Special Education and Inclusion

An Inclusive Classroom Has Room for Everyone. Silicon Valley Math Intitiative

The inclusive classroom means that all students have the right to feel safe, supported and included at school and in the regular classroom as much as possible. There is ongoing debate about placing students completely in the regular classroom. Views from both parents and educators can create a great deal of anxiety and passion. However, most students today are placed in agreement with both parents and educators.

Often, the placement will be the regular classroom as much as possible with some cases where alternatives are selected.


The Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), amended version 2004, does not actually list the word inclusion. The law actually requires that children with disabilities be educated in the "least restrictive environment appropriate” to meet their “unique needs.” The "least restrictive environment" typically means placement in the regular education classroom which typically means 'Inclusion' when ever possible. IDEA also recognizes that it is not always possible or beneficial for some students.

Here are some best practices to ensure inclusion is successful:

  • An Overview of the Inclusive Classroom
    In the inclusive classroom, it is important that the teacher fully understands the learning, social and physical needs of the students. A teacher has a special role to play when trying to maximize learning potential for students with special needs. It becomes the educator's role to create a welcoming environment and provide students with ongoing opportunities to learn, share, and engage in all classroom activities. Determining what alternate assessment needs to occur is another area where the educator needs to make changes to specifically support the student in the regular classroom.
  • Preparing Students for the Inclusive Classroom
    This checklist helps both parent and teacher prepare the student for the inclusional classroom setting. The child needs to know what to expect, equally important is to ensure that there are no surprises.
  • The Inclusional Classroom Checklist
  • I am a big fan of checklists. This checklist provides educators with guidance about maximizing success for students in an inclusional setting. There are 12 key items that will guide the establishment of a successful inclusional setting. Each item points to some form of action which will be key in maximizing sucess for the student with special needs. You'll find that the checklist includes strategies for academic, social and physical success.
  • Using Peer Support in the Inclusive Classroom
    Peer support is one of the most essential ingredients in the inclusive classroom setting. Peer support helps to build rapport and a sense of belonging and community among students. Students with special needs often become the targets for inappropriate behavioral conduct from other students, however, by education the whole class and having members of the class become peer supporters, the problem of teasing is often minimized.
  • How To Reach and Teach all Students in the Inclusive Classroom
    It always helps to have great resources to help out. Without a doubt, this resource is my favorite! The pages of my book are dog-eared, marked up and highlighted. I have come across and read many books and articles about inclusion but this book is the practical one that my colleagues all agree on as needing at their fingertips.

Some food for thought regarding some of the challenges of the full inclusional model include:

  • How can you ensure that the student relationsips in your class are not superfical?
  • How will you provide intense one to one instruction? Time for this is often greatly reduced.
  • How will you ensure that equal rights are in place for all students?
  • Sometimes you'll be faced with research that suggests the inclusional classroom may not be as successful based on the specific needs of the student.
  • Many parents want both inclusion and alternative settings. Sometimes the full inclusional model just won't support all the needs.

Although inclusion is the preferred approach, it is recognized that for a number of students, it is not only challenging but sometimes controversial. If you are a special education teacher, there is no doubt that you have discovered some of the challenges of inclusion.