Special education students were once kept mainly in segregated classrooms where special education teachers could focus solely on them. However, educators have seen how beneficial it can be for these students to be integrated as much as possible into the general education classroom. While this may be beneficial to the student’s learning and ability to interact with his or her peers, it can be incredibly scary. The speed of learning, the teacher, the support personnel and the curriculum will all be different in this setting than they were in the special education classroom. Students must be prepped to make this switch well whether they are moved at the beginning of the school year or sometime in the middle.
Both teachers and parents have an important responsibility in ensuring that this transition is a smooth and fear-free one. The transition should begin with an honest discussion of what the student can expect in the new setting and how he or she should treat other students. In addition, students who are already in the general classroom should be taught the importance of treating everyone equally despite their differences.
Teachers must go through extensive training so that they know how to respond to the new dynamics in their classrooms. This is not a one-step process but one that will continue for the next several years as teachers and support personnel become acclimated to the new environment. Teachers should also be given additional resources by the school district to help them teach to every level.
Finally, the inclusive classroom should always be a positive place where all students feel that they can be themselves without any censure. Students should feel comfortable enough going to their teachers with questions or concerns and should feel good about talking to any of the students. Part of creating this wonderful community will be in seeing teachers mirror the correct attitudes and actions themselves. Another part will come through thoughtful lessons that teach students about disabilities and about famous people who have had disabilities yet have succeeded in life.