Several different educational models address how best to teach mentally and/or physically disabled students. The inclusive classroom method seeks to put the impetus on schools to cater for disabled as well as nondisabled students; both types of students are taught together, side by side, under this approach. Although different schools implement the inclusive classroom practice in a variety of ways, all inclusive classrooms share some features.
Disabled and Nondisabled Students
An inclusive classroom is one in which students with special physical or mental needs are educated within a learning environment shared by classmates who are not disabled. Professor Mara Sapon-Shevin, author of "Widening the Circle: The Power of Inclusive Classrooms," acknowledges that some schools may resist the inclusive classroom approach, fearing that the academic success of the nondisabled students may be compromised. But as a supporter of the model, she argues that diverse learning needs can be catered for, and that social problems, such as prejudice against disabled people, will be corrected.
Support for Disabled Students
Schools may implement the inclusive classroom approach either partially or fully. That is, disabled students will either spend most of the day in the general classroom, with some private assistance given separately the rest of the time, or spend the entire time in the general classroom with extra assistance, such as a support teacher, provided there. The partial system is the most common teaching method. Either way, the disabled students are likely to require some extra services compared to the nondisabled students, such as special needs staff, or equipment to assist with physical mobility problems.
It is vital that disabled and nondisabled students stand to benefit from the inclusive approach. The whole purpose of an inclusive classroom is that it caters for the needs of every child. In some situations, however, the education of the disabled student may suffer by inclusion. For example, a child with severe attention problems would hardly be helped if he were sitting in a class with 20 other fidgeting children. The inclusive approach would also be inappropriate if inclusion of a disabled child could endanger her other classmates; for example, if she were prone to violent attacks.