What is inclusion?
Inclusion is the practice of providing access to opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise be excluded. Inclusive education is described as a learning environment that promotes full personal and academic development of all learners irrespective of race, class, color, gender, disability, language or learning style.
Did you know that children in inclusive classrooms show superior academic achievement than that of students who are in self-contained classrooms? Students in inclusive classrooms have more interactions with and receive more support from peers with disabilities than students who are not in inclusive classrooms.
In an inclusive program, all students, regardless of any challenges they may have, are placed in age-appropriate classes to receive the same instruction, interventions, and support that enable them to succeed. Inclusion is important to all children, to give a sense of belonging, positive social relationships and friendships, and real learning experiences.
We are teaching our children inclusion starting at a very young age. We teach that all children are equal regardless of any differences they may have. If there is a child in the classroom that has a disability, that child is still included in every aspect of the learning and classroom activities as well as the classroom expectations. More times than not, other children will often step in and help the child who may have difficulty and they don’t look at the child any differently because they are taught that they are all equal.
How can we promote inclusion?
When children are exposed to inclusion from an early age, they are most likely to approach children with disabilities with acceptance.
Parents can help teach their children about disabilities by embracing their curiosity when a situation arises. For example, if you see someone who has a prosthetic leg, explain to your child that the prosthetic leg has the same purpose as their legs and helps the other person to walk. Always be honest and direct when answering a child’s question and make sure to not make assumptions. If you are unsure of an answer, simply tell your child that you don’t know – it could be a learning experience for both of you!
Keep any explanations positive and lead by example in curious situations. Doing so will show your child that disabilities and differences are not something to be afraid of, that it’s ok to be different, and it’s okay to ask questions. Let the children ask the questions and sometimes the person with the disability will be happy to answer!
This goes along with teaching your child about inclusion. Showing that you have compassion and teaching your child compassion is a good starting place. Being a role model and using each moment as a teachable moment will help children learn about inclusion. Reinforce that everyone is different and being different is what makes everyone so special!
Written by: Donna Smith (Lead Teacher of Red Room in Munroe Falls)