"Inclusive Classrooms" and classroom "havens" for children with special needs

We Belong by Sunflower LilyOne excited boy did all that he could before making his way to a swing for comfort. Another boy made it all the way through, enjoying the project and doing an amazing job. Other kiddos were off enjoying the end of the day doing other activities in other rooms. J melted.

I talk about J’s inclusive classroom model and my first experience coming into his world where I didn’t fit, where I didn’t belong (in his eyes) on 5 Minutes for Special Needs yesterday. Just a few days ago, I had O’s preschool teacher, working for continuing teaching credits, ask me questions about J’s classroom. Was it inclusive, what are things like for him. Between her questions and this post, I starting thinking about other classrooms across the county, around the world.

Inclusive classrooms, in my opinion, are the model to follow. All children need the opportunity to have exposure to every kind of person they will run into in the world as adults. They need the opportunity to be challenged with a variety of circumstances, find their voices, mold themselves into the person they are to meet the world as. This is the same for children with special needs…as long as they are able to do so.

In the beginning, when J first started in his educational journey, I was adamant that I wanted him surrounded by typical peers, in the mix of the general classroom, in an inclusive classroom. I wanted most of his time there, questioning the reasoning of those in his IEP meetings. Why wouldn’t they give him this exposure, allow him the opportunity; why would they seek to shove him into a box of a room and close him off from the world….my idea of this is different now.

Now, I see J’s classroom, the separate classroom, his room of other peers with Severe and Significant Needs as a haven. A place where he feels safe, confident in the predictability, has less variability of actions of peers, of the day. A place where the noise level is fine tuned, tools for self-advocacy, for centering are available to him, a place where he feels he belongs. It is a comfort. A room of focus, encouraging his ability to foster his strengths and make his way towards the best person he is to be.

He spends 85% or more of his time in this room. Learning. Working on tasks. Learning the computer, how to type his name, how to effectively communicate, control impulses, work on social skills and more. It is a place I’m proud for him to belong with a group of kiddos and staff who are forever in my heart. And I know he is lucky for this, and I am lucky for this.  He has a good balance (for him) between inclusion in a classroom of typical peers and a haven in a classroom that provides structure and reprieve that he requires.

I think of all those who don’t have an inclusive classroom model, who don’t have the balance between inclusion and haven. I think of those who don’t have encouraging, strong, loving and balanced teachers and paras (something I worry about leaving from in middle school) and I wonder how they do. How do those kiddos cope…succeed? I question how many schools aren’t inclusive.

So I put it to you…what’s your school makeup? Inclusive? Not? Fostering successes, lacking in resources, lacking balance?  What would you change?

(Photo By: Sunflower Lily / Flickr)

6 Responses to "Inclusive Classrooms" and classroom "havens" for children with special needs

  1. Wow! I am amazed to have read your post today.

    I have returned to University to study teaching – I follow your blog when I have time. I have two children with special needs and we live in Melbourne, Australia.

    We have recently moved to a small community and found a delightful little school that can accomodate ALL of our chldren’s needs. It is an inclusive school, has a small student population, but both our special needs children and our daughter (non-special-needs) can go to this school.

    I call it “The Blessed School”.

    As I am studying teaching – I am often infuriated at the lack of material out there for professionals and people taking on teaching as a career. My subjects most often are irrelevant or do not even address teaching the student with any type of need other than ‘the stereotypical normal student’.

    Aahhh – Lovely to have read your blog tonight!

    Rachael x

    • Hi Rachael, thanks for stopping by. You are so very fortunate to have found a school that can accommodate everyone! Right now, we’re feeling that way about ours, though my youngest two haven’t started there yet… 1 more year. Take care. Thanks again!

  2. Hi Gina,

    Just caught this article as we are getting closer to diagnosis for Roan (my youngest – 3 year old) and it’s so timely. We are going to be moving him to another school and in part time special education and part time mainstream pre-school but a much different environment then he’s in now. I may need to email you for your thoughts. Lots of information this past couple weeks and I’m feeling overwhelmed.

    Thanks for this article.

  3. Great blog. I have a 12 year old with DS and am getting ready for her IEP this week. Up to this point, we have mainstreamed her for most of the day. She finishes up her day in the resource room. What I think is most important for all of our kids is that they have choices. What bothers me is when schools provide the same option for all students. My child thrives in the gen ed classroom, and in fact, we are looking to put her in there all day. Her teachers have been wonderful and have modified her workload so she is learning. What is important is that each child’s needs be met. It is unfortunate that EVERY child doesn’t get this same opportunity. Maybe someday!

  4. My son goes to school that has an autism program. Though he was not medically diagnosed as autistic, he qualifies under the “school autism” designation due to his social and developmental deficits. He is in the regular class most of the time but has speech, physical therapy, and OT services. Sometimes he does his work in regular class but can get help in the Autism room(not sure what they actually call it because my memory is bad) if he needs it. Sometimes when he has meltdowns he can go to that room to cool down and use the sensory tools they have there like a weighted blanket which he loves. The teachers and Aids there are wonderful and he can get any extra help he needs there. I think it is the greatest thing. He used to be in early childhood special ed when he was three but then when he went to kindergarten he had trouble. They said he needed to be separated from his “normal peers” or would keep lagging behind due to behavioral problems. That was in his old town. We have since moved to a new town and it was the best thing ever. His new school and teachers are wonderful.


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