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        Learning is Enhanced

“Over 20 years of research has consistently demonstrated that the inclusion of students with disabilities in general education classrooms results in favorable outcomes. Positive outcomes have been shown for both students with high incidence disabilities (learning disabilities and other “mild” disabilities) and those with low incidence disabilities (intellectual, multiple, and “severe” disabilities” (Xuan Bui, Carol Quirk, Selene Almazan, Michele Valenti, 2010).

Hollowood and colleagues investigated the degree to which the presence of students with severe disabilities affected the time allocated for instruction, the actual time used for instruction, and students’ engaged time. Results indicated no differences across the three domains when comparing classrooms that included students with severe disabilities and classrooms without students with severe disabilities (Hollowood, Salisbury, Rainforth, & Palombaro, 1995).

Because the philosophy of inclusive education is aimed at helping all children learn, everyone in the class benefits. Children learn at their own pace within a learning environment that accepts differences in the rate and ability to learn, and strategically plans for diversity of learners, including those who are ready for that next challenge!  Children from different races and cultures, and with and without disabilities, learn with and from each other. 

Increased Positive Self-Understanding

When children attend classes that reflect the similarities and differences of people in their community, they develop an increased understanding of other children and their own (Odom et al., 2002).  They learn to appreciate and respect their own as well as others’ cultures.  Children become more understanding of and to develop positive attitudes toward their diverse counterparts (Odom & Bailey, 2001).  Children gain cultural fluency across cultures with exposure to different cultures. 

Increased Prosocial Behaviors

Multiple studies show that children in inclusive educational settings demonstrate increased “pro-social” behavior.  Typical peers can learn to identify targeted ways to engage peers with differing abilities (Tsao et al., 2008). This translates to increased initiation of interactions / engagement of peers with differing abilities (Tsao et al., 2008). Some children even learn to adjust their communication without teacher instruction to engage their classmates who communicate differently than they do (Guralnick & Paul- Brown, 1977).  Diamond and Hong (2010) found that typically developing children are more likely to approach their decisions to include children with disabilities in play based on fairness and equity.  Collectively, these positive behaviors improve the atmosphere and generate a sense of collegiality within the classroom and across the school.

Enhanced and  Expanded Friendships

Schools are important places for children to develop friendships and learn social skills.  Respect and understanding grow when children of differing abilities and cultures learn and play together.  Friendships emerge based on common experiences and mutual enjoyment regardless of observable or perceived differences.  Children are more likely to approach children with disabilities with acceptance (Rafferty et al., 2001) and are less likely to view a disability as an impairment (Burnstein, Sears, Wilcoxen, Cabello, & Spagna, 2004; Idol, 2006).  Research shows that typical peers are willing to initiate and maintain friendships with children who may be different (Burnstein et al., 2004; Idol, 2006).

Positive Classroom Culture

 A peer- support model, with peers acting as tutors (with proper teacher support), leads to a better- managed classroom in    which all students can benefit (Scruggs & Mastropieri, 1998). In an inclusive educational setting, typical peers who have a strong grasp of content and material often assist classmates with school- related tasks and tend to move into a tutoring role.  As children do this, they are also likely to show increased Self-esteem, Confidence, Autonomy and Leadership Skills. (Katz & Chard, 2000).  A long-term benefit to these students is that they actually tend to approach course material and school in general with more enthusiasm (Fuchs, Fuchs, & Burish, 2000; Scruggs & Mastropieri, 1998).

Benefit of the General Education Classroom

Studies investigating the effects of placement of children with special needs in general education classrooms reveal positive outcomes in the areas of educational quality, time of engagement, and individualized supports. 

  • Significant increases in educational quality on measures of age-appropriateness, functionality, and generalization were found when students moved into general education classes from special education settings even when the special educator remained the same (Hunt & Farron-Davis, 1992).
  • Within the general education classroom, there is an increase in the amount of instruction on basic academic skills such as literacy as well as on functional activities for students with special needs (Hunt, Farron-Davis, Beckstead, Curtis, & Goetz, 1994).