Inclusion: An Essential Part of Any Classroom
Best Buddies YLC
This past June I graduated from high school and I was lucky enough to have experienced classes with the inclusion of students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). I was able to compare this experience to classrooms that were not inclusive. I witnessed a huge difference in the atmosphere of the classroom, the social aspect among peers and an overall more positive classroom experience.
An aspect that stood out to me was the patience exuded by all students. If a student with an intellectual or developmental disability needed further explanation or clarification of subject material in the classroom, there were no set backs or detriments to the progress of the class. Everyone was patient when this happened, and if it was a group project that a student with IDD had trouble with, the other students had no problem modifying or explaining it themselves, in fact they were happy to do so.
The atmosphere was happier, as not only did the students with IDD learn from us, but students learned from them. The classroom became a more encouraging environment, if someone failed to do something it became a class effort to make sure they succeeded. Students looked forward to the class and laughed more, and even reached out to each other outside of class.
You may be thinking to yourself, that’s great! But how can I incorporate that into my everyday classes? The answer is to treat people with IDD like any other student in the class. Be a friend-a source of support, encouragement, and acceptance. A classroom is an environment where everyone wants to be accepted.
If you see a person with IDD in your class, even if you’re shy, just introducing yourself makes a difference. In a project where you need a partner, initiate being their partner. In a gym class, a friend of mine who is in Best Buddies could not make her last lap around the field. The entire class ran over to her to help her finish. In theater class students always made sure she was up to date on what was going on so she would not feel lost. Little things like this, made something school related easier because she had understanding friends that helped her along the way.
No one likes being in a class where they have don’t have a single friend. Have the courage to take the initiative so no one ever has to feel this way, just starting with a simple “Hello.”