Inclusion of Students with Significant Cognitive Disabilities: Supports in the General Education Classroom
Students with significant cognitive disabilities have one or more disabilities that substantially affect their intellectual functioning and adaptive behavior. More than 80% of these students receive intensive, individualized instruction and supports in settings separate from their grade-level peers. This is despite the many benefits of inclusion, such as access to grade-level content and curriculum and opportunities to build relationships with classmates with and without disabilities. Based on the principle of the least restrictive environment, all students, regardless of the severity of their disability, should be educated in the general education classroom to the greatest extent possible with the use of supplementary aids and services. For educators to fully embrace inclusion, they must think beyond only a student’s physical presence in the classroom and embrace the following core values of inclusion.
Each and every student is valued and contributes to their school community and general education classrooms.
Each and every student deserves meaningful and sustained access to the academic and social environment of general education classrooms.
Each and every student is a capable learner deserving of instruction that reflects high expectations and assures learning.
Inclusive education requires the shared engagement and combined skills of many people.
Source: Adapted from TIES Center Core Values.
Of course, students with significant cognitive disabilities also require individualized supports to be meaningfully and effectively included in general education settings. IEP teams should work together to determine which special education services, related services, accommodations, and modifications will maximize these students’ ability to participate in routines and transitions, engage in grade-level academics, and interact with others. As you’ve learned in this module, strategies that make inclusion possible for students with significant cognitive disabilities include:
- Collaborative practices: General educators, special educators, related service providers, paraeducators, family members, and other professionals, all work together to plan, implement, and monitor the student’s educational program.
- Instruction aligned with standards and goals: Lessons are designed to align with the essential content in the grade-level standards as well as the student’s individualized academic and/or functional goals.
- Universal Design for Learning: Teachers design instructional activities, materials, and assessments that incorporate multiple means of engagement, representation, and action and expression for all learners.
- Communication supports: Various methods of communication, including AAC, enable the student to participate in classroom activities and interact with peers.
Revisiting Initial Thoughts
Think back to your initial responses to the following questions. After working through the resources in this module, do you agree with your Initial Thoughts? If not, what aspects of your answers would you change?
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?
When you are ready, proceed to the Assessment section.