TODAY'S LESSON : ABOUT INCLUSION!
- The opportunity for St. Louis Catholic schools
- Is inclusive education expensive?
- how does inclusion work?
Inclusive education is educating individuals with physical or intellectual disabilities in the general educational classroom, shoulder to shoulder, with their age peers. Whatever individualized needs a student may have are
addressed in the classroom, and not by segregating the student from their peer environment.
Students are educated in the context of an "inclusive service delivery model" that may include curriculum modifications, support from the general education teacher, peer students, a teaching aid, or specialized teacher. Ultimately inclusive education is about providing a differentiated education that "meets the child where they are"
and not asking a child to adapt to a system. The expectation is not that the student necessarily maintains the same academic pace as typical peers, rather that the student maintains progress towards their individual potential.
A large body of research demonstrates that children educated in inclusive environments achieve higher academic
gains and achieve more success after high school. There have been no studies since the 1970's showing better
outcomes for students with significant disabilities when they are educated in separate classrooms. Research also demonstrates that typical peers also experience improved academic outcomes and social development.
Here are key features that drive the success of inclusive education:
Curriculum adaptations and modifications: Grade level content is adapted and modified
to meet each student’s abilities.
Community: Instead of being removed from their community to another school, or
isolated from their community in a separate room, they become a full member of their
community and benefit from being part of the social fabric.
Support, Infrastructure, Planning: Successful inclusion is achieved through planning,
commitment and resources. As programs grow, costs per child normalize. The resources
used to support inclusion can help typical students as well and provide differentiated
education for all.
Peer Modeling: In a segregated environment the behaviors that a student may encounter
can be negative relative to a typical peer environment. Children with special needs, and
especially children with Down Syndrome, adapt well through peer modeling and benefit
from socialization with typical peers.
Higher Expectations: Children isolated from their typical peer group more often than not
suffer from diminished expectations. In inclusive environments they are expected to
socialize and behave consistent with their peer group and are expected to access some
aspect of the same curriculum.
Advancement: Segregated children are less exposed to a variety of learning opportunities
and progress from one topic of study to another more slowly. By accessing some aspect
of the same curriculum as their typical peers, and by advancing through topics, the
student with special needs is continually exposed to new learning opportunities. While
an appropriate balance between achievement and advancement needs to be managed,
inclusive environments expose a child to more learning contexts.
While every child’s needs are different the estimated average cost per child is $6,000. Ultimately this is offset by tuition and increased enrollment. Inclusive education is efficient! Inclusion is mostly about training, technique, and using existing teaching resources. Additional resources used to support inclusive education benefit all students, not just those with special needs. Inclusive education enables our Catholic schools to better provide differentiated education for all children. Embracing inclusion leads to higher enrollment, better academic outcomes for all students, and higher retention. Once a school develops the institutional capability to be inclusive, welcoming children with special needs more than pays for itself.
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The St. Louis Archdiocese is the sixth largest in the country! There are 45,700 students enrolled in our Catholic schools making ours the largest school system in Missouri.
Roughly one in seventy children have a significant special need such as Autism, Down Syndrome or Cerebral Palsy. The are an estimated six hundred and fifty children with significant special needs in need of a Catholic education. Unfortunately, of those that are "grade-level" age only about fifty children receive a Catholic education. It is One Classroom's mission to welcome all children with special needs into our Catholic schools!