Are there kids for whom inclusive education works best? Does it depend on a child's age, developmental level, or grade?

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Manya Whitaker, PhD, Developmental/Educational Psychologist; Assistant Professor of Education; Educational Consultant

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Inclusive education is a term used to describe classrooms that integrate students with different academic and social needs. In most cases this means students with Individual Education Plans (IEPs) and 504 plans are in classrooms with students who don't have such accommodations.

There is no specific type of student who does better in an inclusive classroom. What matters are a few things: 1) The needs of the specific student. Some learning needs require special attention in terms of a para professional, occupational therapy, counseling, speech-language pathology, etc. In those cases, a student would likely be pulled-out for those services. But if a child has severe environmental structuring needs that can't be met in a traditional classroom, they would do better in a SPED classroom.

2) The quality of the teacher. It takes a very strong and experienced teacher to differentiate instruction to meet individual student needs. Teachers are overwhelmed in traditional classrooms so adding in students with special learning needs can make it even more difficult. I would suggest looking for veteran teachers who have license endorsements in SPED and/or CLD.

Finally, in general, inclusive education can be more difficult when the child is older. This is because other students are old enough to know when their peers are different. In middle school in particular this can cause a lot of bullying. Younger children are more likely to be oblivious so this is less of a concern.

My suggestion is to prioritize your child's needs and find a classroom and school that can provide exactly what they need. Good luck!

Lisa Friedman, Inclusive Educator, Religious School Director, writer & speaker

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I would love to answer this question with a resounding NO! When done right, inclusion just is - natural, comfortable and logical. This is not to say without effort, but when the time and energy and commitment is there, everyone should be able to be successful.

That said, this is not always the case. It has less to do with the child's age, grade or developmental level than it does with the community's commitment, resources and the various staff involved. inclusion is at its best when it is a team effort and everyone buys in completely.

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