Meet Ethan. Ethan is a third-grade student with a significant cognitive disability. Ethan knows some letters and numbers, speaks using one or two words at a time, and loves anything involving trains. Since kindergarten, Ethan has received instruction in a separate classroom for students with significant cognitive disabilities. However, this year, his family and teachers have decided that he should be included in Ms. O’Connor’s third-grade classroom with his peers.
Ms. O’Connor has been teaching for five years, but she has never had a student with a significant cognitive disability in her classroom before. When Ms. O’Connor meets with Ethan’s special education teacher, Mr. Diego, at the beginning of the year, he reiterates what a great kid Ethan is and how much Ms. O’Connor is going to enjoy having him as a part of her class. While she believes inclusion is important and is looking forward to having Ethan in her classroom, she is concerned that she won’t be able to adapt her teaching practices to meet Ethan’s needs. More specifically, she wonders how to include him when the other students are working on third-grade content and if she will have to create different lessons for him. She worries that she will have to spend a lot of individual time with him, and questions whether that’s fair to the rest of her students.
Here’s your challenge:
Why should students with significant cognitive disabilities be included in general education classrooms?
How can teachers best plan for and teach students with significant cognitive disabilities in inclusive classrooms?