Making It Work
"Successful inclusive classrooms accommodate children with a wide range of intellectual and emotional developments, learning styles, and capabilities," said Kean University special education professor Art Shapiro. Today, in part 2 of "Special Education Inclusion: Making It Work," Education World writer Wesley Sharpe, Ed.D., examines ways of organizing inclusive classes and the demands inclusion places on teachers. Included: Three models of successful inclusion!
"Six-year-old Joseph Ford seemed an unlikely revolutionary. This exceptionally bright, cute little boy sought only to enter the first grade of the public magnet school attended by his older sisters. But he lived in Chicago, where school officials had very different plans for him," wrote Joy Rogers in "The Inclusion Revolution," a bulletin from the Phi Delta Kappa Center for Evaluation, Development, and Research.
"They were adamant that Joe should attend a segregated school for children who, like him, had physical disabilities. Children with such severe physical disabilities as Joe simply did not go to the city's outstanding magnet schools," said Rogers.
Joe's family finally prevailed, and he was allowed to attend school with his sisters.
There appear to be fewer battles like Joe's than there were several years ago. Still, "Too often, professionals begin with a restrictive setting and require that a child 'prove' he or she can handle a more inclusive setting," Chelie Nelson, project assistant for the Circle of Inclusion Project at the University of Kansas told Education World.
"In our opinion, a child should begin in an inclusive setting and be provided with the supports necessary to succeed in that environment," said Nelson.
A COLLABORATIVE PROJECT
The Circle of Inclusion Project consists of three collaborative projects between the University of Kansas and local school districts. All three projects implement programs of inclusive early-childhood special instruction.
For instance, the Inclusion Demonstration Project at White Elementary School, in Wichita, Kansas, serves about 300 four- to seven-year-old children in two half-day pre-kindergarten classes, six all-day kindergarten classes, and six first-grade classrooms. Children enrolled in special education attend regular education classrooms with their peers. Each inclusive classroom consists of approximately 15 regular education students and four or five students enrolled in special education.
In addition, "University students receive training on our campus and often come back to student teach," White Elementary School Principal Cindy Shaffer told Education World.
"The benefits are phenomenal for all children served. Special-needs children have the opportunity to see other children with skills they can model as well as share their own positive skills with others. Regular education children learn that everyone has strengths of some type and everyone has challenges. Patience and tolerance are more likely to be learned at this early age when all children are treated fairly and with care and compassion," Shaffer told Education World.
The Celentano School in New Haven, Connecticut, reverses the inclusion process by integrating regular education students into the school's special needs program. The goal of this New Haven, Connecticut, public day school, "is to give students a variety of experiences to enhance their lives and enable them to develop and become contributing members of society," said Principal Natalie Burke. "We are continually modifying our programs to build on our students' strengths. We believe that creativity and positive approaches to learning are essential."
Co-teaching teams are being developed, and the Celentano staff is working to increase inclusion activities for K-3 classes. Support personnel in the classrooms include a school psychologist, a speech pathologist, and occupational and physical therapists.
Special-needs students may begin in the preschool program and continue through the various levels until they graduate at age 21. A transition program helps those students adjust to high school, and a work-experience program is available for older special-needs students.
Dora Durland doesn't believe the argument that inclusion doesn't work with severely disabled older children. "My son Clark is a Down's syndrome child," Durland told Education World. "He is 16 years old and in the ninth grade. He talks in one- to four-word sentences."
At the age of ten, Clark was placed in a neighborhood school instead of riding a bus across town to his special education class. He thrived in an inclusive program, attending the Jenks Public Schools Freshman Academy, where he attended LD classes for English, math, history, and science. (A peer tutor helped him with math and science.) Clark took music and physical education as electives, enjoyed sports, and played golf in the Special Olympics.
That inclusive setting helped Clark immensely, added Dorlund. "He doesn't see himself as different. He has been included in birthday parties with non-disabled peers, and attended school dances.
"Clark has wonderful behavior and social skills; he has been able to go everywhere and do everything we can get him involved in," Durland told Education World.
Teaching disabled children in an inclusive setting is a demanding task. "Inclusion, when implemented properly with supports in place, will change how teachers function in their classes," said Kean University professor of special education Art Shapiro.
"For teachers, it means becoming familiar with varied techniques, methods, and approaches to learning and a wide variety of disabling conditions. Teachers will have to reorganize their classrooms to accommodate a greater range of intellectual and emotional developments, learning styles, and capabilities," said Shapiro, author of Everybody Belongs: Changing Negative Attitudes Toward Classmates With Disabilities.