Inclusion & Families
by August Kummerfeldt, M.Ed, Inclusion Specialist, Early Learning Coalition of Orange County
Benefits of Inclusion
Inclusion benefits not only children with special needs and their families, but all children as well. Inclusion supports the right that all children, regardless of diverse abilities, can participate in a learning environment. Inclusive environments for children with disabilities can have a positive impact on cognitive and social development (Broderick & Blewitt, 2010). Research shows that children learn about other unique strengths and abilities when engaging in an inclusive environment both at home and at school (Brillante, 2017). They can learn from others and acquire an appreciation of acceptance for other people.
The promotion of inclusive practices for children of varying abilities supports the development of skills, such as friendship, problem-solving, positive self-image, and the demonstration of respect for others. These fundamental practices can then trickle down to the homefront, which in turn encourages parents and families to be more accepting of differences. Remember the adage, “A family that learns together stays together.”
Parents are the child’s first teacher and know what’s best for their child. Working together to create a partnership between home and school is integral to inclusion and can help children reach their full developmental potential. Inclusive partnerships provide children with special needs an equal opportunity to engage in the same learning environments and activities as children without special needs.
Strategies for Successful Inclusion
Inclusion allows children to progress at their own developmental level.
A variety of authentic and diverse materials reflecting student interest levels, learning styles, and cultures allows all children to be successful when working and playing (Rossetti, Sauer, Bui, O., & Ou, 2018). Families are encouraged to keep a consistent routine. This helps children to feel safe and to know what is expected. A consideration of the type of assistance provided to children with special needs is also important. It is essential to help children learn independence by giving them just enough support to be successful. Both teachers and families can provide opportunities for children to have sustained social interactions and to participate in an inclusive environment.
Inclusion is for Moms and Dads Too!
Families know their children best and can be a wealth of knowledge for others. They can help identify the strengths children will bring to the classroom. Parent involvement should be encouraged by allowing the family expertise to be included in the transition to early learning environments. With careful planning and communication between families and teachers, a successful transition for any child can be accomplished. When children are engaged in meaningful activities, they have opportunities to interact purposefully in a comfortable environment that values and allows them to draw on their strengths and use their knowledge to create new spaces for learning (Broderick & Blewitt, 2010). When families and teachers become partners, they share the ownership of knowledge. Both partners learn better on how to incorporate appropriate developmental practices in the classroom and at home. Parent involvement influences their child’s success and is regarded as best practice in their child’s education.
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