When looking at inclusion think about 1 or 2 children with differing needs per classroom. This ought not be an overwhelming thought. What might be considered overwhelming is a classroom filled with kids with disabilities, both for the children and for the educators.
When we bring children with disabilities into our typical classrooms, it benefits all of the children. All children, of any shape and size, benefit from a variety of experiences in life, and from interacting with many types of children. When children with special needs are grouped with typically developing children, the children with disabilities are more commonly perceived as able, and approachable.
My favorite benefit for the entire school is one called “natural support”.
When my daughter was in our first class at Intown Jewish Preschool, there was one day when the children all took off their shoes and socks to stick their feet in paint and walk “across the Yam Suf”. After they had cleaned off their feet, the teachers got busy with the wet and messy paper splayed across the floor. When the teacher looked up she saw that my daughter had all the children in a row, tying all of their shoelaces. It all began with the one child, Sammy, with a disability who could not tie his shoes and was uninhibited enough to admit it. When Mira jumped up to help, the other children, who mostly could not tie their shoes either, got into their place in line too. This is called natural support; it is organic, holistic and so beneficial! Who wasn’t helped that day? The Morah, the children, and my daughter who then walked a mile high, with pep in her step, on account of being so helpful.
For the entire year, every day that little Sammy who had Autism came to school I had to be the one to greet him with a broom in my hand. He would then bounce up the stairs and begin sweeping. Rue the day I did not have the broom. And — praise the day I was able to hand the broom to another Morah, and go into labor.
Sammy still bounced into school and took the broom to start his sweeping.
If you are a parent of a child with a disability or are running a moissad, don’t ask, “Can my/their child participate?” Instead ask, “What supports will make my/your child’s participation possible?”