Benefits of Inclusion for Typically Developing Children
Part 1 of a two-part series, academics and advocacy
The benefits of inclusive education for children with special needs have been well documented, including increased positive gains in academic skills, as well as motor, cognitive, self-help, language, and social skills. Increasing positive outcomes, both short term and long term, for children with special needs in general education classrooms is the goal of inclusive education, but those with special needs are not the only fortunate recipients.
Despite the benefits of inclusive education for typically developing children being just as dynamic, they are not as well dispersed. For the next two months, the Haring Center Today will explore the advantages typically developing children receive from participation in inclusive classrooms.
The most prevalent concern of inclusive education voiced by parents of typically developing children is that children will not receive the same amount of challenging instruction, or that being taught in an inclusive classroom will slow a child’s progress.
This has been demonstrated as untrue. Research has consistently shown that children without disabilities do equally well or better academically when taught in inclusive classrooms when compared to children who are in classrooms that do not include children with disabilities.
Both children with and without disabilities benefit from the individualized instructional support that comes from teachers who are skilled at modifying the teaching strategies they use to help students overcome learning challenges. This practice of differentiating instruction to meet the learning needs of all children is used in inclusive classrooms, regardless of whether a child has a diagnosed disability or not. Studies show that inclusive classrooms tend to be of higher quality and employ staff who use state-of-the-art practices.
Children without disabilities also learn skills that are not explicitly taught as part of a traditional educational core curriculum, but are skills that are beneficial to children throughout their school years, and beyond. For example, an Experimental Education Unit (EEU) preschooler’s parents explain an important set of skills their daughter has learned as a result of her time in an inclusive classroom:
"At the EEU, Olive is learning how critical it is for everyone to have a voice. As a result, she is finding her own."
— Cassie Martin (mom)
“Olive is learning important things at the EEU, like how to read and write. While these are great, what matters most is that she is learning to be socially responsible. Our favorite recent example of why inclusion matters: Olive has a friend in class who uses picture exchange as a method to communicate. Once, he dropped one of his pictures from his communication book. Olive picked it up, handed it to him and said, ‘Friend, you dropped one of your words!’ She knew it wasn’t his picture. She knew it was his word. At the EEU, Olive is learning how critical it is for everyone to have a voice. As a result, she is finding her own.”
Recognizing and appreciating the differences amongst her friends in how they communicate, Olive is developing a mindset that might not have been possible if not for inclusive education. By learning to embrace diversity from an early age, she developing a skills and attitudes that will set her up for success throughout her life.
Former EEU student Delaney Foster is a recent graduate of King’s High School, a private school in Shoreline, and was a leading member of the school’s robotics team. Delaney’s sister, Kendall Foster, was diagnosed with autism in early childhood and now attends Roosevelt High School in north Seattle.
While Kendall attended all of Delaney’s King’s robotics practices and competitions, cheering along as the team’s biggest fan, there weren’t options for her to participate in her passion for robotics at her own school. This lack of opportunity for her sister motivated Delaney to make a change and impact the quality of life for her sister and others like her. Delaney worked hard to organize a unified robotics team that would include students with and without disabilities, and three years ago her hard work paid off.
In 2013, a unified afterschool robotics program launched, a collaboration between King’s High School and the special education program at Roosevelt High School. More than 20 students with special needs are now participating in this program, all with teammates and mentors who are students at King’s.
Delaney Foster’s motivation to advocate for and include people of all abilities in quite common for children who participate inclusive education. Studies have shown not only the academic benefit of inclusion, but also the long term impact on the social and character development of children without disabilities. Among many other benefits, it has been shown that children without disabilities who are in inclusive classrooms more often go into ‘helping’ professions, such as social work, teaching and medicine.
In short, inclusion is good for everyone. Children without disabilities who are part of inclusive classrooms, through their increased awareness and acceptance of difference and diversity, are helping to make the world better for everyone. Academics and advocacy are just two benefits for children without disabilities are taught in inclusive classrooms. Next month we will explore more.