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Challenges for Teachers in Special-Needs-Inclusive Classrooms

I am the mother of a child that has been in a fully inclusive classroom since preschool.

Explore some of the common challenges that teachers face with special-needs-inclusive classrooms, from insufficient training to a shortage of teacher aides.

Explore some of the common challenges that teachers face with special-needs-inclusive classrooms, from insufficient training to a shortage of teacher aides.

Issues in Inclusive Education

As the mother of a child that has been in a fully inclusive classroom since preschool, I have seen the ups and downs, advantages, and challenges of this type of classroom setting.

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. Dealing with death
  6. Not having enough teacher aides
  7. Teaching compassion to students
  8. Dealing with parents of "typically developing" students
  9. Addressing individualized lesson plans
  10. Coordinating therapies
It's essential for all teachers to receive sufficient training and gain classroom experience with students.

It's essential for all teachers to receive sufficient training and gain classroom experience with students.

1. Lacking Experience in an Inclusion Setting

Some teachers have not been exposed to special-needs classrooms, and this can be a disadvantage. New special education teachers may find the first year to be especially difficult. Educators need to coordinate efforts and understand the needs of the classroom in terms of developing skills and lesson plans.

2. Lacking Experience With Severe and Profound Disabilities

Students with severe and profound disabilities require more adaptation and medical attention than the average student. Teachers must be skilled in handling severe disabilities by creating lesson plans based on individual abilities and adhering to each child's dietary needs. If the teacher doesn't have sufficient experience, the child may not progress in their skills—or, in the worst-case scenario, they could experience adverse medical incidents.

3. Creating Activities That Include All Students

Special-needs-inclusive classrooms must be able to involve all of the students in all of the classroom activities. Teachers need to address how the students will communicate with each other and encourage everyone's participation. If there is a lack of adaptive equipment or adaptive communication and language tools, it makes it difficult for teachers to lead a united classroom.

4. Educating Students With Less Severe Disabilities

When there are children of all abilities in the classroom, both physical and academic, children in the middle can easily fall between the cracks. These children might have learning disabilities, hearing impairments, ADD, or language delays, to name a few examples. Providing the right amount of attention and adaptation can be challenging for teachers, especially if there is a higher teacher-to-student ratio.

5. Dealing With Death

Death is difficult for any teacher to explain to their students. When you have a special-needs-inclusive classroom, there may be students with chronic illnesses, and teachers may have to help their class process the death of a classmate.

6. Not Having Enough Teacher Aides

Normally, inclusive classrooms have a regular educator and a special-needs educator. Due to the nature of the classroom and its size, it is imperative to have an appropriate number of teacher aides to assist the teachers with day-to-day activities. But teachers often don't get the resources they need, including teacher aides.

7. Teaching Compassion to Students

Not all students have been exposed to persons with special needs before, and this becomes a challenge for teachers. Teachers must not tolerate insensitivity and cruelty. They must teach that all students are to be treated with respect, regardless of ability.

8. Dealing With Parents of "Typically Developing" Students

Just like the students, some parents are not used to dealing with persons with special needs. Teachers need to convey to parents how the classroom is conducted, and they need to reassure parents that every student's needs will be met.

9. Addressing Individualized Lesson Plans

Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) are important for helping special-needs students succeed. Because there are varying abilities in an inclusive classroom, teachers need to balance multiple IEPs while addressing individual academic needs based on ability.

10. Coordinating Therapies

A special-needs inclusion classroom needs to be well organized and allow for students to attend therapy sessions. However, this becomes a challenge in planning day-to-day activities and keeping all students engaged and learning.

The First Step to Success Is Better Training for Teachers

Although many schools are moving towards special-needs-inclusive classrooms, there are a number of issues or challenges that need to be addressed. Ensuring that teachers are fully trained and prepared is the first step in making special-needs-inclusive classrooms a success.

Further Reading

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


belayneh agedew on March 18, 2020:

Thankyou so much more for your information

Jeremiah on October 16, 2019:

I have worked as both a classroom teacher and as a SEP teacher and there are definitely benefits to an inclusive classroom but huge challenges to make it run as it is intended.

For starters, the SEP is unable to get to each SEP student on a daily basis. This prevents the SEP from being able to have organic observations VS scheduled observations which may result in unrealistic supports put in place. Secondly, the EAs are now being used to work in 1:1 or small groups with SEP students, and I have found they go on stress leave more often because they have a difficult gig (not always, but it happens). When they are away, substitute support staff are not experienced enough to know how to support the students they work with.

For classroom teachers, they struggle to provide adequate material suitable for the SE students while also providing mainstream instruction for the other students. I also find that mainstream students who are "bored" become behavioral problems because they are not being stimulated enough. The biggest issue I get from classroom teachers are not the SEP students, but the behavioral students. The behavioral students are acting out because they are lacking something and it becomes very difficult for the teacher to find the void and fill it while also differentiating for the SEP students, and the regular students.

Its a juggling act, and I am a supporter of inclusion but I am not a fan of full inclusion. During Core subjects I think students need to be bunched based on their ability so there is a smaller range of differentiation so we can target and see larger growth in core subjects.

It seems almost forbidden to mention that there are hardships with inclusive education, but its good to discuss the pros and cons. The pros include realistic settings, social development, and of course feeling a part of the general student body. Kids learn off each other, but they also develop the "bad habits" that some students may for due to being under-stimulated due to the juggling act a teacher must try to enact on a daily basis.

I have seen larger school boards implement a co-teaching system which I have become a big fan of! They work in tangent in the classroom with a larger population providing adequate materials for each group of students.

Collins on October 04, 2019:

Nice one

Raphael on October 03, 2019:

I need your reference

Mr Lokqwe BL on September 25, 2019:

I think now is the time for government to pay teachers descent salaries not peanuts because MP's are getting a lot of money whereas they are doing nothing in Parliament, some are just there to sleep so why we don't we invest in teachers for the sake of our children's future.

Gina on January 26, 2019:

Ms Ramos,

I am a teacher in the basic education and is doing a dissertation about problems and issues of learners with disabilities. I am not a special education teacher but i have felt the burden they are facing when it comes to the implementation of inclusive education. I am grateful to you for publishing this issue so, teachers and other concerned people may take the initiative to lessen the burden of these teachers in this inclusive education classrooms.

There are many issues that our inclusive education program is facing these days, and I am very thankful that you have transcribed some of them.

Since I am doing my papers right now, could I use this article as my reference?

Thank you and I am hoping that parents with children like yours would also post their own concerns about their experiences in the inclusive education.

More blessings!


Laxmi on December 05, 2018:


ardon B. Calingacion on November 28, 2018:

hi Ms. Ramos,

thanks you for this post.. as a student-researcher having success stories of learners with special needs as my subject matter, this problem will be very essential and crucial to consider when making a a inclusive classroom.

may i ask for your permission to use this post of yours as my reference.

thank you

Jessnah albarando on September 08, 2018:

It really helps may situation god bless

Bee on August 03, 2018:

The saddest thing about including some special needs students in speciality classes like EMT/Paramedics, these student go out in the real world thinking I did this in HS I can be a firefighter/Paramedic. In reality the student didn't have the skill set to pass all of the required test. Example, a student went to take a fireman's exam and told them he had an IEP, in the real world they didn't care.

Soubhagya padhan on February 10, 2016:

Inclusion is necessary in a diversity. It is not only the right of the CWSN, but also the duty of the Government, as well as Non- Government Organisation to provide education to all. To teach in an inclusive classroom is a crucial task for the general education teacher , for that sincere qualified trained teachers are require. after training follow up service should be there. Never the less the suceess of inclusive Education is depend upon the attitude of the teachers, parents, peers of CWSN etc...

Kiconco Moses Ntegyereize--Uganda on December 10, 2015:

Teachers need to be trained in order to acquire skills

jashon auko on October 30, 2015:

I think the government should increase payment of these teachers

tajunnisa teacher kendriya vidyalaya mysore India on November 25, 2014:

information is quiet useful add some easy useful strategies to deal with children having auditory disabilities having hearing aid

Sujbin on October 22, 2014:

please would anyone like to ansanswer me the following question problems that we face while teaching child with special needs

okuro michael. on April 30, 2014:

I think the Government must always give necessary support to these learners and teachers handling inclusive classes must be properly trained and well equipped with skills.

Hendrina on April 05, 2013:

both learners with and without special needs , they need to receive equal education therefore i am suggestion more teachers to be train in order to perform their duties, more teaching aid should be implemented in order to enhance learners learning.

filimonawit sheferaw on March 22, 2013:

oh its good note ==================================

chulumanda Benson Mulenga - Zambia on May 07, 2012:

Inclusion can just be a dream if necessary measures have not been put in place. inclusion requires careful planning in terms of both human and material resources. Rushing into inclusion despite its merits can disadvantage a child even more!

Abundant Old Soul from united states on January 24, 2012:

I have been where you are. I know the system. Take heart. There are teachers who are saving lives. If you need some inspiration look at my hubs.

Francis ekwau Uganda on January 12, 2012:

Teaching inclusive classes requires teachers to be able to asses the level of special need in a learner ranging from mild, severe and profound. Then be able to plan what is worth for all. Tr. Of special needs Uganda.

Francis ekwau on January 12, 2012:

Teaching inclusive classes requires teachers to be able to asses the level of special need in a learner ranging from mild, severe and profound. The be able to plan what is worth for all. Tr. Of special needs Uganda.

Ndango Algred, student teacher on October 28, 2011:

Inclusive education is really another thing in Namibia. schools do have extra classes for inclusive children and you will find that these children are being forced to attend school with able learners, but really these leaners do not used to endup anywhere since the government can not even carter for all these children. I think its time our government has to look at this problem and take it into consideration because even the teachers who are teaching inclusive classrooms are not being trained for them to requier enough skills which they will be able to deal with this situation.

sticks on September 19, 2011:

Iclusion shoul start at childhooh level at home . Parents and the community at large should incoorparate children with special needs in all facets of life.We shoul see disabled people representing others in education,politics,sports and everywhere.

Mukuli Peter on September 12, 2011:

Inclusion in developing countries like Zimbabwe is still a big challenge because most schools were built without the requisite infrastructure, equipment and facilities. Most regular schools therefore need to be upgraded before they can accommodate and include learners of different abilities. This places budgetary constraints on responsible authorities and the government.

Rose Clearfield from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on May 18, 2011:

Wonderfully written. All great points. As a special education teacher, I've seen many of these issues first hand. Inclusion is done with the best of intentions, but I think that a lot of teachers just aren't prepared for it. I wish that teacher education programs were doing more to address this.

Ryan Clinton from on March 14, 2010:

Many schools require special needs students to be mainstreamed and do not provide the teacher with the information required to provide the special help. In an ideal world teachers will learn and do all they can but when teachers have 150 students it can be difficult to learn about individual students quickly. Inclusion should be a carefully planned process for the welfare of the child. Thanks for the hub.