Need to get a student to become more familiar with a communication device? Institute daily rituals. For instance, have the student provide a “fact of the day” each morning.

This website is dedicated to promoting inclusive schooling and exploring positive ways of supporting students with autism and other disabilities. Most of my work involves collaborating with schools to create environments, lessons, and experiences that are inclusive, respectful, and accessible for all learners.


Remember that Special Education is NOT a Place

Posted on March 13, 2013 in Inclusion, News

From Section 3, idea #16 of Don’t We Already Do Inclusion?

My first boss, a director of special education, had a sign over his door declaring “Special Education is Not a Place”. His philosophy was clear to anyone who visited him.

This motto is clever but it also communicates a “big idea” that is commonly lost in conversations about inclusive education. Some stakeholders, for instance, believe that students must go elsewhere if they need special supports, instruction, curriculum, or assessments. It isn’t uncommon to hear statements such as, “Well, we can include him for art class but he isn’t at grade level for reading, so we will pull out for that.” This statement illustrates a misunderstanding of inclusion.

Inclusion is not about “keeping up”, participating in the same tasks as others, or meeting the same goals as one’s classmates. It is about using the inclusive classroom and all that it offers (e.g., rich curriculum, high expectations, communication models, peer support) as a context for learning grade-level content and meeting IEP and other personal objectives. Any number of supports and services might be utilized to help students participate and learn effectively in an inclusive classroom. These supports and services ARE special education and just because a student may need more of them or more thought put into designing them, he or she should not be sent elsewhere because “that’s the way we have always done things around here”, because other spaces exist to meet these needs, or because it is easier.

Special education is not a place. How does your school understand this statement?


  1. From Juanita White on 13 Mar 2013

    I teach children with multiple disabilities, part of the day doing in-class support and part of the day in a self-contained setting. There are occasionally some students with such severe behavior disorders that they regularly keep their peers from learning and the regular ed. teacher from teaching. Do you believe there is ever a need to provide instruction in a separate environment?

  2. From Melissa on 13 Mar 2013

    Our school is working towards greater understanding of this idea and philosophy. Inclusion is a scary prospect for some teachers, a challenge they aren’t sure they should have to be part of, a way of thinking that they haven’t thought about before. However, through conversations about personalized learning, open education, differentiated lessons and the benefit of peer interaction mediated by supports such as extra assistance and technology integration, many are getting on board with the idea. We are beginning to do more collaborative planning and implementation of plans, we are seeing teachers opening their doors, not just to let students out so others can work with their students but to invite others in so learning can happen on many levels for both children and adults. It’s not a short road!

  3. From Michelle on 13 Mar 2013

    As a special education teacher, all I can say is YES!!! It is so difficult when a teacher “finally” gets a kid through the process and into special education supports, and then gets upset because the kid will still spend time in their classroom. I strongly believe in pull-out only for intensive remediation, and for as short as possible.

  4. From Jill Klink on 14 Mar 2013

    Juanita, I feel the same way. No matter my best efforts, some students just have to leave the room sometimes. But my goal is always to get them back in there as quickly as possible. That may not be that same day, same week even, but that is always my end goal. I really struggle with this. But I am learning a lot from this blog!

  5. From Tammy Baldiwn on 14 Mar 2013

    I am teaching in a self-contained classroom at a middle school, where we change class periods every hour. In this setting we have so much separation. My students go out of my room only for electives which are offered once or twice a day. Many teachers have worked with this model for 20+ years. I am having a difficult time keeping them in electives sometimes. I would be ecstatic if I could get them out for their content and truly have them included with their peers full-time!

  6. From Tim Villegas on 15 Mar 2013

    I firmly believe that every student should be given the opportunity to be included with their same age peers to learn and grow in a rich and stimulating environment. There are some students that require the most intensive supports required but the point is that we are trying. I agree with some of the commentators…we need to keep in mind that the typical classroom is what we are shooting for and the end goal. It may take a long while to get there…or not at all. But still this is our goal. This is a far different perspective than waiting for them to be “ready” for general education. It is amazing to see what can happen when the school staff have high expectations for all students…including the ones with the most challenging behavior. Also…it may take the better portion of the year in order for that student to get used to their new environment. So…perhaps we pull the plug too easily.