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I Would Love to Include Your Child, but How Will that Affect Mine?

By Dr. Jenn Nee.


We learn more from the people who are different from us than the ones who are the same.”

-- Professor Andy Hargreaves.

In this uber-competitive world, every parent wants to give their children the best possible head start in life, and education is a big part of that. When we learn of having students with learning differences in our children’s classrooms, we worry about its impact on our children’s education. Whilst we would like to be inclusive, we worry if it is at the expense of our kids. Worrying is part of parenting -- it is what makes us good parents. That inclusive education fosters better social-emotional skills and empathy in typical learners is well established, and I can hear the anxious voices - “That is not going to get them into the Ivy Leagues or Oxbridge!” I get it, so let’s look at the research to address some of those concerns.


Will having a child with learning differences hold back the progress of other students in the same classroom?


A review of more than 280 studies worldwide found that inclusive education has no negative impact on the academic achievements of typical students (Hehir et al., 2016, p7). In fact, an analysis of 47 studies found that inclusive education had a small positive impact on academic achievements of typical students (Szumski et al., 2017). One study involving approximately 1000 primary school students in Indiana found that 59% of typical students in inclusive schools had higher Math scores compared to the previous year, as opposed to only 39% of students in non-inclusive schools (Waldron & Cole, 2000). An in-depth case study of inclusive schools in Boston found that schools can be both inclusive and high-achieving (Hehir et al., 2016). This is, of course, dependent on schools implementing evidence-based practices in inclusive education.


That seems counterintuitive. How is that possible?


The European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education in 2003 conducted an extensive study on inclusive education across Europe which involved an international literature review, case studies in 15 countries, expert visits to 7 countries and various dialogues between experts and working partners. The study found that effective teaching practices that are necessary for inclusive classrooms, such as goal-setting, individualized teaching based on assessment and evaluation, as well as direct instruction and feedback, benefits all students (Meijer, 2003). Many would even consider these as best practices in today’s education. When schools make inclusive education a priority and adopt a culture of collaborative problem solving, they can develop innovative solutions that can be applied to other areas of teaching and learning, thus benefiting all students (Hehir et al., 2016). In addition, teachers in inclusive classrooms undergo training and develop skills to support the needs of students with learning differences, and this translates into better teaching practices and skills that also support the unique individual needs of typical learners.


What about group-based learning activities? Surely there is a negative impact there?


The instructional strategy where students work in small groups on structured learning activities is referred to as cooperative learning. Research has shown that cooperative learning in inclusive classrooms benefits all students, not just those with learning differences. These benefits include increased participation, academic achievement and social interaction. Large-scale studies have shown that inclusion of students with additional learning needs in small group-based tests had no undesirable effect on the academic achievements of typical students (Pomplun, 1996). Rather, it provides all students with learning opportunities and experiences outside the scope of the curriculum.


Then, consider this: The Future of Jobs Report (2020) by the World Economic Forum listed among the top skills needed for the next 5 years - (1) analytical thinking and innovation, (2) complex problem solving, (3) critical thinking and analysis, (4) creativity, originality and initiative, as well as (5) reasoning, problem solving and ideation. With the Fourth Industrial Revolution underway, this trend is likely to continue beyond 5 years. These skills are known strengths of the neurodivergent population, and big corporations such as Microsoft, Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan are starting to take notice, as evidenced by their neurodiversity-centered hiring programs. Given that peer-discussion has been found to improve creative performance in students (Wang & Murata, 2016), would it not stand to reason, then, that it would be beneficial for neurotypical and neurodivergent children to be learning from and alongside each other?


Inclusive education does not mean that higher achieving students receive less attention or resources, but that all students receive individualized support and accommodations to meet their unique needs. I hope that the information in this article has allayed some of your concerns and doubts about inclusive education. Perhaps you might even consider the possibility that it would benefit your children? I leave you with the following words to ponder:


“I am not ‘normal’, mummy. What is ‘normal’? Nobody is ‘normal’.” - my 8 year old child.


References

Dyssegaard, C. B., & Larsen, M. S. (2013). Evidence on inclusion. Danish Clearinghouse for Educational Research. https://edu.au.dk/fileadmin/edu/Udgivelser/Clearinghouse/Evidence_on_Inclusion.pdf


Hehir, T., Grindal, T., Freeman, B., Lamareou, R., Borquaye, Y., & Burke, S. (2016). A summary on the evidence of inclusive education. Abt Associates. https://www.abtassociates.com/sites/default/files/2019-03/A_Summary_of_the_evidence_on_inclusive_education.pdf


Kefallinou, A., Symeonidou, S., & Meijer, C. J.W. (2020). Understanding the value of inclusive education and its implementation: A review of the literature. Prospects, (49), 139-152. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11125-020-09500-2


Meijer, C. J. W. (Ed.). (2003). Inclusive Education and Effective Classroom Practices : summary report. European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education. https://www.european-agency.org/sites/default/files/inclusive-education-and-classroom-practices_iecp-en.pdf


Pomplun, M. (1996). Cooperative Groups: Alternative assessment for students with disabilities? Journal of Special Education, 30(1), 1-17.

Szumski, G., Smogorzewska, J., & Karwowski, M. (2017). Academic achievement of students without special educational needs in inclusive classrooms: A meta-analysis. Educational Research Review, 21, 33-54.


Waldron, N., & Cole, C. (2000). The Indiana Inclusion Study Year 1 Final Report. http:// mn.gov/mnddc/parallels2/pdf/00s/00/00-IIS-INS.pdf

Wang, S., & Murata, M. (2016). Possibilities and limitations of integrating peer instruction into technical creativity education. Instructional Science, 44, 501-525. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11251-016-9385-x

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Dr Jenn Nee Khoo is a medical physician in Singapore. Her parenting journey with her twice-exceptional son inspired her interest in education. She is passionate about raising awareness and understanding of neurodivergent children, and a strong collaboration between families and educators forms the foundation of her advocacy work. She is currently working on a Master's of Education in twice-exceptionality at Bridges Graduate School of Cognitive Diversity in Education. She is also a trained SENG Model Parent Group facilitator.


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Good education promotes better social-emotional skills and empathy in typically well-established students, and I can hear the worried voices. Helping children have a realistic environment for development is important and parents and schools can help children have a development environment. geometry dash subzero


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I appreciate the sentiment of wanting to include your child, but it's essential to consider the impact on my own child's well-being and my time when I'm studying. By the way, I found valuable assistance with writing academic work on diabetes through the service at https://writinguniverse.com/free-essay-examples/diabetes/. It's a resource that has truly helped me manage my academic responsibilities effectively.

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