Inclusivity is something that we’ve all become much more aware of over the last decade, and something that we’re striving to achieve in our everyday lives, as best we can. There’s no place where inclusivity is more important than the classroom, because that’s where the next generations are being educated about the world. Inclusivity is especially important for young children and teens, because it’s at this early age where their characters and their views about society and the world are being formed. But what exactly is an inclusive classroom, and how can teachers and educators make sure that every child feels included, respected, and accepted?
What exactly is an inclusive classroom?
An inclusive classroom is basically a classroom where children of all backgrounds, ethnicities, and genders learn together, a classroom where they all feel accepted and equal. This includes children with learning disorders or personality disorders, like ADHD, autism, or dyslexia, for instance. While parents have the option of enlisting their child in a classroom or school that caters exclusively to special-needs or special education pupils, having them join a general, inclusive classroom instead might benefit them even more.
An inclusive classroom is open to students that are mixed; this means both general education students and those with special needs or learning disabilities. It’s been proven that this type of mixed classroom has plenty of benefits, for all the students. In fact, many schools nowadays are required to have inclusive classrooms, partly because of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The law says that children who require special education services benefit greatly from learning in the least restrictive environment (LRE), which means they benefit from sharing a classroom and lessons with students who don’t need these special services. But what are some of the benefits of inclusive classrooms? Let’s go over the main ones.
The benefits of inclusive classrooms
Inclusive classrooms boast numerous benefits, not just for students with learning disabilities or special needs, but for general education students, as well. A lot of times, parents become concerned if their child is diagnosed with a learning disability like dyslexia or ADHD, and they might feel like the best option would be to enroll their child into a school that caters specifically to their needs. However, inclusive classrooms, which mix general education children and special needs children, might be the superior option, and here is why.
Benefits of inclusive classrooms for students with learning disabilities
Children with special needs or learning disabilities can greatly benefit from joining an inclusive classroom. They get to mingle and interact with all types of students, and with children who are different than they are, and this, in turn, will make them feel like they’re ‘normal,’ just like everyone else. These students tend to absent classes less often, and they feel more accepted and integrated with their fellow peers. By learning side by side with general education students, they learn that being different is not a bad thing, and that everyone is unique in their own way, and this gives them a confidence boost and allows them to be themselves, regardless of the company. Studies have shown that children with learning disabilities or special needs who are part of an inclusive classroom and receive differentiated instruction tend to be motivated by their peers, and they get great results in math and science, as well as arts. They also have access to the general curriculum and to a wider range of school resources, which can help them tremendously as they advance in their academic lives.
By interacting with general education children and students with different learning disabilities, they strengthen their communication skills, and learn to be accepting and empathetic towards other people. These skills will help them grow into open-minded individuals and will carry into their academic and professional careers, as well.
Benefits of inclusive classrooms for general education students
General education students, by which we mean students that don’t have any learning disabilities or require special education, can also greatly benefit from learning in an inclusive classroom. By interacting with children with different backgrounds, disabilities, or needs, they learn to be tolerant and accepting of people who are perhaps different than they are. They get to develop empathy and communication skills, and ultimately develop a caring and inclusive character. These general education students can learn to embrace differences and build friendships with children that they might not have interacted with otherwise.
What’s it like to be part of an inclusive classroom?
Being a student in an inclusive classroom is not that different from being in a general education classroom. The difference is that the classroom includes both general education students and students with special needs or learning disabilities. Another difference lies in the way in which classes and lessons are conducted.
Most inclusive classrooms rely on co-teaching, which means that lessons are led by two teachers: a general education teacher, and a teacher specialized in working with students with special needs. In some cases, a special needs educator participates in all classes, making sure that the needs of the students with learning disabilities are met at all times. In other cases, special education teachers come into the classroom a few times a day to check in with students and teachers and see if there are any issues to be resolved. In traditional classrooms, children undertake speech therapy or reading therapy classes separately, but in inclusive classrooms, providers come into the classroom and integrate these services without making students feel like they’re different.
The way that lessons are taught is also slightly different in an inclusive classroom, in the sense that lessons become more interactive to capture the attention of all students. After all, everyone learns differently, and inclusive classroom teachers recognize the importance of this aspect. In an inclusive classroom, no child feels excluded; teachers can use the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework and integrate various methods into their teaching, to ensure that all the students are on the same page. They can also use multisensory teaching methods, integrating technology and tools that help children process information more effectively by using all of their senses.
For instance, teachers can make the best of technology like iPads and tablets, or use visual aids and manipulatives such as colored cubes, interactive whiteboards, and even 3D imagery. Integrating these different elements into the teaching process helps children process information and grasp concepts in an effective and efficient manner.
Is your child struggling with learning disabilities or having difficulties in school? Or are you a teacher trying to figure out the best teaching methods and techniques for the students in your class? Reach out to us at Da Vinci Collaborative and let’s work together to ensure that all students get the best possible education.