Inclusion — A way of Life
An inclusive education environment provides all children the opportunity to learn together in the same age-appropriate classroom, irrespective of their ability or disability. It means that all children are provided educational equity thus ensuring that the needs of individuals irrespective of their socio-economic backgrounds, disabilities and ethnicities are provided with educational tools, resources, and support that cater to their educational needs. The underlining principles of inclusion revolves around creating an optimum learning environment for every child. Recognising each child as an individual is key to inclusion.
The ABC of inclusive education are:
A – All children learn in the same classroom irrespective of their ability.
B – Belief that all children are equal and deserve equitable opportunities in education
C – Classrooms that are inclusive promote greater learning and foster sensitivity and empathy among children.
Inclusive learning can be made more impactful by incorporating the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL). This method of teaching promotes the removal of obstructions in the physical and social world to allow students of differing abilities equal opportunities to engage with the learning material. Educators first must try to understand the needs, abilities, interests, backgrounds, prior learning, and objectives of each student. Educators can then provide customized instructions to allow students to learn in a way that meets their needs. This allows educators to be creative in their endeavors and explore different means of engaging the children on the same topic.
Benefits of Inclusive Education
For special children
1) Instead of pulling special children away from the classroom, in an inclusive set up, special education teachers work hand in hand with regular classroom teachers. This is beneficial for all children as it gives them additional resources and support and different methodologies. This results in greater academic gain for students
2) Inclusive set up provides children with disabilities more opportunities to interact with other children thus improving their communication and social skills
3) When children with disability mingle with regular students in an inclusive setting they pick up appropriate behavioural patterns more quickly thus reducing the incidents of disruptive behavior.
For other children and teachers
1) An inclusive set up allows teachers to challenge themselves and explore their own creativity as they have to come up with different strategies to engage their students.
2) The presence of the special educator in the classroom along with the regular teacher provides additional support to the teacher and they can together come up with new methodologies and material
3) It promotes empathy and sensitivity in children as neurotypical children learn to engage with children with disability on a day to day basis. They learn to respect others and their rights
4) All children benefit from different creative teaching methodologies
Drawback of Inclusion
1) Some experts believe that inclusive approach tends to overlook the fact that some students with significant special needs require controlled environment with individual attention and instruction
2) Similarly, a child with severe inattention problems may not be able to focus in a classroom with 20 or 30 other active students
3) Some believe that inclusion is an elusive effort to education students with special needs and that special schools are more cost effective.
These drawbacks can be overcome by understanding the true meaning of inclusion and implementing it in its real sense. Inclusive education is not only about finding different ways of teaching to actively involve all children but also about providing opportunities to develop friendships, relationships and mutual respect between all children, and between children and their educators. The framework should have the aim to integrate all children positively within our ever-growing and diverse society. By inculcating values and skills needed to be supportive and inclusive of their peers, children are more likely to be tolerant and respectful in their growing up years and as adults who then foster these values in their children
By Pravda Nair, Special Educator
Sunderji Early Intervention Centre