Including all children in classrooms is a normal practice in the Poudre School District, where special needs students study alongside students in general education.
Inclusion “was a highly debatable concept” at integrated services teacher Sarita Wise’s former district, and she was pleasantly surprised when she moved to Fort Collins from California, and witnessed inclusion as the norm.
“Everybody belongs. After school is finished, we want to make sure all of our students have opportunities beyond the education we’re providing,” she said.
Fostering the mindset that affirms inclusion as a best practice for those receiving the extra support and their general education classmates can be a lot of work.
“The hard work is getting a general ed teacher to recognize that this needs to happen,” Wise said. “That’s the ship that’s slowly turning in my old district. … They’ve done it all their life a different way and they can’t imagine what it would look like.”
In her former district, Wise’s students were taught in a self contained classroom. They did not feel as though they were part of the overall school community.
“They were much more hesitant to get involved in extracurricular activities because it didn’t feel like their school,” Wise said. “They were embarrassed because everybody knew that corner classroom was for them. … Those are the key components that broke my heart. I didn’t realize we could do what we’re doing here daily.”