As special educators, our primary mission is to provide an exemplary, world class education to our students with exceptionalities. This includes adapting the curriculum, modifying assignments, and providing accommodations to ensure our students have access to the general curriculum and an equitable chance of succeeding. One component of that charge is to increase the inclusion of our students as much as possible. Students with exceptionalities often feel different from their peers who are typical and will isolate themselves as a result. One way to combat this is to increase the acceptance of all students by all students and to expose students with exceptionalities to as many opportunities of inclusion as possible. For some that may be eating in the cafeteria with their peers or moving through the halls during transition, so they feel visible and like everyone else.
Field trips are a great opportunity for inclusion. They create a neutral environment for students to engage with and learn from one another. Here is a scenario―a student with typical development may be paired with a student with a disability. During the field trip, the student with typical development can learn the content, but also acceptance and awareness of others. Meanwhile the student with a disability can access the content presented on the trip, practice social skills, and learn more about their peers. Another strategy I enjoy implementing is providing classroom jobs for students in a co-taught setting. Students with exceptionalities may congregate together in class and struggle to appropriately and positively interact with their peers who are typical. By giving them jobs, students can mingle with their peers, build new relationships as well as self-esteem, increase attention in class, and improve academic outcomes. For students with low incidence or high needs disabilities, greeting students in the morning as they enter the cafeteria for breakfast or having lunch in the cafeteria with their peers can be a great way to integrate them into the general school body.
By including our students with exceptionalities into the general student body as much as possible, we ensure that we are living our mission of inclusion and providing an education that expands beyond academics and teaches social/emotional learning, self-esteem, and empathy to both our students with exceptionalities and their peers who are typical. Inclusion is vital to the success of students with exceptionalities.
What are some ways you include your students into the general education setting? Share with us on Twitter @CECmembership.
Richard Williams is a special education teacher, who teaches students with emotional/behavioral disorders. Williams has worked in general education schools in self-contained EBD classrooms and two special education centers for students with severe EBD. He has a master’s in special education from Clark Atlanta University and is currently working towards a doctorate in special education from The George Washington University with a focus on students with EBD and transition plans and preparations for post-secondary life. In additions to his studies, he is working on two projects, one on the neurological and continuities ability for adolescents to effectively participate in their transition plans, and the quality of life outcomes for students with EBD in post-secondary school. An active CEC member, Williams has been a Reality 101 blogger as well as a member of the Yes I Can and Diversity Committees. Outside of the classroom, he is a plant-based lifestyle and animal rights advocate and runs a blog of book reviews and current events. In his spare time, he loves to read and go on hikes with his dog.