Why is inclusion important to students with special needs and disabilities?

The importance of inclusion in special education needs and disabilities

Inclusive education is where different and diverse students learn alongside one another in the same classroom. Inclusive education values the diversity of the students and the unique contribution each child brings to the classroom.

Inclusive classrooms are common in part because of the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA). This law states that students who receive special education services should be taught in the least restrictive environment. Therefore, these students should spend as much time as possible with students who do not receive special education services. Studies have in fact shown that inclusive classrooms benefit all student, not just students with disabilities.

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Why is inclusion important to children with disabilities?

  • Inclusive classrooms are essential for changing discriminatory attitudes. Schools provide a context for a child to form their first relationship with the world outside of their families. Understanding and respect improve when children of different abilities and backgrounds play, socialise and learn together.

How does inclusion education help students with special needs?

  • A sense of belonging. All of the children are able to be part of their community and develop a sense of belonging.
  • Everybody learns! The needs of all the students are met because the teacher presents lessons in different ways and uses the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework. For example, the teacher may sometimes use differentiated instruction which is where the teacher puts the students into small groups. This way the teacher can tailor their teaching to the way the student learns best. The teacher may also use an interactive whiteboard during some lessons meaning the children can get involved and use their fingers to write, erase and move images around on a screen. This teaching tool can be exciting for children and improve engagement.
  • A sense of worth. Children with special needs completing tasks alongside children without special needs can instil a sense of worth and can highlight their own personal skills and abilities that they may have failed to recognise otherwise.
  • Differences are less recognised. Inclusive classrooms are filled with diverse learners; all with their own unique strengths and weaknesses. Inclusion gives children an opportunity to build and maintain friendships, finding things that they have in common with their classmates along the way. This can help a child to learn that difference is normal.
  • Supports all students. Rather than being asked to leave the classroom for related services, such as speech therapy and other specialised instructions, an inclusive classroom often brings these services into the classroom, where all of the students can benefit from them.
  • Uses teaching assistants / specialists. These staff help the teachers to address the needs of all the students and may pull a student out of the class to provide help to them individually.
  • An Inclusive curriculum. This includes locally relevant themes and contributions by marginalised and minority groups. It avoids binary narratives of good and bad, and allows adapting the curriculum to the learning styles of children with special educational needs.
  • The parents can get involved. Often, parental involvement in their child's education is limited to emails home and occasional parent-teacher conferences. In a diverse school system, inclusion means thinking about multiple ways to communicate with parents on their own terms.

What are some examples of inclusion at school?

  • Learning in a classroom alongside students with and without learning difficulties.
  • The Fieldfare Kielder Challenge. This challenge is an inclusive national outdoor adventure competition and has been running now for over twenty years. The challenge is fully inclusive and open to all young people. This challenge Is not a one-off event for an increasing number of schools. This project was designed to facilitate inclusion activities within schools for students with and without special needs and to give them the opportunity to develop new skills, especially problem-solving skills and teamwork skills.


Studies have shown that inclusion is beneficial for all students, not just children with special needs and disabilities. Children with special educational needs who are in inclusive classrooms are not absent from class as often; develop stronger skills in maths and English, and are more likely to have jobs and pursue education after secondary school. Furthermore, children without special needs and disabilities have been found to be more comfortable with differences; have greater self-esteem and diverse, caring friendships. Therefore, inclusion in schools is important for all students with and without special needs and disabilities.

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Updated: 05/04/2024


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