Ask the Expert: What are the Benefits of Inclusion Classes for My Child?

When your typically developing child is in a class or program with a child with special needs, the lessons they can both learn are invaluable. Executive director of the JCC Mid-Westchester and her staff share their insight on inclusion classes created for children of all abilities.

If you are a parent or work with children you know how each individual child learns and develops. There is no “one way fits all” teaching method or classroom environment. In our competitive society, parents focus on giving their children the best academic and after-school activities they can find, beginning with their early childhood program. So why would you even think about your child being in a preschool class with children who have developmental disabilities?

toddlers kissThere are many advantages to place what the education world refers to as “typical” children into an inclusion program. The recent shift in educating all students using differentiated instruction, meaning teaching what and how each child needs to learn in a way that is best for that child has long been the foundation of working with children with special needs. By integrating your child into an inclusion program, your child has the expertise of two certified teachers--an early childhood teacher and an early childhood special education teacher.

Information is shared with all the children in small pieces with visual cues and lots of hands-on learning opportunities. Play is monitored and modeled by the teachers which improves all the children’s social skills. These teachers facilitate learning rather than spending their time transmitting knowledge. In an inclusion setting much of the learning is child centered which helps a child develop positive self-esteem.

"By integrating your child into an inclusion program, your child has the expertise of two certified teachers--an early childhood teacher and an early childhood special education teacher."

The college coursework for a special education teacher includes how to encourage a young child to behave appropriately with his/her peers. The teachers verbally point out to the children their positive behaviors rather than telling them what they are doing wrong in front of the other children. Knowledge of what are the typical functions of unwanted behaviors is used to develop intervention plans when any child needs help with interacting with others.

In addition, often the “typical” children are more than willing to be the helper with another student building early leadership skills. At this young age children see similarities not differences and friendships develop. These children learn at a young age acceptance of others which hopefully will be a lifelong lesson.

Karen Kolodny is the executive director of Jewish Community Center of Mid-Westchester, a nonprofit organization dedicated to enriching the community by providing cultural, social, educational, and reacreational and fitness programs, and Jewish identity-building opportunities to people of all ages.

Kolodny has certificates from New York University in arts administration and business technology. She earned her bachelor's in civil law and common law from McGill University and a master of law from Cambridge University. She lives in NYC with her husband and two teenage daughters.

Kolodny's colleagues Julie Dorfman, Nancy Kaplan, and Penny Randall, who play essential roles in various departments, including the JCC Mid-Westchester's Early Childhood, Special Education and Services, and Family Center, contributed to this article.