Too often, an “inclusive education” for students with complex support needs means helping them take part in a single class activity before they go off to a different classroom or focusing on a single learner while other similar students remain on the outside. Cheryl M. Jorgensen, Ph.D., an inclusive education consultant and co-founder of the National Center on Inclusive Education, offered participants in the recent edWebinar, “Inclusion is More Than ‘Just Being In,’” a new way to define the term. She explained that inclusion should not be a practice but should be a transformational educational philosophy based on social justice principles, where the first tenet is that all students are presumed competent.
Presuming competence means that in the absence of conclusive evidence teachers assume that all students can participate in an age-appropriate general education curriculum as well as form meaningful relationships.
Although students with complex needs may require additional help to achieve the same goals as typical students—aides, learning tools, accommodations during assessments, etc.—Jorgensen argued that there should be no prerequisites, especially regarding communication. “We construct students’ competence by providing them with a way to communicate all the time every minute of the day about the same things that their peers without disabilities are communicating about,” said Jorgensen.