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Inclusive Classrooms: Getting Started

Learn the basics about inclusion, characteristics of inclusive classrooms that work, and things you can do to implement inclusion principles right away — including setting up your classroom, creating effective learning groups, and adapting your curriculum.

The basics

3 Big Misconceptions About Inclusion 
Research shows that inclusion is best for students with and without disabilities, and yet there are still many misconceptions about what inclusion in the classroom really means. Here are the top three misconceptions, from inclusion expert Nicole Eredics.

Inclusion means ensuring that children with disabilities go to school with their non-disabled peers, while providing them with the individual instruction and support they need. In this article, read about inclusion and how it differs from mainstreaming.

What Are Classrooms Like for Students with Learning Disabilities?
Classrooms can be perilous in a number of ways for students with learning disabilities. Here are some tips to remember when working with students with LD.

4 Things to Know About Successful Inclusive Schools
In order for inclusion to be successful, it must exist at all levels of education: the community, the school, the classroom, and the lesson. This brief overview describes what inclusion looks like at each level.

5 Signs That a Classroom Is Inclusive
Find out what to look for in a classroom that supports inclusion. Features include how the students are grouped, social skills programs, and use of multi-modal learning aids and assistive technology.

Q&A with Dr. Cathy Pratt
Autism expert Dr. Cathy Pratt talks about the goals of true inclusion, how teachers can support the sensory, executive functioning, and academic needs of their students with autism, the role of peer and whole-school support in helping kids with ASD succeed, sources for evidence-based teaching resources, and more.

Bringing inclusion into your classroom

10 Easy Changes Teachers Can Make to Facilitate Inclusion
From changing the classroom space to adjusting groupings and lesson delivery, find ten practical ways to make changes in your classroom so that students with different abilities can learn and succeed.

5 Essential Classroom Management Strategies to Keep Your Inclusive Class Running Smoothly
In an inclusive class, plans must be responsive to students with learning differences, physical challenges, or social/emotional needs. An expert in inclusion shares some of her successful classroom management ideas, including use of color coding, student planners, and the morning “sponge.”

15 Strategies for Managing Attention Problems
Here are 15 tactics that may help children enhance attention and manage attention problems.

New Year, New Goals
Inclusion expert Paula Kluth shares her graphic organizer for goal setting for the new year, including goals for inclusion, learning, classroom climate, collaboration, differentiated instruction, and UDL.

Pick a Stick, Any Stick
In any effective and student-centered classroom, the voices of learners should be heard often; they should be asking and answering questions, sharing ideas, and expressing their thoughts. Some students, however, struggle to engage in some or all of these behaviors. They may need models for asking appropriate questions or adding relevant comments. Get ideas for moving the tasks of talking and sharing from teacher to student, as well as some support for learners who need to eavesdrop on others to learn new communication skills. 

Supporting Students with Autism: 10 Ideas for Inclusive Classrooms
Students with autism may have unique needs with learning, social skills, and communication. These ten simple ideas will help teachers address some of these needs and provide guidance for bringing out the best in learners with autism. 

A Teacher’s Brief Guide to Teaching Students with High-Functioning Autism
Learn more about talents and challenges in children with high-functioning autism. Get tips on how to make your classroom welcoming and supportive, including lots of ideas for creating physical and instructional supports, and how to use specific interests to jumpstart learning adventures with other subjects.

Video: in the classroom

Montrose School, K-6: Meeting the Needs of the Whole Child

This video overview is part of the Edmonton Public Schools’ “Inclusive Learning: Everyone’s In” initiative. Montrose School is a K-6 school with an enrollment of approximately 190 students, 70 having identified special learning needs. Montrose provides a positive inclusive learning environment that ensures quality teaching and engaging learning experiences for all students. The foundational belief at Montrose School is that, “everyone belongs to all of us.” The school, family and community partners work together effectively to help each child do their best. Staff and community partners model caring, supportive relationships, positive cultural beliefs and expectations, while providing opportunities and skills for students to participate and contribute in meaningful ways.

View all of the Inclusive Learning: Everyone’s In video (opens in a new window). You can also access the accompanying Learning Guide (opens in a new window). (Edmonton Public Schools, Alberta, CA)

Creating a positive school environment

When students’ mental, emotional, and physical needs are met, they’re more likely to love school — and they learn more. (Edutopia (opens in a new window))

Flexible Classrooms: Providing the Learning Environment That Kids Need

At Albemarle County Public Schools, flexible classrooms empower student choice, increase student engagement, and improve student participation. (From Edutopia (opens in a new window))

Classroom Activity to Identify and Celebrate Students’ Strengths

When you have struggling students in your class, it’s not uncommon to focus on the skills that need improvement. That’s natural — knowing your students’ challenges helps you support their learning. However, knowing their strengths is an equally important way to support their continued growth in those areas. This crafty activity allows students to identify and reflect on their skills and abilities by creating a strengths chain. (From Understood (opens in a new window))


The Coralwood School in Decatur, Georgia, runs an inclusion model that mixes special needs students with typically developing students and provides many of its therapies in the classroom. One of their most excited students is five-year-old Avery, who has Down syndrome. From our Launching Young Readers program, Toddling Toward Reading.

More resources about inclusion

Forward Together: Helping Educators Unlock the Power of Students Who Learn Differently (opens in a new window)
1 in 5 students have learning and attention issues. An extensive literature review of empirical studies revealed three critical mindsets and eight key practices that can improve outcomes for students with learning and attention issues — and all students. (National Center for Learning Disabilities (opens in a new window) and Understood (opens in a new window))

Forward Together: (opens in a new window)A School Leader’s Guide to Creating Inclusive Schools (opens in a new window)
A guide to deepen principals’ understanding of the most effective practices for educating students with disabilities — and help support classroom teaching that best serves those students. (National Center for Learning Disabilities (opens in a new window) and Understood (opens in a new window))

Inclusion Basics Course (opens in a new window)
In this free online course, learn the definition of inclusion, why it’s important, what the law says, barriers to inclusion, and myths about inclusion. (Inclusive Schools Network (opens in a new window))

All for One and One for All (opens in a new window)
Our journey started with an inspiring conference, a moleskin journal of quotes, and a manila folder titled “inclusion” that held notes from parents and caregivers. And a commitment from staff, that at Caroline Elementary School, we can do hard things. What do all of these have in common? A pledge to students that they will not have to leave the classroom to learn. (National Association of Elementary School Principals (opens in a new window))

What School Could Be If It Were Designed for Kids With Autism (opens in a new window)
The ASD Nest public school program places students alongside neurotypical students in classrooms led by specially trained teachers. ASD Nest, which is named after its goal of giving kids with ASD a nurturing place to learn and grow, is a collaboration between the New York City Department of Education and NYU. It launched in 2003 with four teachers and has since expanded to 54 elementary, middle, and high schools in New York City. (The Atlantic (opens in a new window))