Why Creating Integrated And Inclusive Classroom Environment Is Need Of The Hour

Inclusivity In Classrooms
Efforts to integrate kids with special needs (neurodiverse children) with normal children (neurotypical Children) in a regular classroom environment is a global concern. To establish robust foundations, an inclusive education system is the only way to successfully bring together neurodiverse children, and neurotypical, especially in preschool and primary education stages. 

However, in the present-day scenario, most schools do include neuro-diverse kids in regular classrooms. And though schools are mandated to educate students in a minimally restrictive environment, as much as possible, the real change is yet to occur. With easy access to technology and a plethora of information available at our fingertips, there is no better time than now to promote equity, fair distribution of education, and the presence of inclusive classrooms. It is what is beneficial for all children.  

Change Starts with Collaboration: Inclusivity In Classrooms

For integration and inclusion to get implemented well, teachers, parents, children, and well-being experts need to foster inclusive environments at home, in classrooms, and at schools. The neurodiverse kids need to have a certain skill set, too, which can help them settle faster into school. The parents also need support, which can be done by assisting them in understanding how to navigate the situation. Let us delve deeper into this. 

  • Building Positive Parent-Student-Teacher Relationships: Teachers must establish one-on-one relationships with their students and parents. This is essential to gauge the child’s behavioural patterns, preferences, domestic environment, parental background, and the parent-child relationship.   
  • Encourage Interaction and Develop Empathy: Students who can interact without imposing any barriers and discrimination will most likely develop essential life skills like communication and empathy towards fellow beings. By enabling this system in classrooms, parents and teachers can help nurture friendships among children and a positive sense of community. 
  • Educate Yourself: This is especially crucial for teachers and other key members of the education ecosystem to understand their students’ existing challenges, behaviours, and strengths. With the help of a behavioural therapist, coupled with a psychologist and timely intervention of parents, those facilitating education can better empathize with children and alter their approach, depending on case to case. Sometimes, a particular behaviour – for instance, a child showing extreme social fear- can have an underlying history or be a preferred way to escape the situation. When teachers understand why the child demonstrates certain behaviours and patterns, they can identify means to help them embrace things they are running away from. 
  • Embrace Diversity: Teaching often unveils different avenues of change. Though initiating conversations around bringing diversity into the classrooms may seem intimidating at first, depicting it through the materials you use in the classroom can be one of the sources. How do the books and videos you refer to the students portray neurodiverse kids? Do they represent children from varying backgrounds and with different disabilities? As the teacher, your positive approach and efforts to celebrate diversity set the tone for the students.
  • Amend Teaching to Different Learning Styles: One of the ways to meet the many learning needs of different students is by adapting to different teaching styles. For instance, in one class, the teacher can encourage students to see the visuals and draw; in another, students can be taught to use movements to write.  

These strategies make an integrated and inclusive classroom possible and thereby help students to find success in the regular classroom setting.   

The Outcome of Embracing Inclusion

While some assume that learning in a general classroom can get overwhelming or frustrating for neurodiverse kids, as they might find it challenging to keep up. However, the benefits of an inclusive classroom environment far outweighs the setbacks, which can be mitigated. 

Firstly, when neurodiverse kids are put alongside neurotypical kids to learn and perform regular activities, they adapt their social behaviours and absorb the competitive spirit to some extent, if not entirely. On the academic front, too, they witness a normal school experience as much as possible. Besides improving their emotional and social needs, integrating an inclusive approach eliminates isolation for a certain section of kids. It increases the tolerance of everyone involved, including parents, teachers, and peers. 

This is important, as parents’ needs and attitudes have drastically changed in the past few years due to extreme work pressure, societal demands, and domestic expectations. This has caused low tolerance levels among parents and a lack of understanding of their child’s needs. This impacts a gap in the parent-child relationship and causes chronic overwhelm. Here is where intervention and support from schools, educators, and mental health professionals can help ease things by conducting workshops, training, and sharing informative material.  

Inclusive Education for All – Bridging the Know-Do Gap

Facilitating inclusive education is the need of the hour. The onus is on the education system, its facilitators, and parents of children with and without special needs to create sources of opportunities so that every learner gets an equal chance at growth and success. To make this happen, it is time that we, as a community, take measures to bridge the gap between what exists, what is known, and what best can be done to change the situation. Collaboration with educators and administrators to employ these changes is the most critical task at hand!

Aruna Agarwal is the Founder of Kidzee (Pre-primary) & Mount Litera Zee School (Primary), Powai, in Mumbai. Aruna is a renowned educationist and child psychologist who has spent over 20 years in education and child psychology.

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