An inclusive education is one that includes the students with special needs along with the children without special needs and all their family into the curriculum. In an inclusive education setting all the children and their families are treated equally and given all the same opportunities and experiences (http://www.pbs.org). All of the students are given a sense of belonging. Inclusive education standards like I.D.E.A (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) and No Child Left Behind have forced schools to include children with special needs into their everyday curriculum. Children with special needs include children with disabilities to children who a language barrier and everything in between. An inclusive education finds a way to include all the special needs students into the curriculum to participate with all the children without the special needs. Inclusive education is about change (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inclusive_school). There is not one way to present a curriculum that is inclusive. Inclusive education changes with different students. Students who have similar special needs may need a completely different curriculum for them to learn inclusively and successfully. Inclusive education includes the teachers and parents as well. Inclusive schools provide inclusive education so that all the students, parents and teachers can learn together (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inclusive_school). An inclusive education leaves education open for all students to participate in learning.
The benefits of an inclusive education benefit the teachers, parents and the students. One benefit of an inclusive education for teachers is that they always have the challenge of changing their curriculum to benefit all the students each year. This gives the teachers room to grow and learn with the students. Inclusive education benefits the parents by giving their children with special needs the normal life they wish for them (http://www.pbs.org). An inclusive education can benefit the children in lots of different ways. The students with and without special needs can learn from each other in an inclusive setting. The students with and without special needs can develop a positive connotation with each other (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inclusive_school). This positive connotation can minimize bullying. The students become educated about the differences students have which allows the students to appreciate diversity and minimize prejudices. Students often develop friendships in an inclusive setting (http://www.pbs.org). It has been argued that everyone benefits from being in an inclusive setting because it provides “continuum of supports” for the children with and without special needs (The City University of New York, 1996, p. 3). The students have support coming from all angles of the classroom instead of just one specialist. Inclusive education follows the standards given to schools regarding students with special needs. Inclusive education abides the law that requires special needs students be given an education in the “least restricting environment” while still catering to the needs of children without special needs (The City University of New York, 1996, p. 3). Finally inclusive education gives all the children regardless of special needs or not the same opportunities and experiences. Advocates of inclusive education claim that “inclusive education is not a location” but rather it is a “model where the child with disabilities is a full member of an age appropriate general education class in the same way s/he would be were the child not disabled” (The City University of New York, 1996, p. 3). Advocates of inclusive education far exceed the critics yet there are still arguments over inclusive education that exists.
Although most agree that inclusive education is beneficial to students, parent, and teachers some people have criticized inclusive education. Some believe that inclusive education is not the best economical way to spend the schools budget (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inclusive_school). These people believe there are cheaper ways to spend the school’s budget and be just as effective if not more effective than inclusion. People also feel that alternatives such as special education and ESL classes are a better alternative to inclusive education because it gives the students personal attention “to meet their unique needs” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inclusive_school). According to an inclusion discussion held by The City University of New York (1996) critics argue that special needs students need individual attention from specialists that an inclusive education cannot offer. The students are all taught in the same way not addressing individual needs. The education takes a “one size fits all approach” (The City University of New York, 1996). Some people argue that inclusive education holds back the children without the special needs (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inclusive_school). This is because the children without the special needs are forced to learn at the speed of the special needs students. Inclusive education only has benefits for the children with special needs, but there are no positive outcomes for the children without special needs (The City University of New York, 1996). Another criticism in The City University of New York’s (1996) discussion is that teachers are not prepared to teach in an inclusive education classroom. The teachers will not know how to come up with curriculum to address the needs of all the students. This may even be impossible to do. Finally critics argue that inclusive education is advocated by “a few ideologically driven professionals and some emotional parents of students with disabilities” (The City University of New York, 1996, p. 4). These people feel that inclusive education is not possible and is almost more dreamlike than reality. They argue that the only people who care about inclusive education is the people who have children with special needs and they do not care about the best interest in the whole classroom.
A good inclusive education is one that allows all the students to participate in all aspects of classroom equally or close to equal. In an article written by June Downing and Kathryn Peckham-Hardin (2007) there was a study done to determine what parents, teachers and students consider to be a good inclusive education for children with disabilities. Parents often mentioned the word “exposure” when they were asked what makes a good inclusive education (Downing & Peckham-Hardin, 2007, p. 22). The parents agree that their children with disabilities should not be confined or hidden from anything. A good inclusive education allows children with disabilities to be with children without disabilities. According to Downing and Peckham-Hardin’s (2007) inclusive education article nearly all children, parents and teachers agree that it is important that students with disabilities be exposed to children without disabilities. It was very important for the children with disabilities to be exposed to children without disabilities because peer influence was so strong at the elementary school level. The children with disabilities learned new things from the children without disabilities. The parents in particular felt that peer role models teach their children with disabilities more than any teacher can teach them (Downing & Peckham-Hardin, 2007). A good inclusive education consists of many different things but is apparent the most important aspect is that the students with disabilities are in fact included and not excluded in any way.
One way teachers can make their classrooms inclusive is by incorporating bibliotherapy. An article by Anita Iaquinta and Shellie Hipsky (2006) on strategies for teachers to incorporate inclusive suggests bibliotherapy as a way to learn and teach about student’s special needs. Bibliotherapy is a way to determine children’s special needs by allowing them to relate to a character in a book with similar special needs (Iaquinta & Hipsky, 2006). Bibliotherapy allows the teacher to find out what the special needs of the students are. Some special needs of students are not always apparent. Bibliotherapy allows the teacher to see and understand the special needs of students and plan their curriculum accordingly. Bibliotherapy can be an effective way to “enhance understanding, self-esteem, and adjustment to a developmental crisis” (Iaquinta & Hipsky, 2006, p. 209). A class discussion about the character in the book that has the special needs allows the other students in the class to learn about the special needs. The students without special needs will then become more understanding to the children with special needs by becoming educated about their needs. The class discussion about children with special needs often give the students with special needs a new perspective on their problems and they can sometimes come up with a solution to accommodate to their special needs (Iaquinta & Hipsky, 2006).
Inclusion is important in our classrooms today because there are acts and laws we as teachers must follow. Most believe we can give the children the best education by giving them the most equal environment to learn in. Most believe that inclusive education is the best way to give our students an equal learning environment while a few critics believe there are better ways. I personally believe that inclusive education is an effective way to teach our students because it gives them a whole new learning experience and opens them up to new things. It does seem like becoming an inclusive education teacher would be a complicated task to complete. I think the inclusive education classroom that fails is due to a lack in the inclusion instruction. There should be more classes that future and present teachers have to take that teach them how to be efficient inclusion teachers. Regardless what our education system makes our teachers do it is important to understand the meaning behind inclusive education. Inclusive education is meant to give all students equal opportunities and experiences. Inclusion is about treating everyone equal and eliminating prejudices. Inclusion has a truly good intention, but how inclusion is taught determines whether or not it is effective in the classroom.
Downing, Author June E., & Peckham-Hardin, Kathryn D. (2007). Inclusive education: what makes it a good education for students with moderate to severe disabilities?. Research and Practice for Person with Severe Disabilities. 32, 16-30. Retrieved November 10, 2007, from EPSCOhost.
Iaquinta, A. & Hipsky, S. (December 2006). Practical Bibliotherapy Strategies for the Inclusive Elementary Classroom. Early Childhood Education Journal. 34(3), 209-213. Retrieved November 10, 2007, from EPSCOhost.
Soodak, L. & Erwin, E. (2007, November 18). Inclusive Communities. PBS Parents. Retrieved November 10, 2007, from http://www.pbs.org/parents/inclusivecom munities/inclusive_education.html
The City University of New York. (1996). An Inclusion Talkback: Critics' Concerns and Advocates' Responses. National Center on Educational Restructing and Inclusion. 3(1), 3-6. Retrieved November 11, 2007, from http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICDocs/data/er icdocs2sql/content_storage_01/0000019b/8 0/14/92/53.pdf Eric.
Wikipedia. (2007, November 18). Inclusive School. Retrieved November 10, 2007, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inclusive_ school