“She’d done some tests, and she had determined that I was never going to be able to function as an adult in any meaningful way. Never graduate from high school, never even go to high school, never work or have a job or be married or have kids or any of the things you dream about. She told my parents they needed to put me in an institution in Maryland, where she had already reserved a spot for me.” – Quinn Bradlee, A Different Life
Though Quinn’s case may sound extreme, it is not far from what many parents and children face on a daily basis as more and more students are labeled as “Learning Disabled.” In an era when Autism and Attention Deficit Disorders are being diagnosed in epic proportions, parents, teachers, and medical professionals are faced with the dilemma of how to ensure that these students receive a quality level of education that is equal to their peers. Gone are the days when they were put in a room with others who shared a similar diagnosis and given alternative assignments. Today’s classroom is diversified with learners who demand and deserve equal opportunity. Inclusion is defined as the act or state of being included. So what then does this look like in terms of education? Inclusion in the regular classroom is multifaceted. It is collaboration among students, parents, teachers, administrators, and other trained professionals as they come together to ensure that every child is given the opportunity of success.
The first misconception that must be addressed in creating and inclusive classroom is that no student is truly “learning disabled,” nor does he have a “learning disability” though it may be said that he has special needs. However, it is important to keep in mind that all students have special needs, be it challenges or giftedness. It is for this reason that it is more accurate to say that every child faces challenges that might be considered “learning different.” Addressing these individual needs is necessary and must be considered in creating a successful learning environment, including, but not limited, to a differentiated curriculum.
In doing so, it is imperative that the classroom teacher is fluent with all Individual Education Plans so that she may know the individual needs of her students. It is equally important for her to ensure that she has the ability to address the needs of those who do not have an I.E.P. For this reason, she may want to conduct several informal tests that will reveal each students interests, learning style, and zone of proximal development or level of readiness. This is not something that will take place only in the fall as school begins, but will be revisited throughout the course of the school year as needs and interests will inevitably change.
Changes should also be apparent in the curriculum as the year progresses. Differentiation is a term that has come to be somewhat controversial as it is a relatively new concept in education. Some educators meet the concept...