“Programs that are committed to quality and diversity often see belonging and inclusion as the starting point for all children." -Inclusion Works!
How can educators ensure that all students have access to high-quality after school programming, regardless of their abilities, needs or challenges? Inclusion – the practice of offering students with disabilities the same space and programming as students without disabilities – is the key to creating a welcoming and supportive learning environment.
Why Inclusion Works
Research reveals that all students can benefit from an inclusive environment. Students with disabilities attain higher levels of social development and academic achievement in inclusive environments than they would in segregated environments. They demonstrate increased achievement of Individualized Education Program (IEP) goals, have higher aspirations and build more meaningful relationships, among other benefits. Additionally, inclusive, supportive environments teach all students to appreciate and accept individual differences and respect others, regardless of ability.
Although inclusion may seem difficult to implement, having a can-do attitude and focusing on how to make it work can help educators effectively promote inclusion in their programs. Researchers at the Early Childhood Research Institute on Inclusion (ECRII) developed the following eight strategies to help educators effectively accommodate students with disabilities:
- Alter the physical, social or temporal environment to promote participation, engagement and learning.
- Modify materials to promote independence.
- Simplify a complicated task by breaking it into smaller parts or reducing the number of steps.
- Capitalize on a student’s favorite activities.
- Use adaptive devices to facilitate participation.
- Employ direct adult intervention to support a student’s efforts.
- Use peers as models to help students learn.
- Arrange naturally occurring events to assist inclusion.
The primary goal of inclusion is to provide high-quality programming that enriches learning and development for every student. By implementing the above strategies, educators can ensure that all students feel welcomed and supported in their programs.