We didn't think that Random Guy needed a special education preschool classroom. He was participating in his preschool ECFE classes and the neighborhood community education preschool with few problems. They suggested an ECSE inclusion classroom for his preschool year to work on some of his social delays and attention issues he was having in a regular classroom. We found inclusion was the right balance for him. By the time kindergarten came around we put him in a regular education classroom with supports. I don't even know if they knew what they were doing for us was a type of inclusion; we decided for Random Guy to go to the neighborhood school and they had the support he needed at the time.
SensiGirl had too many issues to be successful in an inclusion classroom in preschool, but she is mainstreaming into a regular kindergarten class that includes another kid with ASD. Here is a handy visual to demonstrate the differences between the two concepts:
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Federal Laws don't require inclusion, but the IDEA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 say the a student must be placed in the least restrictive environment and the schools have to provide for the education of each student with a qualified disability. What the laws don't say is how to provide this environment. Inclusion grew out of these and other laws and now we are finding ways for doing this effectively.
There are generally two methods of inclusion. There is the Push In method, where the special education teacher comes into the classroom bringing materials if needed and to provide instruction.
In the Full Inclusion method the regular education teacher and the special education teachers are partners in the classroom. The special education student participates in the general education classroom with supports from the special education teacher.
Inclusion isn't for every student, or every school, but mainstreaming has its drawbacks too. One attitude that is prevalent in mainstreaming is the student has to earn their place in the general education classroom by being able to keep up with the pace of the other students. To participate in inclusion, the student only has to show that they benefit from being in the general education classroom.
Inclusion is a teaching concept of growing importance and teachers need training to get it to work for them in their classrooms. Our Family Friend Graduate Student is a great advocate for inclusion classrooms and is getting training in both early childhood education and special education so she can put together an inclusion classroom of her own.