Inclusive Schools Week™ 2022: The Benefits of Inclusive Classrooms

Inclusive Schools Week™ is here! Learn how KIT can help teachers create inclusive classrooms where children with and without disabilities thrive and learn together.

Along with the festive season, another annual event that KIT looks forward to each December is Inclusive Schools Week™

Inclusive Schools Week (ISW) is an internationally-recognized annual event created by Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC) and now sponsored by Stetson & Associates, Inc.

This year, as we look forward to celebrating ISW 2022 from Dec. 5 – 9, we are encouraging the community to rally around the goal of creating environments where all individuals feel included, valued, and celebrated.

 

Inclusive Schools Week Graphic

Image Source: Inclusive Schools Network

 

This year, we not only celebrate the work of disability services and inclusion professionals who have been doing this work for years; we also celebrate those who advocate for inclusion every day in our community: parents, teachers, administrators, school board members, students, and more.

So, as we welcome this year’s Inclusive Schools Week, how can you use inclusive practices in the classroom where learners of all abilities thrive and learn together? And how can Kids Included Together (KIT) help you realize the benefits of fully inclusive classrooms? 


Inclusive Schools Week™ Featured Resources

ISW Theme-Specific Activities and Lessons

Need help planning for ISW? Find free templates and ideas here!

KIT & Changing Perspectives ISW Activity Guide

In collaboration with Changing Perspectives, we have created an ISW activity guide to be utilized by K-12 teachers during Inclusive Schools Week. It’s filled with week-long activities focused on disability inclusion – 

download it now


What is an inclusion-focused classroom?

While exclusion, segregation, and discrimination are barriers that schools across the nation unfortunately still grapple with today, significant strides have been made toward inclusive education. For example, the National Center for Education Statistics released a report on the condition of education in 2022 noted that from 2010 to 2020, the percentage of public school students served by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) increased from 13%(6.5 million students) to 15% (7.2 million students).

Studies reveal that schools that have implemented inclusive classrooms see higher academic achievement, increased self-esteem, and more social interactions within the classroom, not to mention a better understanding of those with disabilities.

But what exactly is an inclusive classroom? And what does it mean if a classroom is considered “inclusion-focused”? 

In a nutshell, inclusive classrooms include and support all children. In inclusive classrooms, every child receives equal opportunities to participate in the learning process and receives the individual support needed for their success. 

We like to use this chart by KIT friend and board-certified inclusion specialist and educator Nicole Eredics as a guide to help determine if a classroom is or is not inclusion-focused:

 

YES NO
  • Child spends the majority of the day in the general education classroom.
  • Child spends the majority of the day in a special education classroom and goes to a general education classroom for one or two periods.
  • Child’s desk is included with the other groups of desks in the classroom.
  • Child’s desk is away from the other desks in the classroom.
  • Child has access to and is included in classroom lessons and activities that are adapted or modified to meet his/her special needs.
  • Child works on his/her own curriculum.
  • Child attends outside activities with the class including assemblies, field trips, enrichment classes, and recess.
  • Child is given alternate activities and options with other special education students.
  • Child is an independent, valued, and respected classroom member.
  • Child is looked upon as helpless, needy, and dependent.
  • The child’s paraprofessional facilitates access to the curriculum and classroom activities.
  • The child’s paraprofessional determines access to the curriculum and classroom activities.
  • The paraprofessional encourages child to complete work as independently as possible, while providing support when needed.
  • The paraprofessional does not provide many opportunities for the child to complete work independently and “hovers.”
  • Child receives specialist support (therapy, speech, and language) with minimal disruption to the class routine and program.
  • Child is pulled from the classroom lessons and activities for specialist support without consideration for what the child will miss.
  • The teacher can identify your child’s strengths and areas for improvement.
  • The teacher refers to the specialists and paraprofessionals to identify child’s development.
  • Child can name classmates and has many common classroom experiences.
  • Child does not know classmates and does not have many common classroom experiences.

 

But even with all of the above, it’s important to note that inclusion isn’t a place. It is a way of life that can be learned and practiced even beyond the classroom. Comprehensive inclusion extends to the playground, art center, library, hallways of your school, and any space where children often gather. 

Why does an inclusive classroom matter?

  • Including children of all abilities helps them gain important social and community skills. 

When students with disabilities spend their whole day in self-contained special education classrooms, they don’t have the opportunity to benefit from inclusive classrooms, especially when it comes to making diverse friendships and enriching interactions with all students.

  • Inclusive classrooms help make individual differences expected and appreciated.

As early as preschool, children are taught that all of us are different and unique in our own ways. But in non-inclusive classrooms, children may not fully grasp how different we all are. They may be limited to thinking or seeing that our differences end in our physical appearance and interests. However, inclusive classrooms allow all children to see and feel and interact with kids of diverse learning needs. This can teach them, in a practical and hands-on way, that differences are natural.

  • Research shows that students with disabilities show improved academic success in inclusive classrooms.

A recent study published in the International Journal of Special Education found that students with autism performed better in inclusive classrooms than in special education classrooms. The researchers found that students with autism benefited academically by being provided a challenging curriculum, not a remedial one.

Other than improving academic performance, classroom inclusion for students who receive special education services helps improve critical thinking, problem-solving skills, self and body image, as well as foster respect for others.

  • Inclusive classrooms help parents and family members learn about inclusion, too!

We’re often told that when we do good things, the whole world can benefit. Nothing is more true when it comes to inclusion. The majority of inclusive classrooms heavily involve and rely on parents. Inclusive classrooms can teach parents about the benefit of creating a consistent environment at home, where other family members can begin developing an appreciation for the differences in others around them.

Aside from students, inclusive classrooms also greatly benefit teachers. 

  • Teachers can take advantage of training opportunities for creating unique, diverse, and inclusive lesson plans. This helps teachers grow and excel as educators.
  • Inclusive classrooms encourage collaboration among teachers. For example, inclusive teachers might opt to seek help, advice, and resources from special education teachers. This fosters a culture of openness and the chance to learn new teaching strategies.
  • Teachers in inclusive classrooms have more access to IEPs that outline what resources and accommodations a student is receiving with special education services. This allows educators to hone their teaching skills to accommodate a variety of learning styles.

Two teenagers work on a laptop together

How can teachers and providers create an inclusive space?

The idea at the heart of creating an inclusive classroom is that every student is capable of learning, regardless of differences in background, experience, or ability. For teachers to offer safe, supportive, and inclusive classroom environments, it all starts with the right inclusion training.

This is where KIT comes in.

Kids Included Together represents a community of education practitioners, institutions, and professionals that support an ever-growing network with access to inclusion guides, online or onsite training, courses, webinars, speaking engagements, and other resources to help organizations create safe, inclusive spaces where all children, regardless of ability or disability, can thrive. 

Over the past 25 years, we have collaborated closely with our partners to help drive the national conversation around disability inclusion in child and youth programs through inclusive policy changes and best practices. 

Here are a few of our groundbreaking solutions that can help you get started with creating inclusion-focused programs in your classrooms:

Access inclusion resources online at your own time and at your own pace with the KIT Academy. You can access eModules, how-to videos, webinars, printable resources, and more. 

We know that your time is valuable. That’s why our experienced KIT trainers can come to you! We offer you and your staff the option of having fun, engaging inclusion training workshops at a time and place of your choosing.

We offer a unique blended approach to inclusion training and professional development, combining engaging onsite training with on-demand online learning and highly trained inclusion coaches.

Access our library of best-in-class inclusion resources – some even available in Spanish. You can find many more in the Resources section of The Kit Academy.

 

Inclusive Schools Week Is A Wonderful Time To Re-energize Inclusion In The Classroom (And Beyond!)

Since 2001, Inclusive Schools Week has aimed to highlight how inclusive environments can help create opportunities for all students as well as build positive relationships in their respective communities. It’s also the perfect time to re-examine the progress schools have made in inclusion over the years.

The hope is that by creating positive school cultures with inclusive classrooms where everyone feels welcome and valued, we will be able to better address the needs of all students regardless of differences such as disability, race or ethnicity, gender identity or sexual orientation,  socioeconomic status, cultural heritage, language preference  or other factors.

Ready to transform the lives of your students this year? We look forward to discussing options that best suit your organization’s needs. Contact KIT today!

Inclusive Schools Week is celebrated annually the first week in December by families, schools and organizations to highlight and celebrate the progress schools have made in implementing inclusive practices to ensure a quality education for an increasingly diverse student population. Learn more at www.inclusiveschools.org.