5 Ways Inclusive Classrooms Are Different from Self-Contained Classrooms
Are you the parent of a student with disabilities in the public school system? If so, it’s likely that your child is educated in either a self-contained or an inclusive setting. It's important to know the difference between self-contained classrooms and inclusive classrooms, and why it matters. Families can help schools identify which educational setting works best for their child. They can also expect schools to provide the most appropriate education possible.
Self-contained classrooms were established decades ago when students with disabilities were first placed in the public school system. Prior to self-contained classrooms, most children with disabilities were educated in separate facilities. The purpose of the self-contained classroom is to give students with disabilities specialized interventions and support. The class is sometimes smaller in size than a general education class, with a lead teacher and several
The purpose of the self-contained classroom is to give students with disabilities specialized interventions and support. The class is sometimes smaller in size than a general education class, with a lead teacher and several paraprofessionals who provide assistance. Students spend the majority of their day in the self-contained classroom. While beneficial for some students, self-contained classrooms have limitations that inclusive classrooms do not.
Inclusive classrooms educate students with and without disabilities. Studies since the 1970s have proven over and over again that students with disabilities who are taught alongside typically developing students make tremendous gains in all areas of personal growth and development. As such, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (a federal law that governs how people with disabilities are educated in American schools) states that children need to have access to the general education curriculum in the regular classroom to the maximum extent possible.
Benefits of Inclusive Classrooms
Here are five specific ways in which inclusive classrooms are different from self-contained classrooms:
1. Students with disabilities are given the same educational opportunities as their typically developing peers.
This is because they spend the majority of their day in the inclusive class together. Specialty services and supports are brought to the student, curriculum is modified, and accommodations are made for learning. Wherever possible, the student remains with his or her class.
2. Inclusive classrooms give students the opportunity to interact and learn with others who have a wide variety of abilities and backgrounds.
Students learn about one another, develop respect, and gain a deeper understanding of diversity. They are socially prepared for a future beyond school.
3. Inclusive classrooms are hubs of activity.
Teachers use a variety of research-based teaching methods, resources, and learning materials to reach the span of ability levels and learning styles. Group work, discussions, and demonstrations are seen daily in an inclusive class. Students are given a variety of ways to learn and show what they know.
4. Inclusive classrooms create a greater sense of community for all families.
Parents and siblings share common experiences with others. For example, they see one another at assemblies, celebrations, school activities, and fundraisers. As a result, families of children with disabilities become more integrated into school life.
5. Inclusive classrooms provide a rich education with high standards.
Students have the input and support of numerous learning specialists, such as a special education teacher, occupational therapist, counselor, and speech-language pathologist. In addition, they have the benefit of a classroom teacher who is well versed in teaching and learning methods. This collaboration of education professionals ensures that all students have their educational needs met in high quality environments.
While inclusive education is not a new concept, it is unfortunately not a common one either. Many schools across the U.S. have yet to adopt the inclusion model, favoring self-contained classrooms instead. However, from the examples above, you can see that inclusive classrooms are very beneficial to students with disabilities. This knowledge can help families give input into educational decisions made about their child and advocate for inclusive opportunities.