An inclusive classroom allows children with special needs to learn with typically developing peers of their own age in the same classroom. This model is becoming more common as schools try to mainstream their classrooms. Although an inclusive classroom requires many adaptations to accommodate the needs of its children as well as a skilled staff, with the right foundation and support, children of all abilities can learn together.
Identify the abilities and needs of each special-needs student. Include all individuals who are familiar with the student in the assessment. This can include the therapist, former teacher and parents. By getting a picture of the child, you can implement a teaching approach that is appropriate to the child's needs and learning style.
Assist in developing a well-designed Individual Educational Plan (IEP) for the special-needs student. As a teacher, you have the ability to share the child's strengths and weakness not only with the school board but also with the other therapist. An IEP details the needs of the child, determines the goals for the child, identifies the resources that will assist in implementing those goals and specifies adaptations for the special-needs child to function in the classroom.
Build a dream team of educators in the classroom. Teaching special-needs children in an inclusive classroom is most effective when you have a general education teacher, special education teacher and teacher assistants in the classroom at all times, working together to achieve a common goal.
Establish a relationship with the family. Parents know their children best and can provide valuable information about the child as well as be the educational support outside of the classroom. Create a notebook for each special-needs child as a form of communication for teachers and parents to share thoughts and ideas.
Implement an adaptive environment. Teaching special-needs children in an inclusion classroom requires the necessary equipment as well as adaptive forms of communication so that everyone can participate in classroom activities. An adaptive environment can include special chairs, sensory equipment, voice boxes, special visuals for teaching and communicating and specialized scissors, just to name a few.
Create a sense of community. Assigning jobs to each student and letting each child have a voice during circle time are ways to make special-needs children feel that they are part of the community. This will boost self-esteem as they are able participate in the same activities as their typical-developing classmates.
Allow therapies to take place in the classroom. For those special-needs children who require therapy, having some of their therapy sessions in the classroom reinforces the inclusion concept since they do not have to be taken out of the classroom. This is also an excellent way for the therapists and teachers to coordinate efforts in teaching the child, allowing for carryover from therapy to the classroom.
Teach in small groups. Creating centers with different activities and lessons allows for the special-needs child to interact with his peers as well as get the attention that is needed to complete the task.
Children taught in an inclusive classroom learn to respect each other, no matter their differences.