As a teacher the term “inclusion” meant that a special needs child would be in your room. This could be with or without an assistant. Sometimes this worked out well and sometimes it was just a forced situation that didn’t work at all. 

For the child , this can be stressful or if done correctly it can be meaningful. There are so many factors to consider – if the child has support , a friendly environment, the demands of the situation, noise level/energy, structure, etc.

In a few circumstances, it is best to work with highly sensitive children alone or very small groups until they are ready .Forcing them into a loud and chaotic environment will likely trigger many behavioral problems.

Most children do benefit from inclusion however. The teacher, therapist and parent must be very careful to set the child up for success. The other students watch to see how the teacher especially accepts , tolerates , or rejects the “special child”. I have seen examples of the child being treated like a celebrity and almost overly celebrated. Sometimes the child is allowed but pretty much ignored. Sometimes the child is outright rejected and the teacher reacts by making war with the child and parents. 

The best cases I have seen is where there is good communication between all involved . The child needs support, the teacher needs support and if the special Ed teacher and therapist work together it can be done. There must be a willingness to really listen and prioritize the needs of the child. The classroom teacher is responsible for many and yet sometimes it is that person that ends up creating and implementing the extra support plan. 

As a teacher, I found that the parents were my best source of support and ideas. However, I know a couple of special Ed resource teachers that are as good as any BCBA I know with writing good objectives, taking data and creating a tailored behavior plan. 

As a parent you are not there to implement anything. The best you can do is find a school that has responsible, qualified, and kind teachers. Create a positive and open communication with your child’s special Ed teacher and praise them every chance you get. Find out what they actually do for your child and let them see how you want success for everyone.

If you start getting those annoying tattle tale like emails of what your child has done wrong every day at recess, PE, or the cafeteria, call a meeting. This is not what inclusion should be . It is a sign that the child may need to have more structure in place or maybe avoid those noisy unstructured activities until they are ready. 

Throwing a child into an environment and expecting them to naturally adapt is not a good idea. The sink or swim mentality may work if you came in as a swimmer but most of our kids need to start with floaties, a coach and a lifeguard. We must protect our children from drowning. We must teach them to swim and we may have to start in the kiddie pool. The best case scenario is that they learn without fear and enjoy swimming. Eventually we all get thrown in but hopefully we can teach our kids how to navigate the pool with successful progression. You can’t get there by never getting in the water either. It is a big pool out there – lets do our best to prepare our kids !

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