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Inclusion and Belonging: Part 1

Here at IDEA, we are obviously big proponents of inclusion. I mean, it's in our name! Every time we support families or talk through dilemmas, we are coming from the perspective that kids who are educated together will grow and live together and that inclusive practices in our schools lead to whole and healthy communities where everyone is valued.

Over the years, though, we've figured out that while inclusion is powerful, it can be misunderstood. Ask 10 educators what inclusion means and you're likely to get 10 different answers. It's just not a well-defined term. 100% of the time we've heard "inclusion doesn't work" and dug in to understand, we find kids who are placed in classrooms without the supports they need to be successful. Without those things in place, what you end up with can be tough and trying and it's just NOT inclusion. Poorly planned and executed "inclusion" is hard for everyone - school staff, teachers, parents, and students with and without disabilities. In so many ways, it's a disservice AND gives the concept of inclusion a bad rap.

From the very beginning, federal special education law has cast its eye toward creating a society where people with disabilities are seen and valued:

"Disability is a natural part of the human experience and in no way diminishes the right of individuals to participate in or contribute to society. Improving educational results for children with disabilities is an essential element of our national policy of ensuring equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for individuals with disabilities." (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act)

From an inclusionist's perspective, these outcomes can't be achieved by a system that regularly segregates children. That is why inclusive practices are so vital; they ultimately impact entire communities.

Over the next several blogs, we are going to explore what inclusion means, what the research says about its effectiveness, and what we can do as parents and educators to create a culture that supports all learners. We hope you'll join us, sharing your experiences and wonderings. Together, we can come closer to an understanding of inclusion, its benefits and obstacles and maybe build a set of tools to help move us closer to a time when everyone is participating and contributing to society, regardless of any label or disability.

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