Challenges in Special-Needs-Inclusive Classrooms
As a 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 these 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 find enough of a balance to serve all the students.
What are the top challenges teachers faces in a special needs inclusive classroom? Let’s take a closer look:
- Lack of experience in an inclusion setting. Some teachers have not been exposed to special needs classrooms and this can be a disadvantage. Educators need to coordinate efforts and understand the needs of the classroom in terms of developing skills and lesson plans.
- Lack of experience dealing 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 and create lesson plans based on individual abilities and adhere to dietary needs of the child. Lack of experience can lead to the child not progressing with skills or cause of adverse medical incidents.
- Including all students in all activities. Special needs inclusion classrooms must be able to involve its students in all classroom activities. Teachers need to address how the classroom will communicate with each other and encourage participation. If there is a lack of adaptive equipment or adaptive communication and language tools, it makes it difficult for teachers to function as a united classroom.
- 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 can have learning disabilities, hearing impairments, ADD or language delays to name a few. Providing the right amount of attention and adaptation can be challenging, especially if there is a higher teacher to student ratio.
- Dealing with death. Death is difficult for any teacher to explain to their classroom. When you have a special needs inclusive classroom, there may be students with chronic illnesses and teachers may have to deal with the death of a student.
- Shortage of teacher aides. Normally, inclusive classrooms have a regular educator and special needs educator. Due to the nature of the classroom and size, it is imperative that there be an appropriate number of teacher aides to assist the teachers with day to day activities.
- Teaching compassion to students. Not all students have been exposed to persons with special needs and this becomes a challenge to teachers. Teachers must not tolerate insensitiveness and cruelness and teach that all students are to be treated with respect, regardless of ability.
- Dealing with parents of “typically developing” students. As some students are not use to dealing with persons with special needs, parents are no exception. Teachers need to convey to parents how the classroom is conducted and that all educational needs will be met.
- Individualized lesson plans. Because there are varying abilities in the classroom, teachers can be challenged to address individual academic needs based on ability.
- 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.
Although many schools are moving towards special needs inclusive classrooms, there are a number of issues or challenges that need to be addressed. Preparing and training a teacher is the first step in making special needs inclusive classrooms a success.