Inclusive education is where students of all abilities, stripes, patterns and sizes are accepted and supported within schools. The goal is to build a democratic and caring schooling community, along with the wider school environment as well. Inclusion is an ongoing process of negotiation and communication that is particular to each classroom and school. An important factor in order to foster inclusion is to recognise and acknowledge the attitudes and beliefs within schools in regard to students with learning and developmental difficulties. Often there can be fear and lack of awareness involving these students.
How To Provide Inclusive Education
For a school to be truly inclusive, teachers and educators need to be aware of the needs of students with developmental and learning difficulties.
Many of these students lack the tools to be able to ask for help. Their frustration in not being reached may manifest in withdrawing or becoming silent. Some teachers may interpret this incorrectly as an indicator that the student knows what they are doing and therefore doesn’t need any help. As a result, the need to ask for help may be something that students with learning difficulties need to have taught to them or modelled, especially students with autism.
Consider that the skills needed to ask for help from others involves a series of complicated decisions and levels of self-awareness that they may not have. This doesn’t necessarily indicate a lack of interest in what is being taught either. For many students with autism, this remains a problem in at least some of the situations they encounter. To provide intervention in this area the teacher or parent can build in steps and strategies for seeking assistance. One method is to use cue cards as reminders to children with autism to ask for help if they need it. These cards can be taped in their notebooks or other prominent places where they will notice them.
Another strategy to ask for help is the use of visual signals. Check marks on work at various points to remind students to ask the teacher to have their work checked is one signal that is useful. These strategies lead to increased independence which is the desired outcome for the student and helps the entire class a whole.
Remember that it’s not just students with autism that may find asking for help difficult, as students that are impacted by anxiety may need help in this area as well.
Methods to Reduce Problematic Behaviour
When aiming to reduce or eliminate problematic behaviour when teaching children with developmental difficulties, we need to know what we would like the child to do instead. It is not enough to identify what we do not want the child to do as it is equally important to specify what the child should be doing. We need to replace the behaviour with more effective coping strategies.
Furthermore, these replacements must make sense from the child’s perspective and not simply be selected to please us. For example, if a child screams to get attention, we must teach him another way to get attention. Although we might like the child to be quiet instead of screaming, being quiet is not likely to get the child what screaming achieved, namely, the reaction of other people.
If a student with autism is throwing themselves on the floor then it’s probably giving them a sense of control. This is because they’re probably frustrated and not understanding. If a student with autism throws materials across the room because they didn’t want to do that activity, sending them to time out would probably not be effective because it would achieve what the throwing did, which was to avoid the task. A more useful solution would be to teach them to ask for help or to stop the current activity such as in taking a break. Therefore, this teaches them a new skill that meets the same child-oriented goals.
The question we need to ask is, what are they are trying to communicate? We need to remember that for many students processing uncomfortable feelings can be hard and can be just as hard to communicate without acting them out.
In providing inclusive education for students with dyslexia, it’s worth noting that some school interventions can be characterised as stabilising their degree of reading failure rather than improving or normalising their reading skills. This can be due to a number of factors such as funding and the degree of expertise of specialists within the school. However, children with dyslexia deserve the best possible teaching practices and expertise to assist them over the barriers that they encounter. We want them to derive meaning from what they are reading along with experiencing the joy of reading as well.
Once again, awareness is key, along with being equipped with the best teaching practices in recognising the needs of the student. For example, telling a dyslexic student who’s struggling with sight words to ‘try harder’ or that they’re ‘lazy’ excludes these students and builds negative learning experiences. It also highlights a lack of understanding of not only their learning difficulty but the weaknesses of the teaching method being used. Inclusive schools need to build positive learning experiences for all students.