The Value of Including Students with Special Needs

I have hinted at it already in this chapter, but it is worth saying again: including students with disabilities in regular classrooms is valuable for everyone concerned. The students with disabilities themselves tend to experience a richer educational environment, both socially and academically. Just as with racial segregation, separate education is not equal education, or at least cannot be counted on to be equal. But classmates of students with disabilities also experience a richer educational environment; they potentially meet a wider range of classmates and to see a wider range of educational purposes in operation. Teachers also experience these benefits, but their programs often benefit in other ways as well. The most notable overall benefit is an increased focus on diversity among students: the presence of student with disabilities reminds everyone—students as well as teachers—that everyone is truly unique, whether or not they are officially designated as having a disability. Many teaching strategies help students with disabilities precisely because they are individualized and differentiate among students’ needs more than conventional whole-group teaching practices. The differentiation turns out to benefit all students, regardless of their levels of skill or readiness. Everyone—not just students with disabilities—benefits from careful planning of objectives, attention to individual differences among students, and establishment of a positive social atmosphere in the classroom. But at that point we will frame the need for differentiated instruction around the needs of all students, whatever their individual qualities.