Unit V: Inclusive Education

1. Concept and Definition

2. Types of Inclusion

3. Challenges to inclusion in ASD

4. Role of special educator for students with ASD

5. Importance of enabling social and physical environment


1. Concept and Definition

It has been argued that inclusive educationis not only about addressing issues of input, such as access, and those related to processes such as teacher training, but that it involves a shift in underlying values and beliefs held across the system. It requires that all children, including children with disabilities, not only have access to schooling within their own community, but that they are provided with appropriate learning opportunities to achieve their full potential. Its approach is underpinned by an understanding that all children should have equivalent and systematic learning opportunities in a wide range of school and additional educational settings, despite the differences that might exist.

 Inclusive education provides a fundamentally different pedagogical approach to one rooted in deviance or difference. In other words, it stresses:

·      the open learning potential of each student rather than a hierarchy of cognitive skills;

·      reform of the curriculum and a cross cutting pedagogy rather than a need to focus on student deficiencies;

·      active participation of students in the learning process rather than an emphasis on specialized discipline knowledge as key to teachers expertise;

·      a common curriculum for all, based upon differentiated and/or individualized instruction, rather than an alternative curriculum being developed for low achievers;

·      teachers who include rather than exclude.

UNESCO’s actions in promoting inclusive approaches in education will aim at: 

·      Forging a holistic approach to education which ensures that the concerns of marginalized  and excluded groups are incorporated in all education activities, and cooperating to reduce wasteful repetition and fragmentation; 

·      Developing capacities for policymaking and system management in support of diverse strategies towards inclusive education; and 

·      Bringing forward the concerns of groups who are currently marginalized and excluded.


Schools respond to individual differences and therefore benefit all children

Schools change attitudes towards diversity by educating all children together

Less costly alternative to special segregated schools

No additional costs to parents

Reduction of social welfare costs and future dependence

Higher achievement for children than in segregated settings

60% children with special educational needs can be educated with no adaptions and 80-90% can be

educated in regular schools with minor adaptations (e.g. teaching strategy training, child-to-child support  and environmental adaption)

Disabled child is less stigmatized, more socially included

Inclusive education is cost-effective

Costs can be kept to a minimum by drawing upon local resources, people and facilities

Children with disabilities have access to a wider curriculum than that which is available in special schools.


Teachers‘ skills, schools resources, high pupil-to-teacher ratios

Costs of adapting curricula to allow

Cost of supplying teaching aids and material to improve participation and communication of children with disabilities

Cost of adapting school infrastructure

Requires assistance by parents, volunteers or older children

Investment in specially trained mobile resource teachers


2. Types of Inclusion

While state laws may differ with regard to the inclusion of special needs students in academic environments, federal law stipulates that public education institutions strive toward an inclusive environment. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 forbids entities in receipt of federal funding from denying participation to persons with special needs. As such, schools should make every effort to include special needs students in mainstream classrooms with assistance, unless this method fails to address the student's particular learning disability. The primary law governing special education is the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and it requires that students with disabilities be provided with a public education in the least restrictive environment.

Individualized Education Program

According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities, "Each public school child who receives special education and related services must have an Individualized Education Program (IEP)." School officials, parents, special and regular education teachers and the student will often work together to identify and address the student's unique needs, set learning goals and allow for future reevaluation and modification. Because IEPs vary from student to student, the IEP committee may set different goals regarding inclusion in standard classrooms.

Full Inclusion

Schools that practice full inclusion will teach all children, regardless of learning disorders, in a standard classroom from the time the student enrolls. If the special needs child performs and functions according to expectations, full inclusion may prove to be a viable long-term option. However, if full inclusion does not meet the student's needs, special education teachers may visit the classroom periodically to provide supplemental instructions. If the student continues to experience difficulty, the school may switch to a partial inclusion model.

Partial Inclusion

Though the partial inclusion model emphasizes allowing special needs students to interact with their peers socially and academically, it does not require that the student remain in a standard classroom for all lessons. In many cases, students will meet with a special education teacher or speech therapist in a separate class to avoid disrupting the learning dynamic of the standard classroom. Special education teachers will remain in communication with regular teachers to ensure students are able to understand and complete coursework.


According to Southwest Educational Development Laboratory, schools that practice mainstreaming will initially enroll special needs students exclusively in special education courses. They do so because they believe special education teachers are better-equipped to address learning disabilities and often hold their students to a higher academic and behavioral standard than mainstream teachers. Under the mainstreaming model, students who perform well may begin attending "mainstream" classes, whereas those who don't will continue their studies in a special education setting.


3. Challenges to inclusion in ASD

Inclusion is the process whereby every person (irrespective of age, disability, gender, religion, sexual preference or nationality) who wishes to, can access and participate fully in all aspects of an activity or service in the same way as any other member of the community.

Inclusion addresses an individual’s:

dignity (basic human rights)

opportunities (equal employment and attitudes)

accommodation (accessibility, assistive devices). Inclusion is about society changing to accommodate difference, and to combat discrimination.

Barriers to inclusion

There are three sets of barriers that currently limit the opportunity for people with disabilities to participate in society on equal terms with non-disabled people.

Attitudinal Barrier

Prejudice, discrimination and stigma cause the biggest problems for people with disabilities, who are assumed to be one or more of the following:


of low intelligence

in need of a ‘cure’

needing ‘special’ services or support


inspirational or marvellous or exceptional.

People who make these judgements treat the disabled person as superfluous or superhuman. They either fail to respond to the individual – with all their inherent personality, strengths and weaknesses – or they assume they have ‘superhuman’ abilities to cope with their impairment.

People who do not have disabilities can respond with fear, pity, repulsion, or a sense of superiority. These assumptions and emotions are reinforced by the media. Negative language reflects and can reinforce prejudices. People with disabilities wish to change the language used by non-disabled people about them – especially language that is offensive and inaccurate.

Physical Barrier

Disabled people encounter barriers in terms of access to the built environment or information, for example in terms of public transport, hospitals and clinics, schools and housing, shops and marketplaces, offices and factories, places of worship, media and communications and public information systems.

Most people think of the physical barriers in this category – e.g. a health clinic is inaccessible for wheelchair users if it has steps and narrow doorways. It is relatively easy to identify these – in consultation with disabled people – once aware.

Lack of accessible communications can also be disabling for those with sensory impairments – e.g. for Deaf people, if there’s no sign language; for those with visual impairments if medication isn’t appropriately labelled. Poor communication can have devastating results where important school based education campaigns happen (e.g. HIV and AIDS).

Students with hearing, visual or intellectual impairments are unlikely to access vital information unless their access needs have been met. And since 98 per cent of disabled children in developing countries don’t attend school, they’ll miss out on important education and information.

Instructional Barriers

A rigid curriculum that does not allow for experimentation or the use of different teaching methods can be an enormous barrier to inclusion. Study plans that don’t recognize different styles of learning hinder the school experience for all students, even those not traditionally recognized as having physical or mental challenges.

Teachers who are not trained or who are unwilling or unenthusiastic about working with differently-abled students are a drawback to successful inclusion. Training often falls short of real effectiveness, and instructors already straining under large workloads may resent the added duties of coming up with different approaches for the same lessons.

Many students are expected to learn while being taught in a language that is new and in some cases unfamiliar to them. This is obviously a significant barrier to successful learning. Too often, these students face discrimination and low expectations.

Inclusion classrooms are a wonderful concept, but they require a lot of training, patience, and compassion on the part of the teachers. Fully inclusive classrooms have students across the educational and developmental spectrum, ranging from typically developing students to severe and profoundly disabled students. For this reason, it becomes a challenge for the teacher to support all of the students in a balanced way.

What Challenges Do Teachers Face in Inclusive Classrooms?

What are the top challenges teachers face in a special-needs-inclusive classroom? Let’s take a closer look:

1.     Lacking Experience in an Inclusion Setting

2.     Lacking Experience With Severe and Profound Disabilities

3.     Creating Activities That Include All Students

4.     Educating Students With Less Severe Disabilities

5.     Not Having Enough Teacher Aides

6.     Teaching Compassion to Students

7.     Dealing With Parents of "Typically Developing" Students

8.     Addressing Individualized Lesson Plans

9.     Coordinating Therapies


4. Role of special educator for students with ASD

Different inclusion models

Effective inclusion programs are characterized by team work and collaboration.  Regularly scheduled planning time is essential.  The regular classroom teacher must consistently consult with special education teachers, speech-language pathologists, other specialists and family members.  This collaboration begins during the IEP meeting.  The team must first consider all placement options for the student with disabilities.  If they determine that the student can benefit from an inclusive program, a plan is developed to provide the supports and services needed for academic success.  Some students may benefit from a program incorporating inclusion for some special education instruction, and traditional "pull-out" services for other educational needs.

The main role of the special education teacher is to provide instruction and support which facilitates the participation of students with disabilities in the regular classroom.

The special education teachers should:

§  Serve as case managers and be responsible for the development, implementation, and evaluation of students’ IEPs.

§  Provide the necessary information to the classroom teacher prior to the child entering the general education classroom regarding the student’s disability, medical concerns, and/or equipment operation (ways to meet unique needs).

§  Collaborate with the general education teacher in adapting the curriculum, providing appropriate modifications, ensuring the implementation of modifications, and assessing overall progress of the child.

§  Develop schedules and supervise plans for paraeducators.

§  With the general education teacher, develop and supervise plan for paraprofessional duties.

§  Complete and maintain all assigned student’s records (i.e., IEP, ESYP, documentation, progress report, behavior plan, etc.).

§  Maintain contact with the assigned student’s parents or family.

§  Maintain collaborative relationship and goodwill with general educators.

§  May team teach lessons, either small group or whole class (Boyer & Mainzer, 2003).


5. Importance of enabling social and physical environment

Classroom environment has been a popular topic in academicians’ and educators’ discussion in order to improve the students’ performance. As early as 1970s, academicians and educators collaborate in finding a solution on improving students’ performance both in using social or physical environment. However, in Malaysia, there is a lack of study that incorporate physical environment in students’ performance. There are a lot of research on how to improve students’ performance in the social environment, which includes the curriculum, interaction between teachers and students, students’ satisfaction in learning, and students’ discipline (Hamzah, 2003; Razak, 2006; Shoba, 2007). Although research on classroom physical environment is lacking, yet, some researchers incorporate a part of the physical environment in their research and how it affects students’ performance and discipline (Shoba, 2007; Razak, 2006). However, researchers do not investigate principals’ perception on classroom physical environment especially on classroom arrangements and their constraints.

Sanoff (1991) stated that the principal of school functions as the heart of the school community. The principal understands more about school community, school facilities and school management. Thus, this research investigates how the principal perceives classroom physical environment especially in terms of arrangement and facilities and what are the constraints that prevent it from occurring. It is crucial to understand the principal’s perception and the constraints in the implementation in order to improve the Malaysian school environment.