to others, and shall take effective and appropriate measures to facilitate full enjoyment by persons with disabilities of this right and their full inclusion and participation in the community.”
Inclusion unites our learning community, creates high expectations for all, provides support to all teachers, tailors teaching for all learners, and makes differences less different. We are all ONE!
Inclusion is a simple human rights issue. It’s also the law. Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) is the requirement in federal law that students with disabilities receive their education, to the maximum extent appropriate, with non-disabled peers and that special education students are not removed from regular classes unless, even with supplemental aids and services, education in regular classes cannot be achieved satisfactorily. [20 United States Code (U.S.C.) Sec. 1412(a)(5)(A); 34 Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.) Sec. 300.114.]
I would like to urge all educators to consider transitioning towards inclusive classrooms. It is so rewarding to see the changes that occur when ALL students are included.