What does inclusion in the classroom look like?
That’s a question Nicole Eredics thinks about a lot. Eredics is an educator, inclusion specialist and the author of Inclusion in Action: Practical Strategies to Modify Your Curriculum. (She’s also the creator and host of The Inclusive Class podcast and website). Her book is the third selection in the Understood Summer Book Club.
When it comes to inclusion, Eredics knows that not all schools are equipped to provide completely inclusive classrooms. But she doesn’t see this as a reason to not start moving toward inclusion.
“As the saying goes, small steps can lead to big changes,” Eredics told Understood. “It is the quality of inclusion, however, that is most important.”
She wants parents to know that having appropriate supports for social-emotional and intellectual development is key. When schools take the time to create a solid support system, it creates an inclusive environment that can be scaled over time.
We emailed with Eredics about her book and how it can help parents of kids with learning and thinking differences. We talked about how to build relationships with teachers and champion inclusive classrooms. Here’s some of what she had to say.
Not everyone has the same definition of inclusion. Can you explain what inclusion means to you?
To me, inclusion means that students with disabilities are educated alongside students without disabilities. They’re given the same educational opportunities as their typically developing peers.
Services and supports are brought to the student, curriculum is modified, and are made to make learning accessible. Most importantly, students with disabilities are seen as members of the classroom who are just as included, valued, and respected as their peers.
What should parents be looking for to know if what they’re seeing is an inclusive classroom?
Great question! There are some subtle and not-so-subtle signs that a child is in a truly inclusive class. Firstly, the child is placed in a general education classroom with same-age, typically developing peers. The child’s books and school supplies are kept in the general education classroom and not in an alternate room. And because the child is in the general education classroom for most of the day, the teacher will know their abilities, interests and friend groups.
The child also attends class events such as field trips, and is able to recall class lessons, activities and special days. Finally, one more important sign that a child is in an inclusive class is that they can name or recognize classmates!
How can parents and teachers work together to build inclusive classrooms?
The most successful inclusive classrooms are created when parents and teachers work together for the benefit of the students. For example, teachers and parents can:
- Share information. Both teachers and parents should share information about the student that will have a direct influence on the student’s progress and success in school.
- Communicate regularly. Set up the best method to communicate with one another to share updates and information about the student’s progress.
- Share resources. Resources like articles, strategies or websites can be useful in both the home and school setting.
- Prepare for meetings. Both teachers and parents should be as prepared as possible for meetings. Arriving on time, knowing the goals of the meeting, and staying respectful of one another’s opinion can create a collaborative working environment.
- Offer feedback. If needed, parents and teachers can provide constructive feedback. They can indicate what works best for the student and what hasn’t.
- Lead by example. Demonstrating respect for one another, using inclusive language, and looking for inclusive solutions can show others how to include one another.
Do you have suggestions for how parents can use your book?
Parents can use Inclusion in Action in a variety of ways. For example,
- Use it to gain a solid understanding of what inclusion is and what it looks like from the community to the classroom.
- Bring it to school meetings (such as IEP meetings) to provide ideas and strategies for developing your child’s inclusive education program.
- Share it with the classroom teacher (and other relevant educators) who will learn new strategies for adapting your child’s classwork and providing greater access to the general education curriculum.
- Use the book to learn how to modify your child’s work at home or in a therapeutic environment.
Parents can also apply strategies for inclusion, which are mentioned in the book, within the community. For example, churches, clubs and organizations can also make appropriate accommodations to support inclusion.
Read the book Inclusion in Action: Practical Strategies to Modify Your Curriculum. Then, August 11–13, join the Understood Community for a Weekend Wisdom discussion with Eredics about making inclusion work for your child. (Feel free to join even if you haven’t read or finished the book!) Then continue the conversation about the book with other parents in the Understood Community.
Any opinions, views, information and other content contained in blogs on Understood.org are the sole responsibility of the writer of the blog, and do not necessarily reflect the views, values, opinions or beliefs of, and are not endorsed by, Understood.
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Amanda Morin is the director of thought leadership at Understood and author of “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education.” She worked as a classroom teacher and early intervention specialist for more than a decade.