What you can do to promote inclusion for your child:
- Encourage your child to participate in activities where she can meet children her same age with different abilities.
- Search the Internet for activities or organizations that your child may want to join.
- Help your child develop friendships with classmates or other neighborhood children.
- Share your goals and expectations for your child.
- Know the rights you and your child have to an inclusive education.
When looking for activities, consider your child’s interests. The local school, library, and recreation or community centers are good places to check out. You also may want to consider national organizations that encourage diversity, such as 4-H Clubs or Girl Scouts of America.
Two community Web sites with numerous resources are The Family Village and Kids Together: Information for Children and Adults with Disabilities.
Set up opportunities for your child to be with children he likes or children who show an interest in him. Teach your child how to make and keep friends. For other recommendations, visit the article Let’s Play Together: Fostering Friendships Between Children with and Without Disabilities.
Before you meet with the school and decide upon your child’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP), meet with his teachers, therapists and others to discuss your goals, expectations, and future placement preferences for him.
For more information on your rights, visit the article Family Rights: The Educational Rights of Children with Disabilities.
What schools can do to promote successful inclusive education:
- Consider inclusive education first.
- Support each child’s learning.
Special education services can be provided in many different settings. Schools are required to consider the general education class before considering any other setting for your child to receive special education services.
Teachers support learning in inclusive classrooms in three ways. First, they teach so that students with differing abilities and learning styles can understand and participate. Second, they modify assignments when they are too difficult. Third, they model respect and encourage friendships.
What families can do when they meet resistance in accessing inclusive education for their children:
- Get and share information.
- Enlist the help of others.
- Become your child’s advocate.
Some schools do not support a family’s desire for inclusion, because they are used to providing special education services to students in separate classes. Or they may not understand how to make inclusion work for all children. Visit general education classes and separate classes for students with disabilities. Carefully explain to your child’s teachers, principal or IEP team why you believe inclusive education would be best for your child. Share information with your child’s school about the benefits of inclusive education.
Sometimes it is helpful to bring in an expert or advocate. This person will make sure that your preferences about your child’s placement are heard. This person can also help explain the benefits of inclusive education and how to make it happen in your child’s school. You may find someone to help by contacting advocacy organizations, special education parent groups in your child’s school, and local colleges with teacher training programs.
It takes time and energy to make inclusion happen in a school that is resistant to change. Stay focused on what you believe is best for your child. Listen carefully to the arguments against your child’s inclusion in a general education class and use what you learn to advocate for change. For example, if you are told that your child is not ready for the general education class, ask what supports could be provided to help make her successful in the class.