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While students with disabilities—both physical and intellectual—face a multitude of challenges on their educational journey, students with intellectual disabilities may face unique challenges over the course of their learning years. 

For starters, students with disabilities are often placed in separate classrooms from their peers. Those with intellectual disabilities often require special classrooms or teaching methods, and most of the time, they study alongside other students with similar disabilities.

While special education programmes for students with disabilities have proved to be effective in giving them the education they require, they also often isolate these students, rarely giving them the opportunity to study alongside students who are unimpaired. 

This is where inclusive classrooms fulfil an important requirement.

Inclusive classrooms aim to unite all students, with and without intellectual disabilities, into one classroom where they can learn together; instead of placing students living with intellectual disabilities in a separate classroom entirely. 

In this learning environment, all students will have access to the same general education and technology that is used in a traditional classroom. 

Here’s a deeper look into inclusive classrooms and how they benefit the students they teach.

What is an inclusive classroom?

Both kinds of teachers, traditional and special education, will be available for all students in an inclusive classroom at all times. 

This eliminates the need to take students with intellectual disabilities to a different classroom when it’s time for their lessons, because the classroom is equipped to cater to both kinds of students with or without intellectual disabilities to learn together in the same learning environment.

Inclusive classrooms can even be equipped for the needs of students who have speech and language-related disabilities by bringing speech therapists and other disability service providers into the classroom for assistance.

Teachers in these classrooms will find ways to communicate with all students by using a single method, wherever possible. For example, when teaching the children, they may use visual aides and multisensory learning—these can be effective for teaching students both with and without intellectual disabilities.

Inclusive education systems aim to develop educational goals based on each student's strengths. This means a more personalised educational journey and that all students in an inclusive classroom need not have similar educational goals or learning paces in order to learn in the same environment.

These classrooms may also have special supports built in to make them more accessible for students with physical disabilities. 

Benefits for students with disabilities

Inclusive classrooms can have a positive impact on the lives of students who have intellectual disabilities by allowing them:

  • Access to more learning activities

When studying in an inclusive classroom, students with disabilities will be able to experience a range of different classroom activities that they might not otherwise experience in a special education classroom.

Students who have disabilities can take part in the same classroom activities as other students, allowing them to learn a more diverse range of skills.

  • More opportunities for bonding with other students

Social interaction and activities are important for every learning child, and students who have disabilities are no different.

Students who are placed in special education classrooms may have very little interaction with other students their age who aren’t living with disabilities. In some cases, these students may also be the sole student of their special education classrooms with only their teachers to interact with—this can make them feel isolated.

When students don’t get ample opportunities to spend time with their peers at school they may feel depressed and frustrated; impacting their state of mind and their educational progress.

By putting them in an inclusive classroom, students who have intellectual disabilities can interact with other students of the same age who may or may not have a disability. This gives them more opportunities to form meaningful bonds and meet individuals from different walks of life.

For this reason, it’s possible for students who have intellectual disabilities to experience better social development when placed in an inclusive classroom.

  • A sense of belonging

When placed in special education systems, some students with intellectual disabilities may feel left out and like they don’t fit in with other students. This may lead to them losing confidence in their abilities and prompt them to start avoiding interactions with their peers.

In an inclusive classroom, students with intellectual disabilities experience a stronger sense of belonging and won’t feel like they’re too different from students without disabilities. This can give them a boost in confidence, and encourage them to achieve their educational goals.

  • Create a safer environment 

Sometimes students may experience bullying from students who aren’t living with disabilities. In most cases, this behaviour occurs when students have little to no interaction with people with disabilities, which can cause misconceptions that lead to mistreatment.

Inclusive classrooms allow more interaction between students with and without disabilities, and this will help students develop a better understanding of people with disabilities and learn how to be respectful towards them.

Students in these learning environments will learn to be more accepting of all people who may be differently abled to them.

How inclusive classrooms pave the way for stronger communities and holistic education

Students with and without disabilities can develop a stronger sense of community when they study in an inclusive classroom. Since they’ve been given the opportunity to study with people who are different from them at school, they will find it easier to live in an integrated community in the future.

While many families of students who have disabilities tend to worry about how their children will fare in an educational environment, some families may also have reservations about whether their children will be able to experience school the same way as everyone else.

Thanks to inclusive classrooms, families of these students can rest assured that their children will not only get the best education they can, but that they will also experience every other aspect of school life alongside their peers.

Inclusive classrooms are changing education forever

While inclusive classrooms are still far from being perfect, they have given students with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to experience a standard education.

Needless to say, the future of inclusive classrooms and education looks brighter than ever.

Work with disability support services in Australia to learn more about how to support individuals with disabilities.

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