Inclusion Vs. Self-Contained Classrooms:
Which is Best for Your Child?
As a parent of a child with Dup15q Syndrome, it is important to understand the difference between self-contained classrooms and inclusive classrooms. Below is a helpful description of these two types of classrooms by Nicole Eredics, who is an educator who advocates for the inclusion of students with disabilities in the general education classroom:
Self-contained classrooms were established decades ago when students with disabilities were first placed in the public school system. Prior to self-contained classrooms, most children with disabilities were educated in separate facilities. The purpose of the self-contained classroom is to give students with disabilities specialized interventions and support. The class is sometimes smaller in size than a general education class, with a lead teacher and several
The purpose of the self-contained classroom is to give students with disabilities specialized interventions and support. The class is sometimes smaller in size than a general education class, with a lead teacher and several paraprofessionals who provide assistance. Students spend the majority of their day in the self-contained classroom. While beneficial for some students, self-contained classrooms have limitations that inclusive classrooms do not.
Inclusive classrooms educate students with and without disabilities. Studies since the 1970s have proven over and over again that students with disabilities who are taught alongside typically developing students make tremendous gains in all areas of personal growth and development. As such, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (a federal law that governs how people with disabilities are educated in American schools) states that children need to have access to the general education curriculum in the regular classroom to the maximum extent possible.
Based on Ms. Eredics article, it would be easy to jump to the conclusion that your child should be in an inclusive classroom full-time. Indeed, there are many “pros” to an inclusive setting. For example:
- Inclusive classrooms give students the opportunity to interact and learn with others who have a wide variety of abilities and backgrounds.
- Inclusive classrooms provide a rich education with high standards.
- Typical peers provide language, behavioral, and social skills models for your child.
- Friendships with typical peers can be facilitated. (Compare this to a self contained classroom where the child does not associate with typical peers.)
- Students with disabilities are given the same educational opportunities as their typically developing peers.
- Peers benefit by befriending those who are different than they are and appreciating that diversity.
- Inclusive classrooms create a greater sense of community for all families.
- The child is not exposed to just children with disabilities with similar language and social skills deficits or maladaptive behaviors (as is the case with a self-contained classrooms).
Other educational advocates, however, argue that an inclusive setting is not the best learning environment for a child with disabilities. They argue that there are many “pros” to a self-contained classroom. For example:
- A self-contained classroom may provide a better environment for a child who is distracted or easily overwhelmed due to sensory issues within a large general education classroom.
- The child may be more likely to learn in an intensive 1:1 environment, or with small group instruction with like peers, particularly because reinforcers (such as toys and videos) are permitted to assist with learning. (Reinforcers are frequently used in ABA therapy or ABA-type instruction, and may be distracting to other student if they were used in the general education classroom.)
- There is a lower student/teacher ratio in self-contained classrooms that provide more individualized instruction to develop skills.
- A self-contained classroom offers the opportunity to learn both academic and life skills.
- A self contained classroom has a teacher who is trained in special education.
- A self-contained classroom provides greater structure to minimize distractions.
As a parent of a child with Dup15q, you will need to consider all of these issues to determine whether an inclusive or a self-contained classroom is best for your child. We recognize that this is a difficult decision because there are multiple issues to consider. (For example: what your school is proposing as a placement, what you wish to prioritize, the extent of your child’s disabilities, etc.) Based on our discussions with many Dup15q families, we have heard of many different types of placements. That being said, the following three scenarios are especially prevalent:
- Many families report that their Dup15q child who is classified as having more of aa “severe” intellectual disability has benefited from a self-contained setting to develop independence and communication skills. They further report that this placement is especially good if their child is educated in a hybrid of both settings. For example, their child may spend their academic part of the day in small, special needs resource classes where they can get individual attention, behavioral support, specialized instruction, and extra time for processing, while enjoying inclusion with typical peers for specials like music/gym/art, lunch/recess, and special classroom activities like holiday parties.
- Many families report that their Dup15q child who is classified as having a “mild” to “moderate” intellectual disability has benefited from an inclusion setting in elementary school. As curricular demands increase in middle/high school, they may move more toward self-contained instruction and get inclusion opportunities in their community.
- Some families report that they have become very frustrated with their respective public schools for a multitude of reasons, and have opted to place their child in ABA full time. If this occurs, these families frequently seek out socialization opportunities for their child with typical peers outside of the ABA centers.
It may be helpful for you to post on the Dup15q website to discuss your struggle with this decision. People are happy to chime in on what they have found does or does not work. Regardless of how they respond, however, you will need to ask yourself some fairly challenging questions which are critical to making this decision. These include the following:
- What kind of environment does your child learns best in, and what kind of environment is he or she the least productive?
- How does your child perceive the mainstream environment? Is it welcoming and friendly? Or has your child experienced alienation and loneliness?
- Does your child need structure and routine, or does he or she thrive in a less structured environment with different teachers and lots of children present?
- Are there one or two areas in which your child needs academic help, or is every moment in school a struggle?
If you would like to discuss this issue further, please do not hesitate to submit a “help ticket” at https://dup15q.dm.networkforgood.com/forms/iep-help-ticket We are more than happy to talk through these issues further. Another option is to consult with an education advocate. Although there is a fee involved, this can provide you with peace of mind as you address these difficult issues.
The Compassion Experience was created to develop a sense of understanding and compassion among grade school age peers. Because every child is unique, feel free to customize the experience to better fit your child. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for your compassion experience kit.
Dup15q Alliance will provide:
– Chromosome Kids Like Me” book. A child friendly rhyming story that compares genetic disorders to pairs of socks. It promotes inclusion and acceptance from other children, and explains how children with a genetic condition may need a little extra help to play and get involved.
– Dup15q Alliance Blue Bracelets/Temporary Tattoo
“Introduction to autism that aims to raise awareness among young non-autistic audiences, to stimulate understanding and acceptance in future generations. It is intended to be viewed, discussed and shared widely by anyone but especially teachers and parents”.