Sunday, March 6, 2011

Inclusion and Access to the General Education Curriculum

Being the parent of a child with special needs ... you never stop learning or advocating. I understand that you continue to learn and advocate for any child, but doing so for a child with special needs takes it to another level. It can definitely be exhausting, but you have got to be on top of your game.

I attended a seminar yesterday put on by Ricki Sabia, Associate Director of NDSS National Policy Center. It was very good ... and I am transferring the powerpoint slides here because I know there are lots of mommas (and poppas) out there interested in what she had to say. There is a lot of information ... make sure you take time to get through it all and focus on UDL.

Academic Benefits of Inclusion
  • Students earned higher grades and higher scores on standarized tests.
  • Greater progress in reading and math when compared to students educated in resource setttings.
  • Higher high school completion rates and college attendance.
  • And for students without disabilities: Achievement increased in at least one academic area. In other words, students without disabilities do benefit from having students with disabilities in their classroom.

Social Benefits of Inclusion for students with disabilities
  • Students with disabilities in general education classes had more friends.
  • Teacher ratings showed improved social skills.
  • Students do not demonstrate high levels of loneliness.

Social Benefits of Inclusion for students without disabilities
  • Improved self concept.
  • Reduced fear of human differences.
  • Increased tolerance.
  • Improved social emotional growth.
  • Improved personal conduct.
  • Positive outcomes for high school students who had interaction with students with disabilities.

Behavioral Benefits of Inclusion
  • Higher level of engagement in school activities.
  • Sharp decline in discipline referrals after shift to inclusive practices for students with and without disabilities.

Benefits of Inclusion for post school outcomes
  • Increased employment rate and job skill level.
  • More time in general education programs resulted in better postsecondary outcomes (click here for PSE opportunities for students with ID).

Each state's Department of Education should have an inclusion philosophy laid out for teachers. Ricki Sabia from NDSS recommends printing this off and presenting it in your IEP meeting ... if needed ... to show them (in times of resistance) their own philosophy that they should be adhering to.

Virginia DOE New Teacher PPT
Benefits of Effective Inclusive Practices for teachers
  • Increases opportunities to develop professional learning communities through growth in knowledge sharing and skill development.
  • Increases confidence in teaching students with diverse academic and social needs.
  • Creates opportunities for better understanding of students with disabilities.
  • Enhances knowledge about effective teaching and learning strategies.
  • Increases level of content knowledge.
  • Promotes understanding of the IEP process, content and implementation.
  • Provides support systems among teachers.
  • Provides opportunities to problem solve with another professional and receive additional support within the classroom.

What is not inclusion?
  • Mainstreaming only for non-academics. In other words, if a child is in a regular classroom for only encore, physical education, recess, lunch ... that is not inclusion.
  • An "inclusion class" without natural proportions of disabled students and peers.
  • A seat in the general ed classroom without supports.
  • Academic inclusion without social inclusion.
  • An island within the room for the student and paraeducator.
Elements of Inclusion: Where Students Learn
  • All students with disabilities are members of their neighborhood school.
  • All students are assigned to age appropriate grades in heterogeneous classrooms.
  • Student grouping are based on the individual interests and skills of all students, and not on disability labels.

Supports Students Receive
  • Related services (i.e. speech therapy) are delivered in regular classroom settings and other school environments, when appropriate.
  • Supports and services are provided in the classroom and coordinated with ongoing instruction.
  • The provision of supports for students (instructional, curricular, behavioral, etc) is viewed as a school wide need.

Instructional Planning and Implementation
  • Effective teaching strategies and differentiated instruction are used to meet the needs of every child.
  • The general education instruction and curriculum is used as the base for accommodations and modifications to meet IEP goals.
  • The instructional materials used for typical students are modified for assignments, homework and tests.
*Ricki Sabia from NDSS discussed setting broad academic goals in the IEP and then list under the "support" section that the child will get a list of modified curricular goals. The teacher must then set modified goals within the classroom for each academic area ... and these goals are what the child would work on, be tested on and be graded on.

Social Relationships
  • Planned and structured activities are in place to promote social inclusion and friendship development.
  • Students without disabilities are supported in welcoming students who have disabilities.
*Ricki Sabia from NDSS discussed the importance of putting a social network into place for your child. Enrolling them in extracurricular activities (i.e. dance, tball, cub scouts), encouraging them to manage sport teams if not at a skill level to play, etc. Facilitating this type of social interaction will be key in the acceptance of your child by his/her peers. 

Ricki talked about her son and how hard they worked to put these social relationships into place ... and was mainstreamed and happy. She also talked about a friend's child who was also mainstreamed, yet this boy did not have the social connections in place. He begged his parents to not mainstream him and to let him stay in the special education classroom, because he was not accepted by his peers in the student body. Just really makes you think about just how important the social relationships are in your child's education.

Staff Actions
  • Collaboration between classroom teachers and special educator to implement IEP objectives in general ed lessons.
  • Modifications/accommodations discussed by both general and special ed teachers.
  • Supports planned to enable meaningful participation.
  • School administrator(s) provide a vision and leadership and welcome all students into their school.

Who is included?
*LRE (Least restrictive environment): Congress states a strong preference for regular class.
  • To the maximum extent appropriate, districts must ensure that children with disabilities are educated with children who are not disabled.
  • Removal from the regular educational environment occurs only if the nature of severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes* with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily. This is important.
  • The need for curricular modifications is not a reason to remove child from age appropriate regular classrooms. In other words, saying that a child cannot keep up with what his/her peers are learning in a regular classroom is not a reason to remove the child from the classroom. The curriculum must be modified and appropriate goals set ... within the classroom.
*Regular classes is not defined under federal law.

Hartmann 4th Circuit LRE Test (1997)
"Mainstreaming" is not required when ...
  • A student with a disability would not receive educational benefit.
  • Any marginal benefit from mainstreaming is significantly outweighed by benefits which feasibly can only be obtained in a separate setting.
  • The student is a disruptive force in the classroom. This is exactly why behavior is so important in having your child mainstreamed. Start early in trying to teach your child what it means to sit and complete a task, as directed. One of the biggest problems parents have is in a regular classroom is when their child will not go with the flow of the classroom (i.e. sit in their seat, sit in circle time, etc).

Where are they included?
The child's placement ...
  • is determined at least annually.
  • is based on the child's IEP.
  • is as close as possible to the child's home.
*Unless the IEP of a child with a disability requires some other arrangement, the child is educated in the school that he or she would attend if not disabled.

When are they included?
In addition to being included in the classroom ...
  • Districts must ensure that each child with a disability participates with children who are not disabled in non-academic and extracurricular services and activities to the maximum extent appropriate to the needs of that child.
  • Supplementary aides and services must be provided if needed to participate (i.e. peer support). I think this is important and is likely something we will need to advocate for.

How are they meaningfully included?
  • Social inclusion
  • Appropriate supplementary aides and services
  • Differentiated instruction
  • Modifications, accommodations and adaptations
  • Universal Design for Learning

 Social Inclusion Tips
  • Start inclusion as early as possible in the grade the child will stay in.
  • Staff training and IEP goal for social inclusion.
  • Disability awareness for students.
  • Info for classmates parents.
  • A few transitional friends in class every year.
  • Full participation in class, school activities and community activities.

Differentiated Instruction
  • Tiered products/demonstrations (different levels of difficulty built-in).
  • Varied modes of expression/demonstration.
  • Group projects.
  • Graduated rubics (levels of expectations).
  • Multiple intelligences.
  • Independent study.
  • Contracts/negotiated criteria.

  • Changes how a student gets information and demonstrates learning.
  • Does not fundamentally change instructional level, content (standards) or performance criteria.
*Example: Less info on a page, calculator (if basic math is not being assessed).

Universal Design
Consider the needs of the broadest possible range of users from the beginning. ~Architect, Ron Mace
(materials here and here)

*Universal Design originated in architecture. An easy way to explain it is this ... when an architect designs a building, they design it to accommodate every person that may use it ... those on foot, those in a wheelchair, etc. The same premise should be used in the classroom.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

(click here for more)
  • Design curriculum, materials, teaching methods and assessments to be accessible for all students (disabled and non-disabled, included or not).
  • Provide multiple and flexible means for acquiring and expressing knowledge and engagement.
  • Requires less adaptations, modifications and accommodations - less being "different".

UDL for Curriculum and Instructional Objectives
Goal: To provide optimal challenge for all students.
  • Describe objectives in ways that students can understand them.
  • Set objectives that every student can reach with appropriate tools and alternative paths to success.
  • Set objectives that motivate students to learn (i.e. breakdown long term goals nto reachable objectives/benchmarks for all students).

UDL for Instructional Materials
Goal: To ensure equal access for all students.
  • Provide a range of formats and media at different levels of complexity.
  • Provide different materials for students to express what they know.
  • Provide materials that keep students engaged.
  • If possible, use customizable media and materials.

UDL for Teaching Methods
Goal: To provide effective instruction for all students.
  • Provide multiple examples.
  • Highlight critical features.
  • Provide multiple media and formats.
  • Explain background/context.
  • Provide positive behavioral supports.

UDL for Assessments
Goal: To accurately measure progress for all students.
  • Assessments should adjust to many individual differences.
  • Assessments should focus the questions on exactly what teachers, districts and states are trying to find out (i.e. knowledge, skill or emotional development).

UDL Through the IEP: Goals and Materials
  • Selection of curriculum goals and objectives per marking period.
  • Homework and projects aligned to selected objectives.
  • Alternate formats of textbooks, novels and supplemental materials to support instructional units.
  • Use of computer for written assignments and for accessing digital text and other software.
  • Preview of instructional materials.

UDL Through the IEP: Teaching Methods and Assessments
  • Class discussion questions in yes/no or multiple choice format.
  • Teacher training on technology used by the child.
  • Teacher made assessments based on curriculum objectives, which are designed to eliminate barriers caused by the disability.
  • Digital assessments.

UDL Task Force (federal level)
  • Spearheaded by NDSS in 2006.
  • Coalition of 41 national groups representing general education, special education and higher education interests.
  • Promotes UDL in Federal policy and legislation and disseminates information on UDL.

Maryland Bill Template
(click here)
  • Provides a narrative of steps taken by the Maryland Down syndrome Advocacy Coalition as its members worked on passing a UDL bill.
  • Gives examples of hurdles and process faced in any legislative advocacy.
  • Provides specific information and documents that can be used by other affiliates to move UDL forward in their state.

Key Steps in Template
  • Develop a one page summary about UDL and why it is important.
  • Get the word out through a website, listservs, brochure, webinars, etc.
  • Form a statewide stakeholder coalition representing special, general and higher education interests.
  • Enlist help of your state department of education.
  • Find a legislative champion - work on drafting bill.
  • Educate legislators and get co-sponsors.
  • Ask for local school board support.
  • Testing at hearings.
  • Compromise.



  1. Great post. So thorough, thanks so much Bethany!

  2. So are you looking at full inclusion Bethany? This is great info...I've relied heavily on the words of IDEA and the research on the benefits of inclusion to get my point across to our district people...the law speaks for itself, I think...thanks for putting this together in one nice little package for all of having all of the key points in one place. :)

  3. You better make this post an easy link on your blog!

  4. This is just plain AWESOME...thank you! Please put a special tab link on this on your's just AWESOME!

  5. Kristin, yes ma'am! BTW, we can talk more when I'm out there, but I am already putting the motions into place by informing our school what my expectations are for Payton. We had a meeting over the summer (few mos ago) ... me, the ass't principal and a lady from the administrative spec ed dept to lay it all out. Oh, and the school's spec ed teacher was there, but she even said she doesn't feel Payton is appropriate for her classroom. We shall see, I know we will have a fight ... no kid has ever been mainstreamed in our home school ... the program they have at this school is the MOCI, which is the moderately cognitively impaired kids. There is a MICI (mildly ...) program at a neighboring school, but I want her at our HOME school. If they need to pull her out for instructional time at all, they can pull her to the LD room. I think I should start drinking now. LOL!

  6. So glad you put this together cohesively. I have been working with the MD Coalition for Inclusive Education with other parents in a sort of grass-roots effort to push MD forward and I wish every other parent had the opportunities I have had to learn what they have taught me! This is a GREAT overview.

    It's all so frustrating, but knowledge is power and invigorating!

  7. Great post! I agree with keeping the kids at their home school. That's definitely what we will push for when John Michael is ready for Kindergarten. Good luck!

  8. Morgan is 100% mainstreamed with a full time aide. We've been so fortunate to live in a district that agrees that it's the best option for her and also has the funding to make it a reality. I could go on and on about all of the benefits we have personally witnessed. It may not be for every child but it should be an option for every child!

  9. Bethany, THANK YOU so very much for taking the time to post all this great info. Do you know if she is taking this presentation on the road or will she be at the next annual convention? I'm sure it would be helpful to hear about it firsthand in an interactive session. The info here is awesome, though. Thanks again for taking the time to share it with us!


  10. Great info - thanks for posting!

  11. Did they say if the kids should or should not be "labeled" with certain names so they can be in an inclusive program for core classes?

  12. Lore, YES ... another speaker we heard discussed this and I will get into that as soon as I have time to type that up. :)

  13. Interesting, especially being in the midst of this right I can see why the school ditrict was approaching Ruby as a "behavior" problem, because I've made my position on true mainstreaming clear and this was just another attempt to keep her out of the classroom. They seem to know the law too I guess. :( Good information Bethany, thanks for posting.

    Renee B

  14. First time to your blog and I love this post. I am in the middle of figuring out which school district is best in Salt Lake City for my son as we look for our first home here. I need to learn so much about IEP's and the laws etc. Thank you VERY MUCH for posting all of this material. I need to come back and re-read it!

  15. Catherine ... do you know Heather Seal (she posted above)? She lives there and it sounds like she has had a good experience in her school. :)

  16. Great post with tons of information. Thank you! Inclusion is so important!!! My daughter, Elle, is in the same school and grade as Heather Seal's daughter. They are in different classes but Elle says she talks to Morgan at recess and that everyone loves Morgan! Elle's best friend in her classroom is deaf and has a full time aide too. Now her whole class has learned cueing. I love that Elle is learning that kids are just kids, no matter what their abilities or disabilities are. I completely agree that there are incredible benefits for children with and without disabilities in an inclusive learning environment. I am so grateful that we live in a time when people are starting to realize this!

  17. I don't comment here much but I just wanted to say that as a person without disabilties, I benefited from spending time in inclusive classrooms. I'm in my 20s, and one of my friends in kindergarten was the first student with Down Syndrome to be mainstreamed in our district. We are still friends and keep in contact by facebook, even though I've moved away from our hometown.

  18. I am still a ways away but how do I know what "program" our school uses? What would I need to ask to find out? I have been told we are in a great district for kiddos with different abilities. I know kids at our school are "mainstreamed" and have aides but there is also a "resource" room. When you say full inclusion what does that mean exactly? Can you explain what your home school would do if Peyton was there now? Thanks. Trying to get and stay ahead of the game KWIM....

  19. Super Blog Post, I will be sharing it :)

  20. For those of you with more questions, please feel free to join the inclusion group I just created on facebook ... lots of great info in there.!/home.php?sk=group_131744783563993

  21. There is absolutely no room with regard to anxiety for
    that not so process to have the approval practice convenient
    instant loans
    Extra manageable monthly payments, better interest levels,
    earlier mentioned produce litigation method to recover the actual unpaid volume
    Feel free to surf my web blog uk instant loans

  22. I needeԁ to thank you for thiѕ good read!! I definitеly enϳoyed every bit
    of it. I haνe got you bookmarked to looκ at new stuff you post…
    Feel free to visit my web site - payday loans Uk