The Benefits of Inclusion in General Education Classrooms

As was pointed out in an earlier entry on this blog, some parents often worry about what are known as inclusion classrooms: classrooms that include both children with and without special needs under the same teacher and, as is often the case, one or two special education instructors or assistant teachers in the same learning environment. Parents have often worried about children with special needs becoming a disturbance to their own children’s ability to learn or even simply be taught depending on how great a disruption such children could potentially be. And while this might have been a valid point in years past, there are some who would argue even more strongly in favor of inclusion nowadays.

In an article featured on institute4learning.com, Dr. Thomas Armstrong outlined a presentation he had made regarding school systems and their tendency (or lack thereof) to integrate classrooms to include children with special needs into general education environments. Dr. Armstrong highlighted some benefits of special needs children that often went overlooked as secondary in classroom settings. For example, while schools and classrooms are often seen as a place where children are educated primarily in fields regarding the likes of math, science and history, Dr. Armstrong noted the social impact of incorporating children that often fell to the background of parental concerns. He argued that while children with special needs were often seen as disruptive or held back the pace of learning in a general education classroom, their strengths allowed other children to flourish in a number of ways.

Dr. Armstrong argued for what he coined, “neurodiversity.” That is, the varying degrees of thinking or feeling that integrating children into the same classroom setting could expose them to and thus allow them to grown as human beings. He mentions in his presentation that children with disabilities are often primarily seen with the stigma brought on by their disabilities while their strengths often fade from our set. But, upon closer inspection and interaction, we can find that those who live with autism spectrum disorder often are highly technical and skilled with computers and other electronic devices. Children with Down syndrome, while hindered by developmental or intellectual disabilities, often come off as more charismatic and charming, lending themselves well to human interaction and are often described as be warm toward many people. Children with dyslexia were noted as being more talented with regard to spatial abilities and those with ADHD were seen as more creative thinkers. The diversity of such different viewpoints and skill sets, even despite their disabilities, allow them to excel in other ways and allow their peers to excel alongside them.

Armstrong also noted that children with imposed limitations rarely ever reach high, noting that seclusion from general education classrooms can often lead to ridicule and self-condemnation whereas including them in a general education setting where expectations are loftier allows them to reach higher than other expectations might have challenged them to do. And while it isn’t necessarily to say that all children will excel to the same or even similar levels, inclusion in an environment where goals are similar often gives children with special needs more drive to succeed than isolation from such an environment.

Dr. Armstrong also argued that including children into general education classrooms not only benefits the children with and without special needs, but also the educational system as a whole. Having such diversity present in one location challenges the status quo of the modern educational programs and sets new expectations for teachers and administration to alter their ways of thinking as far as their approach of educating children as a whole is concerned. Challenging teachers to think outside the box in their methods of educating not only broadens the scope of teaching, but also simultaneously benefits the children who can now be engaged to learn in a greater number of ways.

These were but a few of the points touched upon within Dr. Armstrong’s present regarding inclusion of children with special needs, and I urge you to review it at your own leisure.