Why Inclusion In Classrooms Benefits ALL Kids

How does inclusion help kids with special needs? As their parents, we know that; what may be less clear to other parents is how inclusion benefits their kids. Sean Adelman, an orthopedic surgeon in Seattle and advocate for exceptional kids, is here to spread the word. He and his wife, Susan, have three children, including one with Down syndrome. Adelman wrote the Sam’s Top Secret Journal series to show the similarities the lead character, who has Down syndrome, shares with other kids—and to explore how differently-abled people benefit society. (More than 25 percent of proceeds from the books benefit inclusion non-profits and/or charities for wounded soldiers.) This is what he had to say:

How does inclusion benefit everyone? Traditional thinking is that parents want inclusion for their special education children because that’s who it is supposed to benefit. As the father of a beautiful 16-year-old-girl with Down syndrome, Devon, I have learned that it’s not a “one way street” as has been traditionally espoused.

I would love to say that I used my deductive reasoning as a surgeon to figure this out. The truth is that I have learned this from my wife and all three of my children. Seeing how this has affected our lives it has occurred to me that there are at least five reasons why inclusion is important for everyone in the classroom. Here they are, in no particular order:

Role modeling. We should start with the obvious (not because of the title, either). Inclusion is good for the special education students. We thought inclusion was a good idea when Devon was little, mainly because we wanted her to go to school with the neighborhood kids. As it turned out, that was a good idea. Learning how to get along with her friends in a school setting is part of growing up. If you are not interacting with your friends and peers you don’t learn how to act/behave around others. The world doesn’t come as a contained classroom.

Diversity. Our society is diverse and children who learn not to be afraid of our differences are more accepting and more tolerant. Differences are not just in our appearance but also our abilities. There is a mutual benefit to integration; children exposed to the many faces of humanity grow up to be better, more well-adjusted  adults.

Friendship. When we bring different kids together they can learn to become true peers. If the only knowledge regular kids have of the special education children is the “hi” in the hallway they don’t learn what kids of different abilities are really like. Our daughter likes the same music, enjoys the same sports, even likes the same boys (although as daddy I occasionally have some issues with that). They are more alike then different. Friendships are crucial to our social development and these are teachable moments that are very difficult to accomplish later in life.

Parents. Many times as parents we feel this anxiety that what our children our experiencing is unique to their abilities and/or differences. This anxiety can lead to decisions based on the fear that “we have to do something.” When our children interact in an inclusive setting we get a different perspective. An included parent is allowed to see that what our kids our experiencing is in fact what the other kids are going through. Knowing what is “normal” can help us to deal with the daily stress that affects all parents. For example, if we never learned that the hormonal imbalances that make all teenagers crazy  was a normal developmental stage we would think our children needed a neurosurgeon and an MRI of their brain. That is not to say that parents of children with special needs don’t  have unique needs, it is to say that by being in an inclusive environment it’s easier to see what’s “normal.”

Education. Although teaching to a classroom with many different levels can be difficult, we have found through the years that our teachers have been very appreciative. That is to say, all of the places where we have been in an inclusive setting the extra person who assists with the special education student brings another assistant to the classroom. It also can provide an environment where children can learn intangible lessons about assisting other students. Teaching someone else is an amazing way to gain a better understanding of the material. We often find that the techniques we learn to help children with learning disabilities can be very useful to the other children in the classroom.

The common theme through all of this is that our world is a diverse world. We can’t play chess if the only player we know is the Rook. If we learn all of the players, embrace their strengths, and learn their weakness we can become something amazing. Playing, teaching, parenting, and helping without regard to who we are, what we look like or how we speak is what we should all strive for.

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  1. by Tooner

    On November 6, 2012 at 4:02 pm

    I totally agree with that. I think it reduces bullying we we’re in inclusive settings. Even if kids are at a different level. They’re still in the classroom environment. I think it’s really really important to let them see people in wheelchairs, etc. because people that are adults now, often stare at me and I think that’s because they haven’t been exposed to it.

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    On July 15, 2013 at 11:55 am

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  6. [...] To learn more about the benefits of inclusive classrooms, read Mr. Adelman’s article: http://www.parents.com/blogs/to-the-max/2012/11/06/to-the-max/why-inclusion-in-classrooms-benefits-a…. [...]

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  8. [...] Inclusion is good for all kids, but what it often translates to is kids with special needs being in class part of the time and in isolated “special needs” classes the rest of the time. [...]