Inclusion: What does it mean?

Inclusion means:

  • offering the same opportunities for people with and without disabilities
  • welcoming everyone
  • building community
  • emphasizing cooperation
  • seeking to understand, celebrate, and support everyone's differences (or diversity)
  • presuming everyone's competence
  • providing a safe and socially comfortable environment for all
  • teaching respect, understanding and dignity to people of all abilities
  • embracing changes that facilitate full participation
  • actively reaching out to people who are traditionally excluded or marginalized
  • fostering a sense of belonging to community as a respected and valued person
  • honoring the intrinsic value of each person's life

In schools: Inclusion means that students with disabilities are educated full-time in age appropriate general education classrooms in their neighborhood schools with support provided to enable students, teachers and the entire school community to succeed.

In youth-serving organizations (like the Girl Scouts, Boys and Girls Clubs, camps, etc.): All children have equal opportunity to participate with their typically developing peers, with support from those peers, staff or volunteers."

Reference:, "Including Samuel Screening Toolkit," 2009.

Least Restrictive Environment and Inclusion: What is the difference?

IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act) does not use the term "inclusion." However, IDEA does require school districts to place students in the least restrictive environment (LRE). LRE means that, to the maximum extent appropriate, school districts must educate students with disabilities in the regular classroom with appropriate aids and supports, referred to as "supplementary aids and services," along with their nondisabled peers in the school they would attend if not disabled, unless a student's individualized education program (IEP) requires some other arrangement. This requires an individualized inquiry into the unique educational needs of each disabled student in determining the possible range of aids and supports that are needed. Some supplementary aids and services that educators have used successfully include modifications to the regular class curriculum, assistance of an itinerant teacher with special education training, special education training for the regular teacher, use of computer-assisted devices, provision of notetakers, and use of a resource room, to mention a few.

In implementing IDEA's LRE provisions, the regular classroom in the school the student would attend if not disabled is the first placement option considered for each disabled student before a more restrictive placement is considered. If a student with a disability can be educated satisfactorily with appropriate aids and supports in the regular classroom in the school the student would attend if not disabled, that placement is the LRE placement for that student. However, if the placement team determines that a student cannot be educated satisfactorily in that environment, even with the provision of appropriate aids and supports, the regular classroom in the school the student would attend if not disabled is not the LRE placement for that student. Any alternative placement selected for the student outside of the regular educational environment must maximize opportunities for the student to interact with nondisabled peers, to the extent appropriate to the needs of the student.

Reference: Inclusion: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions from NEA, Wrights Law, 2009)

The Settlement Agreement

P.J., et al v. State of Connecticut, Board of Education, et al. was filed in 1991 on behalf of five school-age children with mental retardation and their families. The case was certified as a class action lawsuit on December 13, 1993. The court defined the class as "all mentally retarded school-aged children in Connecticut who have been identified as needing special education and who. . . are not educated in regular classrooms" The Settlement Agreement specifically includes children with the label "Intellectual Disability." On May 22, 2002, a Settlement Agreement was approved and 5 goals and outcomes were determined.

The Five Goals of the PJ Settlement Agreement

  1. An increase in the percent of students with mental retardation/intellectual disability who are placed in regular classes.
  2. A reduction in the disparate identification of students with MR/ID by racial, ethnic or gender group.
  3. An increase in the percent of the school day that students with MR/ID spend with non-disabled students.
  4. An increase in the percent of students who attend their "home school."
  5. An increase in the percent of students with MR/ID who participate in school-sponsored extracurricular activities with non-disabled peers.

Looking for more information? Try reading Common Questions Asked About the PJ Settlement Agreement or call CPAC and speak to a Parent Consultant.

Strategies to Support Inclusion

There are many ways that teachers can help include students in the general education classroom. Read Top Ten Tips for General Educators.

Inclusion Success Stories

A Student's Story
Travis came home from school one day last year with a message in his communication book, he was voted by the student council in his school to become an honorary member. Known by his friends as the "King," Travis, a 3rd grader who has Down Syndrome, was honored to represent his school. Student council meetings are held every other Tuesday. His mom, who had to drive him to school early those days, said that "those were the days that it was easiest to get him to school, he loved being able to spend time with the kids." Travis was required to meet the same goals that his fellow council members had to; he did all of the projects and participated in all of the student council activities. Travis did not have a paraprofessional assist him at council. The faculty advisor for the student council, who nominated him for the position, was one of Travis' special education teachers. With the support of his teacher who had experience working with Travis and assistance from the other students, he was able to do well in council. He had the chance to meet other students in his school, and the other students had the opportunity to get to know him too. The other members enjoyed having him on the council. His mom said, "When we were around town, students knew Travis and they would all say hi and ask him how he was doing. It was great that he had the opportunity to be included in this activity." Travis was fortunate to have a teacher who wanted her students to move beyond academics and benefit from extracurricular activities in school. He was also fortunate to have a family that was able to support his interest in student council.

A Professional's Story
Betsy Bergman is a special education teacher and Inclusion Facilitator for Enfield Public Schools. As an Inclusion Facilitator, her role is to offer support to school staff who are working to provide meaningful and successful educational experiences for students with a range of abilities in inclusive (general education) settings. Betsy was honored to receive the award of Outstanding Educator from the Connecticut Down Syndrome Congress. The following statement includes her appreciation for the award and her thoughts on inclusive education practices.

"I accept this award on behalf of the team of dedicated individuals who worked with me to provide support to a special young man in an inclusive setting. When the Parent of this young man informed me that I had won the award, I thanked her and told her that working with her son has been the greatest educational experience of my life. Through this experience, my philosophy regarding inclusive educational practices has been tested and confirmed. I continue to believe that successful inclusion requires collaboration, a holistic approach to teaching, and a commitment to meeting the needs of students-physical, intellectual, emotional and social-with dignity."

Helpful Resources

Information and Resources Available at CPAC
Trainings for Parents and Professionals:

  • Least Restrictive Environment: A World of Options and Opportunities
    This session will provide participants with information regarding IDEA. LRE, and the P.J. ET AL v STATE OF CT, BOARD OF EDUCATION, ET AL Settlement Agreement. It includes information regarding current initiatives in CT that support families and school districts in their efforts to education students with disabilities in the least restrictive environment.
  • Supporting Young Children
    This presentation will explore the legal, practical and positive implications of including young children who have disabilities with typical peers in early childhood settings. Parents and professionals will learn about the research that supports inclusive programs and how Connecticut is putting this research into practice. Practical strategies and reasonable accommodations will be discussed. Information on existing resources for providers and families will also be available.

For more information, or to schedule a workshop, please contact us at (860) 739-3089 or email us at [email protected].

Additional Resources

Organizations and Websites

  • AccessAbility Easter Seals and the American Library Association (ALA) developed the AccessAbility at your library reading initiative for people of all ages. This website includes a list of ALA recommended books for all ages featuring characters with disabilities.
  • ARC of Connecticut The Arc of Connecticut is an advocacy organization committed to protecting the rights of people with mental retardation and related developmental disabilities and to promoting opportunities for their full inclusion in the life of their communities.
  • CT State Department of Education
  • Including Samuel Project "Including Samuel" is a DVD documentary by Dan Habib. The website features many resources and much information on inclusion.
  • Inclusive Schools Network This website offers ideas and activities for school staff on how to promote inclusion in schools.
  • Michael Giangreco is a research professor at The University of Vermont (UVM) whose professional interests focus on how to plan, adapt, coordinate, implement, and evaluate educational programs and services for students with disabilities who are included in general education classrooms.
  • National Inclusion Project The National Inclusion Project serves to bridge the gap that exists between young people with disabilities and the world around them.
  • Project Participate Project Participate provides families, educators, administrators and therapists with simple strategies to increase the active participation of students with disabilities in school programs.
  • SERC The State Education Resource Center (SERC) offers information for families and professionals as well as professional development training and workshops.
  • SWIFT Schools SWIFT (Schoowide Integrated Framework for Transformation is a national K-8 center that provides academic and behavioral support to promote the learning and academic achievement of all students, including students with disabilities and those with the most extensive needs.
  • TASH is an international association of people with disabilities, their family members, other advocates and professionals fighting for a society in which inclusion of all people in all aspects of society is the norm

Preschool Inclusion Websites

  • The Center on Inclusion in Early Childhood The Center on Inclusion in Early Childhood's mission is to share knowledge, foster skills, and encourage attitudes that promote inclusion as a ore component of excellence in early childhood.
  • Division for Early Childhood The Division for Early Childhood is an organization dedicated to improving educational outcomes for individuals with disabilities.
  • Head Start Center for Inclusion The Head Start Center for Inclusion is a federally funded grant from the Department of Health and Services Office of Head start with the overarching goal of increasing the competence, confidence and effectiveness of personnel in Head Start programs to include children with disabilities.
  • National Association for the Education of Young Children National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) promotes excellence in early childhood education.