In the educational field, “inclusion” means that children with and without identified disabilities are taught together in the same classroom to the greatest extent possible. Services such as speech, physical therapy, or assistive technology are provided in that classroom rather than requiring children to leave for pull-out services, thereby missing instruction. Sometimes classroom teachers provide accommodations or modifications on their own; other times, they co-teach with specialists so that all children can benefit.
Research has cited numerous benefits for inclusion. Students without disabilities benefit by learning tolerance, support for others, an acceptance of differences, and even gaining positive academic benefits. Students with disabilities in inclusive settings improve their behavior and academics, social skills and self-esteem.
In an inclusive school, students are taught that people may look, learn or act differently. This kind of instruction enables children to have patience when the person in front of them in line is moving more slowly than they do, or to not freak out if someone in public is having a tantrum, or flapping his hands, or has only one arm.
The Center for Teaching and Learning at CSUN is dedicated to studying best practices in education that positively impact all children. We work with national innovators on topics such as motivation, instructional intelligence, and neurodevelopment. Our faculty study gender and sexuality differences, the use of technology in classrooms, how to bridge cultural differences, and how to equip future teachers for the inclusive classroom. We collaborate with the Teaching, Learning, Counseling Consortium on campus that provides services to families in assessment, literacy, and counseling, as well as with the Family Focus Empowerment Center. Our focus is not on segregating students, but rather on collaborating to learn ways to help all students succeed in school and in life.
Do I personally believe in inclusion? I do. So much so that my nondisabled 1st grade son is in a fully inclusive classroom. He counts as his friends a child whose parents are deaf, a child who is highly gifted, a child with autism, a child who recently moved from Ethiopia, a child who communicates solely through an assistive technology device, and many children who have no labels whatsoever. Does he know the difference? No. They are simply his friends.