For inclusion to be successful, we need to follow the principles described by Uditsky (1993) and Salend (2001). In addition, the first of Payne’s (2008) nine strategies, Build Relationships of Respect, appeared to be most important for students at this school.
While speaking to students over the years, the most important and common request they had was that teachers respect them as individuals. Often, students with special education needs are treated as objects of charity and not seen as persons with feelings (Coleridge, 1993). Many of these students with behavior problems report that they purposely disrespect some teachers because these teachers are disrespectful to them. My strategy is consistently showing respect to these students. Eventually, they respond positively by being respectful to me. The next step is to speak to them and insist that they show respect whenever they speak to anyone in my presence.
In my experience, giving respect is the most important form of behavior modification. When there is mutual respect, students are willing to be part of the inclusion process.
Inclusion in any school should begin as a voluntary process. Students who are to be included should be given the option to start when they feel they are ready. In addition, not all students who want to be included can be included.
Students with autism are among those who are difficult to include. These students are usually more functional where there are fewer distractions. The more students in a classroom, the more likely it is that the class will have some chatter. This noise can affect the functioning of some students with autism. Some of these students can react violently when their routines, including their trends of thought, are disrupted.
Some students have severe emotional problems that are displayed in ways that can also be very disruptive to the learning process. Guidelines should be set in place and students should have a valid behavior modification or improvement plan before attempting inclusion. If these students want to be included, then part of their behavior plan agreements should stipulate removal when there is inappropriate, disruptive behavior for more than 90 seconds.
Not all students with special education needs can be placed in inclusion classes. All students have a right to a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment. Therefore, students should not be subject to disruptions that lead to fear or a lessening of their learning time.
Equality and fairness
Students can be treated fairly without being treated equally. It will be unfair to a wheelchair user to be placed in a 100-meter race with sprinters, giving them all the same starting and finishing points and the same starting time. Similarly, if a student has a learning disability, it will be unfair to grade that student with the same criteria as another student who is consistently at the top of the class. Students need to be given support in line with the difficulty they experience.
In part 6, the expectations of students with special needs and those without special needs will be taken into consideration.
Coleridge, P. (1993). Disability, liberation and development. Oxford: Oxfam
Payne, R. (2008). Nine powerful practices. Educational Leadership, 65(7), 48-52.
Salend, J. (2001). Creating inclusive classrooms: Effective and reflective classrooms. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
Uditsky, B. (1993). From integration to inclusion. In R. Slee (Ed.), Is there a desk with my name on it? The politics of integration (pp. 79-92). London: The Falmer Press.