The Benefits of Inclusion
Inclusion is a philosophy of education that promotes the participation of students with disabilities in ways that are the same as their non-disabled peers. It makes them an active part of the community and classroom, where they learn and grow next to typically developing classmates and friends. Currently, fourteen percent of students in public schools have a documented disability and receive some form of special education services, and according to the last numbers compiled by the USCCB in 2002, seven percent of students in Catholic schools have a documented disability. The kind of resources that FIRE can help provide would immediately increase our schools’ capacity to serve those students and would enable schools to welcome a significant portion of our potential student population who have not been part of our schools because inclusion has not been a priority.
Children with significant special needs can develop their full potential intellectually, socially, and emotionally when high-quality instruction is implemented in inclusive class settings, among their peers and general education teachers.
There is significant research that indicates ALL students, those who are disabled and those who are not, benefit from inclusive education. Disabled students who are included develop stronger skills in reading and mathematics, have higher rates of attendance, are less likely to have behavioral problems and are more likely to complete secondary school than students who have not been included. And “students without disabilities had higher academic performance when learning with students of varied abilities, including those with disabilities, than their peers in less integrated classrooms” (Szumski et al., 2017). As adults, students with disabilities who have been included are more likely to be enrolled in post-secondary education and to be employed or living independently. Furthermore, research indicates non-disabled classmates who are educated in inclusive classrooms hold less prejudicial views and are more accepting of people who are different from themselves. (Evidence on Inclusive Education, Abt Associates).
For more information on inclusion, read the following articles:
There is clear and consistent evidence that inclusive educational settings can confer substantial short and long-term benefits for students with and without disabilities.
FIRE Foundation of Denver Board Member, JD Flynn, has written extensively on the life and ministry of the Catholic Church, including theologically based responsibilities to those with disabilities. Read one of his recent articles here.
FIRE Foundation of Denver Board Member, Susan Selner-Wright, is a professor and prolific Catholic writer. In the article below she describes that, per God’s design, we are interdependent with all those He has created, including those with disabilities. Read her thoughts in the article here.
The fact is, the absence of students with disabilities in our Catholic schools is in conflict with our Catholic faith and their presence in our schools will bring everyone closer to God. There is a long history of support for inclusion of those with special needs in our Catholic schools. In 1978 the USCCB declared, “It is not enough merely to affirm the rights of people with disabilities. We must actively work to make them real in the fabric of modern society.” All three of our most recent Popes have stressed the importance of inclusion of children with special needs in our parishes and Catholic schools.
You Are One of Us
Catholic Education and the Importance of Including People with Disabilities
A reflection on Divini Illius Magistri, January 28, 2022, St. John Vianney Seminary, Denver by FIRE Foundation Board of Director member, Susan Selner-Wright, Ph.D.