Inclusion is defined as the full-time membership of all

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Inclusion is defined as the full-time membership of all students with disabilities in age-appropriate general education classrooms with supports provided to students and teachers to enable them to be successful.
Essential Elements of Inclusive Educational Practices (adapted from Jorgensen, 1998)

  • Our Language

Language reflects and reinforces our perceptions and misperceptions of others. All too frequently the terms used for people with disabilities perpetuate stereotypes and false ideas.” - Paul Longmore and Dianne Piastro

In a school that believes that all students have value and that disability is only one characteristic of each individual human being, language and labels reflect those beliefs through the use of people first language and reference to all students belonging to the school community.

  • Parent-School Partnerships

Research consistently shows that the participation of parents in their child’s education is one of the most significant variables related to students’ educational success.
School personnel recognize that parents of students with disabilities have a lifelong commitment to their children, while school personnel “come and go.” Therefore, the first step in the IEP process is asking parents to identify their own values, hopes, and dreams for their child’s future, and their immediate educational and social goals. These parental goals form the foundation of the student’s IEP and of other educational goals that are valued by school personnel and are addressed within the breadth of the general education curriculum. Parents are provided with training and support to enable them to take a leadership role in IEP meetings and in future planning efforts for their children.

  • How Educational and Related Service Assessments are Conducted

For some thirty years a few clear sighted professionals have been telling us that normal, abnormal, retarded, autistic, etc., are political, social, cultural notions rather than reflections of some objective, clearly discernible reality. They have been saying that like intelligence, mental retardation is not a ‘thing’ at all.” - Anne Donnellan and Martha Leary
At many elementary schools the staff have adopted a new philosophy and models of conducting periodic student assessments. While they acknowledge that the state “requires” the use of some standardized tests, they place the most emphasis on assessment that discovers students’ talents and the conditions under which students perform best. Assessment is done during naturally-occurring situations by familiar people rather than in a “testing room.” Information gathered through observation and interview is valued more than information gathered during artificial testing sessions. And their assessment reports avoid the use of limiting descriptions (e.g., “falls into the subaverage range of intelligence”) and highlights students” abilities and talents.

  • IEPs and Learning Goals for Students

‘‘When these students come into my 11th grade history class with IEPs that include ‘fine motor’, ‘socialization’, ‘gross motor’, and ‘independent living’ goals, I wonder if they really ought to be here.” - 11th grade teacher
Students’ IEP goals are based on general education curriculum standards. For all students with disabilities have goals for literacy, math, and general information in science and social studies in their IEPs. Learning objectives in the areas of communication, sensory regulation, sensory motor, and behavior and social skills are embedded within those major areas. Access to the general education curriculum is assumed for all students and special education takes on its true role as a support service to enable students to benefit from their education.

  • Placement

Anything worth teaching students who experience severe disabilities [including autism/PDD] can be taught in typical school and community settings where they are learning alongside classmates without disabilities.” - Cheryl Jorgensen
In many elementary schools, there are no programs or rooms just for students with disabilities and they have access to the entire range of learning experiences offered to students without disabilities. Instead of a “resource room,” good teaching practices, co-teaching, collaborative consultation and the provision of well trained support staff facilitate the successful participation and learning of students who experience autism/PDD in general education classrooms with their classmates.

Inclusion done poorly simply makes students with disabilities ‘islands in the mainstream’ - isolated from the social and instructional life of the school.” - Douglas Biklen
At inclusive elementary schools faculty and administration are committed to the full membership and participation of all students in their school community. To identify potentially challenging situations, the school’s inclusion facilitator may shadow a student who experiences autism/PDD to facilitate successful achievement of those goals.

  • Team Responsibilities

‘‘I’m the Inclusion Facilitator in this school, but when I asked the kids in Andrew’s class who they thought I was, they said that they thought I was Andrew’s dad. That really made me think carefully about my role and that of the classroom teacher when it comes to students with severe disabilities.” - Jeffrey Libby
While special education teachers are responsible for the legal and procedural aspects of abiding by special education law, all teachers have joint responsibility for collaborating on the design of curriculum, for teaching, for providing academic support, for grading, supporting positive students conduct, and engaging in student-specific problem solving. The provision of a common planning time is critical for the successful collaboration among team members.
  • Curriculum and Instruction

In inclusive schools, curriculum and instruction are designed ‘right from the start’ to naturally include all students and to accommodate the diversity of learning styles, talents, and needs in heterogeneous classrooms.” - Cheryl Jorgensen
While all students are held to the same content standards, individualized performance objectives within those core standards are written for students with IEP’s. There should be time in class for students to work in cooperative groups, to conduct experiments, and to have one-on-one conversations with the teacher. In short, teaching and learning is an interactive process through which students acquire knowledge and new skills through exploration and discovery.
Curriculum is...

  • Relevant and interesting.

  • Based on common content standards for all students.

  • Presented in a variety of accessible formats including written information at appropriate reading levels, video, picture/symbols, actual objects, demonstrations, orally, etc.

  • Individualized through the development of personalized performance standards for some students.

  • Developmentally appropriate for young children.

  • Functional and age-appropriate for older students.


  • Is tailored to the learning styles of all students in the class.

  • Utilizes cooperative structures and techniques.

  • Utilizes multiple intelligence theory.

  • Provides for active learning.

  • Utilizes all sensory modalities, with oral lecture being used the least.

  • Is direct and intense when there are demonstrated benefits.


  • Is personalized to students individualized learning goals and objectives.

  • Allows all students to receive high marks for “personal best” achievement and improvement.

  • Is used primarily to help teachers modify curriculum and instruction to reach more students.

  • Is conducted collaboratively by general and special education teachers together.

  • Social Relationships and Natural Supports

The first essential condition for friendship is full inclusion. When people with disabilities [including autism/PDD] are kept apart from society - educated in separate classrooms or schools, employed in sheltered workshops, or engaged in separate leisure activities - there are few opportunities for friendships to develop between students with and without disabilities.” - Carol Tashie
Going to recess, eating in the cafeteria, and access to extracurricular activities is recognized as a key ingredient to the formation of friends for students who experience autism/PDD. Students who experience autism/PDD should be on sports teams, perform in band and choral groups, perform in school plays, and so forth. Accessible transportation and staff support when necessary are provided to enable students to participate successfully.

  • Supports and Services

Only as special as necessary.” - Michael Giangreco
At many elementary schools special education supports and services are delivered in a way that increases the capacity of general education teachers to successfully teach a more and more diverse population of students. Speech-language pathologists work with teachers to develop graphic organizers and visual tools for learning necessary for some students but beneficial to all students. Physical therapists work with physical education teachers to design games and sports that are naturally inclusive of students who have physical disabilities. Occupational therapists work with teachers to make modifications to environments and materials so that all students can participate. And special education and general education teachers design curriculum and instruction together -- right from the start-- so that accommodations and supports are naturally built into lessons.

  • Related services are provided to enable students to participate in and benefit from the regular classroom curriculum and other inclusive activities.

  • Special education staff work almost exclusively within the general education classroom as co-teachers, team-teachers, small group instructors, or one-on-one support teachers for all students in the class.

  • Supports are unrelated to programs but are provided to individual students where and when they are needed.

  • Students are provided with a means of communication all day long and other students and staff know how to use the device.

  • Assistive technology is provided to promote learning, independence, and self-determination.

Assessing Our Schools Ability to Support Children with

Autism/PDD in General Education Classroom Settings

(adapted from Sugai, Project Prepare, 10/93)

Level of Implementation


Need for Improvement

In Place


Not in Place




1) A clear philosophy exists re: including ALL children in general education classrooms.

2) District and building administrators clearly support and actively participate in providing leadership, guidance, and support.

3) Classroom teachers fully participate in planning for support and in assisting with accommodations.

4) There is agreement on "best practices" for children with autism/PDD.

6) Related service providers work closely with classroom staff at all levels of support.

7) Ample time is allotted to prepare materials and modify curriculum.

8) Resources are available for materials and curriculum.

9) Staff roles are clearly defined.

10) Inclusion Facilitator case loads are reasonable and manageable.

11) Ample time is provided to supervise and support new staff and/or support staff.

12) School staff have had an opportunity to attend workshops on many aspects of educating children with autism/PDD.

13) Staff have opportunities to participate in on-going training both in and out of school.

14) Parents are an integral part of the planning, evaluation, and support process.

15) Flexible supports based on individual student needs are provided within the context of typical classrooms.

16) A system is in place to develop positive behavior support plans when necessary.

Conditions Necessary for Learning

  • Inclusion (see above)

  • Maintain High Expectations

  • Maintain the “least dangerous assumption”(Donnellan, 1984) about students’ capabilities, especially if we don’t have good assessment information or the student doesn’t have a reliable means of communicating.

  • Discover “how all students are smart”, recognizing that intelligence isn’t a fixed entity, easily or reliably measured, established at birth, unchangeable throughout life; it is dependent upon what’s being asked of the person and what’s valued by others.

  • Believe that all students can develop literacy.

  • Provide a Means of Communication

  • Provide all students with a means of communication at all times.

  • Assure that communication devices are programmed with vocabulary that is specific to course content, classroom activities, and social situations.

  • Understand that there are no “prerequisites” for using augmentative or alternative communication.

  • Believe that a particular level of communication skill is NOT a prerequisite for inclusion.

Activities of Learning: Standards-Based Lesson Plans

  1. Standard/Learning Goal(s)

  2. IEP / Access Goal(s)

  3. Activity Description and Interaction Patterns

  4. Demonstration of Learning / Products for Evaluation

Supports for Learning

Overview of the Types of Supports:

  • Physical, Emotional, Sensory

  • Modified Materials and/or Technology

  • Personalized Instruction

  • Personalized Performance Demonstrations

  • Unique Evaluation or Grading Plans

  1. Physical, Emotional, Sensory Supports

Physical Supports

  • Provide physical support to the student’s wrist as s/he uses an augmentative communication device

  • Assist a student to manipulate the materials used to engage in an activity/produce the required product (art, music, cooking, tech ed)

  • Guide a student’s hand to adjust the focus on a microscope

  • Take notes for a student as s/he listens to a lecture

Emotional Supports

  • Express confidence in a student’s capabilities

  • Acknowledge a student’s feelings

  • Praise a student’s accomplishments

  • Express genuine interest in a student’s life

Sensory Supports

  • Turn down the lights if a student is bothered by the lights

  • Use background music to provide a soothing atmosphere

  • Provide headphones or some other apparatus to block out noise

  • Have the student wear dark glasses in bright sunlight if student is bothered by the light

  • Provide a different seat that gives sensory input (e.g., a seat with a bean-bag type cushion)

  • Allow the student to use a “squeeze ball” to relieve tension

  • Adjust the student’s schedule so that s/he has rigorous physical activity or quiet time at the best time of the day

  • Provide some kind of touch – vigorous massage, brushing – prior to an activity or to assist in relaxation

  1. Modification of Materials or Provision of Technology

  • Use the same materials but have students interact with only part of them (e.g., half the problems on a worksheet)

  • Change the format of materials but keep the same general level of challenge (e.g., convert an assignment from essay to multiple choice or matching)

  • Supplement the classroom materials by adding audio-visual media, models, manipulatives, etc.

  • Substitute different materials (e.g., a synopsis of a book, chapter summaries, content-area reading materials at a different grade level)

  • Provide technology (e.g., scan text or worksheets into the computer and manipulate them to enlarge, highlight, remove distractions, change how answers are entered; provide the student with an augmentative communication device to provide access to information, to promote full participation, and to provide a means for communicating understanding)

  • Enhance materials: enlarging, putting fewer words on each page, creating borders or other visual supports, using colors, adding symbols or photos to text
Examples of Modified Materials

  • Convert essay tests into: short answer tests, multiple choice tests, matching tests, fill in the blank tests, oral tests, demonstrations, etc..

  • Provide reading materials on the same topic but at the student’s reading level

  • Use NOVA, Discovery Channel, or Internet web site videos to supplement books or encyclopedias

  • Point to features of a model when giving an oral lecture about anatomy, geometry, cooking, geography

  • Use an instant picture camera to take photos of the steps of a lab experiment and paste them into the lab notebook along with brief descriptions of each step and student observations

  • Use computer software that reads text, has word prediction, enables spelling and grammar checks, provides graphic organizers for taking notes

  • Create customized worksheets in larger font, using color coding, blocking

  • Provide pictures, photographs, models, videotapes, etc. to supplement written text

  1. Personalized Instruction

Like their classmates, students with autism/PDD need to have teaching “personalized” for their learning style, level of knowledge, interests, and goals. Personalized instruction can take many forms:

  • Asking different kinds of questions to different students

  • Providing additional instructions or clarifying

  • Defining vocabulary

  • Breaking down tasks into manageable chunks

  • Providing one-to-one tutorial on a specific skill or concept

  • Using visuals supports, including graphic organizers

Examples of Personalized Instruction:

  • The classroom teacher asks each student a different kind of question. If some students are being asked “why?” questions such as “why did Boo Radley (To Kill a Mockingbird) keep his identity a secret from Scout and Jem?”, one student might be asked to recall information or list details from the night that Boo saved the children.

  • Classmates read to a student who is just beginning to read

  • Another student sits next to the student who experiences autism and rephrases the teacher’s instructions or reminds him or her about the steps in an assignment or task

  • Students in a cooperative group brainstorm ways that each group member can participate in their group activity

  • The classroom teacher comes to the student’s desk and asks personalized questions, gives reminders about behavioral expectations, puts a hand on the student’s shoulder, points to a section of the book being read

  • A speech language pathologists sits with a cooperative group and develops communication boards “on the spot” based on what the student needs to communicate in that activity

  • The teacher might ask a student “which plant structure carries nutrients from the soil to the leaves?” and then say “I’ll give you a few minutes -- just raise your hand when you have the answer.” While the student is thinking of or finding the answer, the teacher could ask several other questions of the class.

  • The teacher could add or rephrase information. “The relationship between the size of a planet and its mass is...” and then add “Pluto is the smallest planet and Jupiter is the largest.”

  • A teacher might give the class a set of general instructions and then walk over to one student’s desk and say “Annie, let’s take one step at a time here. First you need to...”

  • Students make instructional materials for a classmate such as story syntheses, multiple choice tests, an outline, index study cards

  1. Personalized Performance Demonstrations

The ways that most students in a class demonstrate learning – by speaking or writing – may not accurately assess what a student with autism/PDD knows/can do. Therefore some students sometimes need different options for “showing what they know.”
Examples of Personalized Performance Demonstrations

  • While most student in a class are writing short paragraphs about plant classification systems such as kingdom, phylum, class, order, etc., Stephen uses an augmentative communication device to put photos of various types of plants into those groups.

  • While some students must use 10 bibliographic sources for a report, Brandon is required to use 3 sources of information on the topic, including audiotapes, interviews with experts, and pictures from a web page on the Internet.

  • While most students are asked to give an oral report after visiting the Boston Aquarium, Lindsay uses a switch to advance a slide show of the various exhibits taken while on the trip, answering questions about each using her augmentative communication system.

  • Instead of writing a lab report, Joshua takes photos of the steps of the experiment and draws from a word bank to label the lab equipment, the step in the experiment, or the part of the cell seen through the microscope.

  • To enable Matt to participate and succeed in physical education class, he is expected to run a shorter distance in a longer period of time than other students in the class, but his improvement is charted and assessed to arrive at his grade.

  1. Unique Evaluation and Grading Plans

There are a variety of assessment methods and sources of evidence to evaluate student learning including:

  • Observations of students in structured and unstructured settings

  • Surveys of parents or teachers regarding their assessment of whether skills are generalized at home

  • Collections of student work, including written, models, audio, video, performance events and tasks

  • Self- or peer-evaluation classmates

  • Review of written records

  • Report cards or progress reports

Strategies for designing individualized grading plans might include:

  • Developing a grading contract with points assigned for various academic tasks such as homework, classwork, projects, and tests

  • Writing a rubric that specifies levels of performance from notice to mastery and linking the rubric score to the grade

  • Counting participation, behavior, and effort as part of a grade

  • Grading based on improvement over time

  • Including performance on IEP objectives as part of a course grade

Learning Style Characteristics of Students with the Labels of Autism/PDD
** Remember – no two students are the same… We must consider the learning style of the individual student. Consider patterns of strengths and challenges. **

  • Language and communication differences; use of echolalia, scripts, social language (pragmatic) differences, possible use of augmentative communication (AAC)

  • Different understanding of social interactions, facial expressions, gestures, etc.

  • Fluctuations in attention and arousal levels

  • Intense passions

  • Good memory for “habit memory” for things that are rote, simple, and capture the individual’s attention

  • May experience difference in short term and active memory

  • For many students, sequencing is a strength, especially visual sequencing

  • Simple/static visual information may be easily understood. Rapidly changing visual scenes (e.g., hallways) may be more difficult.

  • Fine motor differences may influence handwriting and potential for use of sign language.

Presentation References
Donnellan, A. (1984). The criterion of the least dangerous assumption. Behavioral Disorders, 9, 141-150.
Jorgensen, C. (1998) Essential Elements of Inclusive Schools Unpublished manuscript.
Jorgensen, C. (2001) Supports Planning Process. Unpublished manuscript.
Sugai, G. (1993). Project Prepare.
Selected References and Resources
Anderson,, E., & Emmons, P. (1996). Unlocking the mysteries of sensory dysfunction: A resource for anyone who works with, or lives with, a child with sensory issues. Arlington, TX: Future Horizons.
Attwood, T. (1998). Asperger’s syndrome: A guide for parents and professionals. Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Ayres, J. (1983). Sensory integration and the child. Los Angeles, California: Western Psychological Services
Barron, J., & Barron, S. (1992). There's a boy in here. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0671761110.
Beyer, J., & Gammeltoft, L. (1999). Autism and play. Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Donnellan, A. M. & Leary, M. R. (1995). Movement differences and diversity in autism/mental retardation: Appreciating and accommodating people with communication challenges. Madison, Wisconsin: DRI Press.
Duke, M.P., Nowicki, S., & Martin, E.A. (1996). Teaching your child the language of social success. Atlanta: Peachtree.
Fouse, B. (2000). Creating a Win-win IEP for students with autism! A How-to manual for parents and educators. (2nd Ed.). Arlington, TX: Future Horizons
Gillingham, G. (1995). Autism: Handle with care! Understanding and managing behavior of children and adults with autism. Tacit Publishing, Inc.
Grandin, T. (1995). Thinking in pictures and other reports from my life with autism. New York: Vintage Books.
Grandin, T. (1986). Emergence: Labeled autistic. New York: Time Warner Books
Gray, C., & Garand, J.D. (1993). Social stories: Improving responses of students with autism with accurate social information. Focus on Autistic Behavior, 8, 1-10.
Gray, C. (1994). The original social story book. The new social story book. Jension, MI: Jenison Public Schools.
Harris, S.L., & Handleman, J.S. (1997). Helping children with autism enter the mainstream. In D.J. Cohen & F.R. Volkmar (Eds.), Handbook of autism and pervasive developmental disorders (pp. 665-675). New York: John Wiley & Sons.
Hodgdon, L. A. (1995). Visual strategies for improving communication: Practical supports for home and school. Troy. MI: QuirkRoberts Publishing.
Jordan, R., & Powell, S. (1995). Understanding and teaching children with autism. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.
Kephart, B. (1998) A slant of sun: One child’s courage. New York: W.W. Norton and Company.
Klin, A. (1994). Asperger Syndrome. In F. Volkmar (Ed.), Psychoses and Pervasive Developmental Disorders. Child and Adolescent Clinics of North America. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders, pp. 131-148.
Kranowitz, C.S. (1998). The out-of-sync child. New York: Skylight Press.
McClannahan, L. E. & Krantz, P. J. (1999). Activity schedules for children with autism: Teaching independent behavior. Woodbine House
Myles, B.S., & Simpson, R.L. (1998). Asperger Syndrome. Austin, TX: Pro-Ed.
Quill, K. (1995). Teaching children with autism: Strategies to enhance socialization and communication. New York: Delmar Publishing.
Sussman, F. (1999). More than words: Helping parents promote communication and social skills in children with autism spectrum disorders. Toronto: The Hanen Centre.
Wagner, S. (1999). Inclusive programming for elementary students with autism. Arlington, TX: Future Horizons.
Waterhouse, S., & Williams, D. (1999). A positive approach to autism. Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Wetherby, A., & Prizant, B. (2000). Autism Spectrum Disorders: A transactional developmental perspective. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.
Williams, D. (1998). Autism and sensing: The un-lost instinct. Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Williams, D. (1993). Somebody somewhere: Breaking free from the world of autism. New York: Time Books.
Wolfberg, P. J. (1999). Play and imagination in children with autism. New York: Teachers College Press.

Selected Children’s Books

Edwards, B., & Armitage, D. (1999). My brother Sammy. Millbrook Pr.

Simmons, Karen L. (1996). Little rainman. Arlington, TX: Future Horizons.
Thompson, M. (1996). Andy and his yellow frisbee. Bethesda. MD: Woodbine House.
Twatchman-Cullen, D. Trevor, Trevor. Available from Future Horizons.
Ward Messner, A. Captain Tommy. Available from Future Horizons.
Watson, E. (1996). Talking to angels. New York: Harcourt Brace & Company.

Selected World Wide Web Sites

Autism Society of America:
Facilitated Communication Institute
Publishers and Distributors of Books and Materials on Autism/PDD:
Future Horizons Book Distributors:
Paul H. Brookes Publishing Company:
Special Needs Project:
Indiana Resource Center for Autism (IRCA), Institute for the Study of Developmental Disabilities, University Center of Excellence of Indiana (1-812-855-6508): Videotape: A Sense of Belonging: Including Students with Autism in their School Community

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