Many school systems today tend toward inclusion, or incorporate students with disabilities into the general education classroom, because of the many benefits of inclusion. Although inclusion may not be for all students with disabilities, there are several advantages of inclusion to keep in mind.
One of the most obvious advantages of inclusion is the fact that students with disabilities can be integrated socially with their peers. They can create long-lasting friendships that would not be otherwise possible, and these friendships can give them the skills to navigate social relationships later on in life. Their peers can act as role models for social skills through their interactions with each other, whereas in a homogeneous classroom, their only role models would be students with disabilities who may lack the same social skills that they do. This is especially true for more severely disabled students who would be placed in a setting with students who have little or no social interaction. By learning in an inclusive classroom instead, they are exposed to non-disabled students interacting in a normal social manner.
Students with disabilities can also benefit academically in an inclusion setting. Of all of the benefits of inclusion, this one is perhaps most astounding. Many teachers and parents wonder whether students with disabilities would fare better academically in a classroom that was geared specifically towards them. In a well-designed inclusion classroom, however, the teacher uses inclusion strategies to help students succeed academically. Therefore, students encounter higher expectations – both from their peers and their teachers, as well as the positive academic role models of their non-disabled classmates.
Benefits for Students Without Disabilities
There are many advantages of inclusion for those students in an inclusion classroom who do not have disabilities as well. These students can also gain strong friendships that would have been impossible otherwise, as well as appreciation and acceptance for people who are different from them. The idea of “diversity," rather than remaining an empty catchword, takes shape tangibly in the inclusion classroom. Non-disabled students learn how to work with students who have varying skills and abilities, which will help them in their futures. They can also learn how to help others achieve academic succeed and learn difficult information, a skill that can only improve their own academic performance and their ability to succeed later in life.
In addition to these basic benefits of inclusion, there are also several side benefits. The family of the disabled student benefits by being integrated more easily into the school’s society. This is especially true when the student is an only child whose parents may be unable to “fit in" to the community unless the student is placed in an inclusion setting.
In a broader sense, students who are taught in an inclusion setting are more likely to build a society that is accepting of differences and able to respect people from diverse backgrounds. Supporting inclusion classrooms may be the first step towards creating a more diverse workforce and world. The advantages of inclusion need to be weighed carefully against the possible disadvantages in specific situations.