Integrated Classroom: Practical Arguments At Pre-School Level !

Many parents, like myself, often debate the issue of their child being in a integrated classroom versus a special needs classroom. Which is better? In which setting will my child make the most progress are questions you make ask yourself.  While there are merits for both an integrated classroom and a special needs classroom research shows integration at the pre-school level can have positive life long affects.

The Education World Has A Long Way To Go For Supporting Special Needs Children:

What is the inclusion model for Autism? What does it really mean for our children? The concept refers to students with special needs being fully integrated with their peers, and being educated in a typically developing classroom with appropriate support services. The inclusion model can look slightly different  for each child. For some children it can be a full day in an integrated classroom and for some a half day with some one on one therapy.  My own son has had a combination of a integrated classroom plus one on one in his early years.

In this blog, I am going to examine some of the research by “How Do Children Benefit From Inclusion?” William R. Henninger, IV and Sarika S. Gupta who have found integration at the preschool level have profound long term impacts for children with Autism.

It is important to note, many Early Childhood Developers support Inclusion which is a positive step in the right direction.

  1.  Data collected in the USA shows children with disabilities are being included in pre-school programs  and the rate of children being included every year is increasing. Of the children who are in integrated programs most are included 80% of the time. However, there is still a vast number of children who are not included at all in pre-school programs and more work and education needs to be done in promoting inclusion at the pre-school level.

2. Inclusive classroom programs have a long way to go in terms of high quality (Barnett & Hustedt). Essentially pre-school is     designed for a child to attain certain skills to be successful in future classrooms but also to develop important social-emotional development. Social-emotional development has shown to have positive impacts in reducing the academic gap, future employment and academic success. For our children learning can have positive impacts in many areas.

In conclusion, it could be argued, children with Autism, should join a preschool program for integration and learning vital skills that will have positive impacts in the future. Many preschool programs are half day and, this can be combined with preschool in the morning lunch, a nap, and a one on one program in the afternoon/evening.

This is an important finding for parents with newly diagnosed children who do not know where to begin. Parents and teachers who do not have extra supports can download visual preschool programs at to allow for inclusion and extra practice for FREE.  

Remember this very popular “How To Use The Back To School Social Story” blog:

Lets Examine The Merits Of A Inclusion Model For Autism: 

1. Allows For The Development of Friendships With Typically Developing Peers:

Many parents will often comment there are few opportunities for their child to make friendships with typically developing peers. If a child is only in a disability classroom this opportunity is lost. While making ANY friendship  is important,  it is equally vital for our children to learn how to make and keep friendships with ALL Children.  My son, Niam, has been lucky enough to have opportunities to make friends with different children.  This has been important in shaping him as a person and developing important social skills.

2. Allows For Appropriate Behavioural Modelling Including Social Skills:

Proponents of the inclusion model, feel an inclusive classroom allows for appropriate behavioural modelling from typically developing peers. This can include many skills from how to raise your hand, sitting in a chair, working independently, to learning different types of social skills. Researchers have found that children with disabilities who interact with peers with higher-level social skills often imitate these behaviours and skills in the future (Banda, Hart, & Liu-Gitz, 2010; Holahan & Costenbader, 2000).

Research shows skills learned in preschool are also realized much later in life. There are a number of skills children learn in preschool from social, emotional, physical ( e.g gross motor, fine motor), self-help ( eg. dressing independently)  , communication and language will have long-term impacts. (How Do Children Benefit from Inclusion? William R. Henninger, IV and Sarika S. Gupta)

3. Increased Expectations From Teachers

There are many parents who feel when their child is placed in a integrated classroom the teacher will automatically have higher expectations for them to achieve and to learn. When a teacher believes in a student and, feels the student has potential to achieve more, the student will work harder to try to meet those expectations.

4. Increase Opportunities For Children To Engage

Research shows inclusive classrooms have many opportunities for children with disabilities to engage in daily routines and in activities that elicit and challenge academic performance.

5. There Will Be More Learning

Watching and interacting with typically developing peers can result in greater learning. Group work, playing together, doing worksheets and learning academics via games and toys are all beneficial. My own son, Niam, grew an interest in puzzles and sorting toys by watching other children having fun playing. Sometimes we erroneously measure learning by report card grades or academics.

The argument for Inclusive classrooms at the older level is still a much debated topic. However, in the younger years, integration is very important in building crucial life long skills. Depending on your child and the level of support he/she  receives, the amount of time in a integrated classroom will vary.

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