For a long time, children with disabilities were educated in separate classes or in separate schools. Many people have gotten used to this idea and still today many children with special needs are placed in separate classrooms even though countless studies have proven that when children with special needs or disabilities are placed in a general education setting there are positive social and academic outcomes for all of the children in the classroom.
Inclusive education happens when children with and without disabilities participate and learn together in the same classes. Research shows that when a child with disabilities attends classes alongside peers who do not have disabilities, there are countless benefits.
Children learn in an environment that is natural. In the real world everyone lives together. An inclusive school environment prepares all students for adult life in an inclusive society.
Children learn to appreciate diversity. When children learn to see not only differences but similarities there is a greater understanding and respect of the different abilities, cultures, ethnicities, etc.
Development of better communication and social skills. Children who might have difficulty with social interaction learn from observing their peers interact and benefit from experiencing social interactions with children with different abilities, whereas in a homogeneous classroom, their only role models would be students with disabilities who may lack the same social skills that they do. All of this results in increased social interaction and the creation of more long-lasting friendships that would not be otherwise possible, and these friendships can give them the skills to navigate social relationships later on in life.
There are higher expectations for children with disabilities. In an inclusive classroom all children receive the same lessons. Expectations for children with disabilities in an inclusive classroom are usually higher both from their teachers and their peers which makes children strive to fulfill those expectations, resulting in positive academic benefits. This also boosts their self esteem and their self worth.
However, simply placing children with and without disabilities together does not produce positive outcomes. Inclusive education occurs when there is ongoing advocacy, planning, support and commitment.
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