One of the major topics in education today is inclusion of students with special needs. But what is inclusion? Inclusion is "to have or regard or treat as part of a whole, the act of including or the state of being included" (Montgomery, 1994). The area of concern is how included should these students be and when should students be included. Some educators say that inclusion should be full, but others state that it should be partial. These questions cannot be answered, and the debate will always be here, but the overall expectations of inclusive education are academics and social interaction between students in the school (Montgomery, 1994). As a future educator, how can I strive to achieve these expectations in my classroom especially if it is my first year? What accomplishments are made by having an inclusive classroom?
First, to fully understand what inclusion is and the purpose behind this type of education, one needs to look at the history of inclusion. One of the main pieces of legislation that was passed was the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which were amendments to the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EAHCA) in 1975. In 1997 amendments were added to IDEA; these amendments were that every child should first be provided an education in a regular classroom setting, and schools must try to make the special needs students included in the regular class setting. If a severe student cannot function in the regular classroom and every measure has been made to work with that child, then other measures can be deemed appropriate. Another amendment was that teachers are an integral part in developing the child's Individual Education Plan (IEP), and also the amendment describes aids and supplementary services for the student (Department of Education, 1999). With the new amendments to IDEA, educators are not sure where to stand on this issue. Some educators feel that inclusion should not be implemented because there are problems with this, but special needs students have rights as a regular child and should be taught in the same manner with some modifications made (Salisbury, 1997). But what are these modifications and what should I do for the child?
One of the expectations of inclusion is academics. As a future teacher, what can I do for the betterment of the child? According to Michael F. Giangreco's article "What Do I Do Now? A Teacher's Guide to Including Students with Disabilities," there are many steps that a teacher should take to prepare for an inclusive student. One of the first steps mentioned is to get help from colleagues. This is probably the most important step because most of the time other colleagues have dealt with this, and they can aid you in your first endeavor. Colleagues will be able to tell a person what has worked and what has not worked, what is good and bad, which materials to use, and which not to use. Welcoming the student in the classroom is another point made. According to Mr. Giangreco, this is a simple task to do, but many teachers do not do this, and it can be detrimental to the students involved. He points out an excellent thought: "Your students look to you as their primary adult model during the school day" (Giangreco, 1996, p.56). If your students are looking at you as their adult model, you must set a good model to the students so they will mimic your actions.
An important aspect for any teacher is to make sure everyone belongs to the classroom community. According to Mr. Giangreco, many students with special needs are placed in a regular classroom but aside from the rest of the students. In addition to this, the special needs student also receives different activities and has different schedules than the rest of the class. Mr. Giangreco states this happens in many situations, but teachers need to place the student with special needs in the class, not aside, and they should be able to do the same activity as the others. …