Inclusion: Best practices
Inclusive education is neither just for some children nor is it something that a child must earn or prepare for. Every child has the right to receive the support, that he or she needs, to fulfil their academic goals. General education teachers and special education teachers alike are recognizing the benefits of cultivating learning environments that are both equitable and nurturing. Inclusive practice involves an amalgamation of positive attitudes with creative teaching methods that ensure all children can participate and develop. This approach would only succeed if it is based on the framework of “Every Child Matters”. This approach to learning aims to cultivate learning environments that are equitable and nurturing to every student.
But what does implementing inclusion in the truest sense of the word involve? It involves primarily changing the status quo by removing curriculum barriers and presenting education in ways that would be engaging and interesting to all learners. Implementing inclusive strategies in classroom can be a time consuming process to start with but it is important to remember that the success of these strategies lie in how well they have been included within the DNA of the school. An environment where everyone is aligned and where the strategies are already in place is more likely to make the child feel good and comfortable and thus succeed in her/his endeavours.
Following are some of the steps that would ensure that every student walks into an environment which makes the child feel truly comfortable and safe:
Make every part of the school accessible to all students
The classroom and other areas should be accessible to all children including the wheelchair users. This should hold even if the structure of the classroom or other areas keep changing throughout the year based on topics, event or seating plans.
Be prepared to adapt
Not all lessons will go as planned. Every child has slightly different needs so when you introduce a new teaching strategy it is important to remember that you may have to either fine tune it or change it completely depending on the needs of your students.
Keep alternate reading aids handy
Audiobooks and other reading aids should be kept handy so that children with dyslexia feel included and are able to participate. Ensure that you check with the student to understand their preference of reading aids.
Use Sign Language
Teacher may need to use signs for common classroom commands and encourage all children to use them to make students who are non-verbal and those with hearing impairments feel included.
When introducing protocols, rewards schemes and punishments, it is important to be consistent, so that all children feel like they are being treated the same.
The classroom should be designed by taking into account the behavioural, emotional and social needs of each child. For example some children require clear boundaries for specific activities, while others may need a lot of space to move around. This can particularly prevent children with autism and other sensory needs from feeling overwhelmed. Similarly introducing specific sensory corners can go a long way to make children feel comfortable in the classroom.
Use of visual aids
Using a lot of visual aids for teaching and explaining protocols will help their understanding. Similarly all sign boards should also have pictorial depictions for all children to understand them
Despite all these strategies, inclusion will only succeed if we have principals, teachers, parents and others work together to determine the most effective ways of providing a quality education in an inclusive environment. After all, inclusive education reflects the expectation that all our children should be appreciated and accepted throughout life and also ensuring that they are equally appreciative and accepting of others. This can happen only if all stakeholders accept and invest in the concept of inclusion.
By Pravda Nair
Special Educator, Sunderji Early Intervention Centre